According to Statistics Canada, Nova Scotia was the province that saw the highest increase in electricity prices in Canada in the last year. We are all feeling this in our pocket books. Unfortunately, Nova Scotians are not all experiencing a correlating increase in salaries and wages. While “take home” pay remains constant for most or decreases for others, our costs for an essential service like electricity continue to increase. This means we have less disposable income to spend on other needs, and in some cases, Nova Scotians are being forced to choose between heating their homes or eating healthy foods or buying medications.
Nova Scotians are feeling the pain, but Nova Scotia Power is not. They are the only provider of electricity in the province … that means they have no competition … that means they have a monopoly … that means they can control electricity costs to customers. And since there is no competition, we as consumers have no choice. We must buy from Nova Scotia Power.
Let’s look at other provinces in Canada. For example, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Saskatchewan saw no increases in electricity prices in 2012. Alberta saw a 27% decrease. Manitoba has the lowest power rates in Canada. Electricity prices in Nova Scotia are rising and could continue to rise toward the breaking point for homeowners and industry. In fact, Nova Scotia Power has just received approval for a 3% increase in January 2013 and another 3% increase in January 2014.
So where is our NDP government on this issue? As Corporate Research analyst Don Mills has stated “there is no doubt that the NDP is closely allied with Nova Scotia Power”. They have continued to protect Nova Scotia Power, to protect its rate of return, and to protect its shareholders. What Darrell Dexter has failed to do is to protect you and I … the ratepayers of Nova Scotia. Not only has he failed to protect us, he has failed to even stand up and negotiate in our best interest. He has also failed to acknowledge that there are steps the government can take to respond to the increasing power rates.
As Stephen McNeil has stated many times, a Liberal government will bring fairness back to power prices and break Nova Scotia Power’s monopoly on electricity. This is based on the knowledge and research that has proven competition is good for the consumer. It gives them choices. Just look at the communication industry, when Nova Scotians were freed from the monopoly held by Maritime Tel and Tel. We now have a number of providers, who are all competing for our business. The same could happen with electricity. Right now we have no choice but to pay whatever rate Nova Scotia Power wants. Renewable energy producers could sell directly to consumers and consumers could have a choice. Let’s look at New Brunswick … renewable producers can sell directly to customers. This creates competition and in 2012 New Brunswickers in fact saw no increase in electricity rates, while here in Nova Scotia people paid more. Competition in a regulated environment is one alternative. There are other places that the Dexter government has failed to stand up for Nova Scotians.
The Energy Efficiency Tax that we all pay, regardless of whether we ever benefit from the conservation programs it funds, should be funded out of the profits of Nova Scotia Power. In fact, in 2011, Efficiency Nova Scotia spent $41 million, with most of that money collected in the form of a surcharge on your power bill and mine. We have no choice but to pay it … Nova Scotia Power adds it to your bill every month.
Our position is that the benefits of that program need to be maintained, but should be funded out of the profits of the shareholders of Emera, not the pocket books of Nova Scotians. This can be done through legislation by a government that cares more about rate payers than it does about shareholders.
And then we have Muskrat Falls. There are more questions than answers around this project, but Dexter’s NDP government is determined, once again, to protect Nova Scotia Power and Emera, rather than the people of Nova Scotia. As with most agreements signed by this government, the Premier has been out-negotiated. A recent study prepared by the Atlantic Institute for market Studies concluded that hydro power from Muskrat Falls will add to the power bills of Nova Scotians. Yet we have a Premier who has pushed forward, signed on behalf of Nova Scotians, for a project with many unanswered questions. Such as:
How much will this project cost taxpayers
How much would power delivered from Muskrat Falls cost, compared to the same amount from Hydro Quebec (some studies say twice as much)
Is the project really needed to met the electricity demands in Nova Scotia
Is Muskrat Falls a “green project”
Does the project support community-based energy generation in Nova Scotia
Has the economic impact and long-term contribution to economic growth in Nova Scotia been identified
Opposition Leader Stephen McNeil has been asking these questions on behalf of Nova Scotians. The Premier attempted to have a response through the Dalton Report. However, that Report was a non-tendered contract with a US Company, commissioned by the NDP, and paid for by Emera. Would you call that an independent study, or one that pays a consultant to support the position Dexter and Emera want Nova Scotians to believe? Remember the quote from Don Mills “there is no doubt that the NDP is closely allied with Nova Scotia Power”.
We cannot afford, nor do we deserve more of the same from our government. We need a Premier who understands the issues and is prepared to stand up for all Nova Scotians. That is Stephen McNeil.