Feb. 26, 2010
FREDERICTON (CNB) - The provincial government will call for a full debate in the legislative assembly on legislation to implement the energy agreement between New Brunswick and Quebec. Energy Minister Jack Keir and Government House Leader Greg Byrne made the announcement today.
"From Day 1, we have tried to be as transparent on this file as possible," Keir said. "As soon as we had a proposed agreement, we put it on the table for debate, and I think if you look at the changes announced in January, it is clear that we listened to New Brunswickers."
Keir and Byrne said that the government will introduce the legislation when the final agreements are ready, and that the government will also allow for more than 30 days of debate prior to a final vote on this legislation.
The legislation and agreements will be tabled on or about Wednesday, March 31, with an objective of completing the legislative process by Friday, May 21.
"We will introduce the legislation and table the final agreements at the same time," said Byrne. "Thereafter, we will have a robust debate for more than 30 days in the legislature. During this time, the legislative assembly will consider the legislation. There will also be a process whereby a legislative committee will review the final agreements, hear from experts and listen to stakeholders; and whereby ordinary New Brunswickers can express their views and get answers to their questions. We believe this will satisfy the requests we have heard from New Brunswickers to make this process as open and transparent as possible."
Keir also announced that the scheduled three-per-cent average increase of rates for NB Power customers will be suspended pending the completion of the legislative process.
"People are telling us that a rate increase should not happen when a debate to lock-in rates for five years is underway," Keir said. "I wrote a letter to NB Power earlier this month, asking it to suspend that process even though the agreement may not yet be in place on March 31, and it has agreed to do so."
EDITOR'S NOTE: A backgrounder on the proposed committee process follows. MEDIA CONTACTS: Bonnie Doyle Creber, communications, Department of Energy, 506-658-2410; Carl Davies, communications, Office of the Government House Leader, 506-453-2548.
Proposed committee process
While the committee will make the final decision on what process it undertakes to review the agreement, the government will recommend the following process:
The government says this process is more robust than that taken by other governments in 1998 and 2000 when the legal contracts concerning the $1 billion Fredericton-Moncton highway were reviewed. In each instance, a committee spent two days examining the deal, and only government advisers and officials appeared.