Muskrat Falls. — Telegram file photo
A contact is a contract. How often have we heard that about the lopsided contract that gives most of the financial benefits from Churchill Falls generating station to Quebec? We’ve heard it from Hydro-Québec, from the Quebec government, from the Quebec courts and from the Supreme Court of Canada.
Well, get ready, because it sounds like we’re going to hear that same sentence all over again. In November, Nalcor Energy’s boss, Stan Marshall, told the Canadian Press that the Muskrat Falls deal was a remarkably bad bargain for this province, that the arrangement whereby a Nova Scotia utility would build the Maritime Link in exchange for electrical power meant that province would pay “next to nothing” for power.
The story said Marshall maintained that Nalcor was talking with Emera Inc. about changing the terms of existing contracts for the Maritime Link.
Neither the Nova Scotia Department of Energy nor Emera would talk about Marshall’s statements.
But in a technical conference days later, NSP Maritime Link, the company building the link, clearly had other ideas about what might be on the table — and it wasn’t the existing contract for power.
Bill Mahody, Nova Scotia’s consumer advocate, asked the company directly about the suggestion that contracts — and, therefore, prices for Nova Scotia consumers — might change: “There’s been a report recently that Nalcor, Mr. Marshall had an intent to attempt to renegotiate some of the terms of the arrangements with Emera. Is there any update you can provide us in that regard?”
Richard Janega with NSP Martime Link Inc. was succinct: “Yes, there is no negotiation of the Maritime Link or energy agreement. There are discussions that have been ongoing for an extended period of time, ever since we started with the project, about the excess energy. And that is something that we’ve been trying to get an understanding from Nalcor of how much they have, what their most updated plan is for domestic consumption so it’s all been focused on excess energy.”
To add insult to injury, the technical conference — released as part of a quarterly update to the Nova Scotian public utilities board — points out that the Maritime Link portion of the project is on time and on budget, something Muskrat Falls can’t claim.
But worse: if the Maritime Link comes in at its estimated $1.577 billion, the technical conference was told by an NSP Maritime Link finance official that Nova Scotian ratepayers will only pay for $1.555 billion of the cost: “The difference there, the $22 million, according to our arrangements with Nalcor, would be an amount Nalcor would then contribute such that the Nova Scotia customer would pay no more than $1.555 billion.”
And we find this out because the Nova Scotia public utilities board ordered regular project updates. Our own board, you might remember, isn’t even allowed to review Muskrat Falls or its costs. Sad.