Nova Scotia to cap amount customers spend on executive pay at utility company

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HALIFAX - The Nova Scotia government wants to take Nova Scotia Power customers off the hook from covering the cost of executive bonuses.

Under legislation introduced by Energy Minister Charlie Parker, executive salaries at the private company would be capped at a level similar to a provincial deputy minister and bonuses would have to be covered by shareholders, not ratepayers.

It would also require Nova Scotia Power to file multi-year rate applications, which Parker says will cut the costs of hearings at the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board.

The government says the cost of a rate hearing can reach $2 million.

The legislation would also block additional rate increases until at least 2015.

The bill is seen as a response to a public backlash over rising electricity rates.

"People are telling me that it's not fair that executives at Nova Scotia Power have had their bonuses and salaries paid for by ratepayers when there are families struggling to make ends meet, and I agree," Parker said in a statement Thursday.

Parker promised to bring in the legislation last month on Nova Scotia Power, a subsidiary of Emera (TSX:EMA).

The government says based on 2012 salaries, the cap on executive salaries would mean savings of more than $500,000 a year.

Electricity rates have become a key issue in the province and on Thursday, Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie also introduced a bill in the legislature that he says would remove a guaranteed profit for Nova Scotia Power.

The NDP holds a majority in the legislature, so bills brought in by opposition members rarely get passed, but Baillie is arguing that the utility should have to earn profits based on its performance.

"We can make the power company work for us, not Emera," he said in a news release. "They will lose money when they let customers down."

Organizations: Nova Scotia Power, Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board, TSX NDP

Geographic location: Nova Scotia, HALIFAX

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