The proposed Muskrat Falls hydroelectric development is getting rave reviews from municipal leaders in the Atlantic region.
When the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) met in Halifax earlier this month, The Telegram met up with some Maritime delegates to get their views on the proposed megaproject.
Ray Paruch — a councillor for the Cape Breton Regional Municipality (CBRM) and the chairman of FCM’s Atlantic caucus — joined Deputy Mayor Bruce MacDougall of Summerside, who is also president of Municipalities Prince Edward Island, and Fredericton Mayor Brad Woodside, elected third vice-president of FCM at the convention, to give their thoughts on how the first phase of the Lower Churchill may affect their communities.
“I think there’s abundant, big-time opportunities here in the field of economic development, especially for the CBRM,” said Paruch.
“I also think it serves to stabilize power rates for our part of the world and ... the third ingredient to this is an abundant supply of power for the future needs of the people in the Cape Breton area.”
Paruch said the project has been discussed at the council table.
“The big thing is stability,” agreed MacDougall. “P.E.I. is not blessed with a lot of natural resources (which generate) power. Ours is all, basically, imported.”
MacDougall said his city owns its own power utility. He said wind power takes care of 35 per cent of the island’s electricity needs, but said Muskrat Falls will put more power “in the bucket we (are able) to draw from.”
“Anytime there is another source of power, it adds stability to the market,” he repeated.
Woodside hopes projects like Muskrat Falls will mean less reliance on foreign oil.
“Anything that ... affects all of Atlantic Canada and makes us economically stronger is a good thing,” he said.
Clean and sustainable energy, said Woodside is “the best that you could possibly have.”
But the other reason the trio cited for supporting Muskrat Falls is the idea it’s a regional project as Nova Scotia’s Emera Energy is a partner and Ottawa has promised a loan guarantee.
“We may be a big country geographically, but we don’t have a lot of people, so we’ve got to work smart and invest smart,” said Woodside. “With the federal contribution here, which I support 100 per cent, that ensures this is going to be an Atlantic Canadian co-operative program that’s going to benefit all of us.”
He hopes it will be the first of many such regional developments.
“I think the Atlantic provinces should be getting together more often and utilizing the skills and the resources they have to make (things) better for all Atlantic Canadians,” said Woodside.
Paruch believes it is the start of more co-operation in the Atlantic region and said that’s already happening — both regionally and across Canada — through groups like FCM.
“At the municipal level, we’re used to co-operating. We’re used to getting along,” he said.
Woodside added if the provinces learned to work together as well as municipalities have, the whole country would be better off.
When quizzed about some of the opposition to the project coming from inside Newfoundland and Labrador, Paruch dismissed it.
“There’s going to be opposition to everything,” he said. “We’re no strangers to opposition, but we are strangers to opportunities of this magnitude.”