Calling off a multibillion-dollar energy deal with New Brunswick doesn't put a damper on the Quebec government's ambitions to expand power exports to markets in Eastern Canada and the United States, says Natural Resources Minister Nathalie Normandeau.
Wednesday, the two provinces announced they were pulling out of a $3.2-billion agreement to sell most assets of NB Power to Hydro-Quebec, insisting they couldn't agree on who would foot the bill for future refurbishment of some facilities, notably the Mactaquac hydro dam.
Normandeau said Thursday despite the collapse of the deal, Hydro-Quebec is still involved in energy discussions with Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia.
"It does not change anything to our negotiations with other provinces," Normandeau said.
"(The N.B. deal) was an opportunity, and now we have to look at other opportunities," she added.
Normandeau also recalled the province is pushing for a new transmission line - that may soon be approved by U.S. regulators - from Quebec into New Hampshire, linking Hydro-Quebec to all New England states.
Sasha Irving, a spokeswoman for Nova Scotia's privately-owned power utility, Emera, said the company will not comment on discussions until it is ready to make an announcement.
Meanwhile, in Quebec City Thursday, the Opposition Parti Quebecois lashed out at Premier Jean Charest for concealing the "real reasons" that led to the failure of the deal hailed as historic by Quebec last fall.
PQ Leader Pauline Marois said Quebec-bashing in New Brunswick is one factor that derailed the negotiations and Charest chose to stand down instead of fighting back.
"He'd rather give the impression that there is a great big unity, that this was flying high in Canada and that there is no problem toward Quebec," Marois told reporters.
Marois recalled New Brunswick Premier Shawn Graham said in January that opposition to the deal was especially strong in rural parts of the province where anti-Quebec feelings linger.
Graham apologized the next day and stressed there is only a small minority of New Brunswickers that bear a grudge against Quebec.
But Marois insisted Quebec-bashing is still alive in that province and elsewhere in Canada, pointing to harsh comments made by Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams who strongly opposed the Quebec-New Brunswick deal.
"The bottom line is that federalists didn't want to strike a deal with Quebec," she said.