NB Power's missed financial targets are longstanding issue, says Liberal leader

·3 min read
In her report released this week, Auditor General Kim Adair-Macpherson said the utility failed to meet financial targets
In her report released this week, Auditor General Kim Adair-Macpherson said the utility failed to meet financial targets

Interim Liberal Leader Roger Melanson says from his own experience in cabinet, he knows issues the New Brunswick auditor general raised about NB Power in her latest report are longstanding.

Melanson, a former finance minister, said that during his time in government it was sometimes difficult to deal with the Crown corporation.

"t was probably one of the most frustrating pieces, where on a yearly basis, when NB Power actually submitted their forecasts in terms of net income contribution to the provincial government, which impacts the provincial yearly budget," said Melanson, who held a variety of cabinet posts in the Brian Gallant government.

"They were never on target. They were always behind."

The auditor general's report was the topic of this week's New Brunswick Political Panel podcast, with a focus on what the report said about NB Power.

In her report, released on Tuesday, Auditor General Kim Adair-Macpherson said the utility failed to meet financial targets "year after year."

She said debt reduction is "not a top priority" for the utility and its liabilities constitute "the largest contingent risk to the province."

Melanson said the government needs to be serious about getting NB Power to focus on their financial situation.

Green Party Leader David Coon said the legislature's public accounts committee holds some responsibility for keeping the utility in check, but the Energy Act should be amended to give the Energy and Utilities Board the authority to approve the utility's 10-year plans and not just rate increases.

"Without that, you know, they've got one arm tied behind their back and you're not getting the accountability necessary," said Coon.

Adair-Macpherson questioned the business sense of keeping New Brunswick's electricity rates some of the lowest in Atlantic Canada.

Green Party Leader David Coon, Liberal Leader Roger Melanson, and People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin responded to the auditor general's report on this week's political panel.
Green Party Leader David Coon, Liberal Leader Roger Melanson, and People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin responded to the auditor general's report on this week's political panel.

"While maintaining a consistently low annual rate may be advantageous to NB Power consumers, it is likely contributing to its failure to meet the debt to equity target and ever-increasing debt level," said Adair-Macpherson.

Coon said the province should look at amending the Energy Act to deal with industry rates.

"Right now [the act allows] NB Power … to deliver power for less than their cost to heavy industry. So they're losing on revenues there," said Coon.

People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin said he believes the utility would benefit from narrowing its focus to providing electricity to customers.

"I've seen lately that NB Power seems to be branching out into other areas, such as, you know, investment in research and development, which I understand there has to be a certain element of," said Austin.

"You go back to, you know, things like Joi Scientific, where you see money literally just, you know, thrown down the drain here for these whimsical ideas."

The Progressive Conservatives were unable to provide someone to take part in the panel this week.