Quebec premier promises co-operation with N.L. during first visit to province

Quebec Premier François Legault says there are great opportunities for his province and Newfoundland and Labrador to work together to supply the Maritimes with hydroelectric power.

Legault was invited to join the Council of Atlantic Premiers, which is meeting in St. John's Monday.

He said N.L. and Quebec have extra power, so it makes sense for New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to replace dirty coal with clean hydro energy from the nearby provinces. 

"Why don't we work together on a plan, a complete plan, to serve 100 per cent of clean energy to all our provinces?" said Legault.

Premier Dwight Ball has had several one-on-one meetings with the Quebec premier since Legault was elected in 2018, a thawing of the traditionally chilly relationship between the two provinces — especially over hydro power.

Legault said his province is not willing to renegotiate the deal to sell power from Churchill Falls at a fraction of a cent, a deal that Newfoundland and Labrador has gone to court repeatedly to overturn, but without success.

When the federal government backed loans for the Muskrat Falls project, Quebec objected to that help for a project it saw as competition for the power it sells to eastern North America.


That deal expires in 2041. But Legault said there are other opportunities.

"There's a new capacity coming from Muskrat Falls. There's a potential, a very, very interesting project with Gull Island, and we also have some projects in Quebec. And I think we have, of course, to work differently, making sure that it's a win-win, a win for Newfoundland [and Labrador] and a win for Quebec," he said.

Federal involvement needed

The two provinces have the hydroelectric power but getting them to homes and businesses in the Maritimes is still a challenge.

Legault said the federal government should come to the table to finance new transmission infrastructure, as part of its push to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

"We need that transmission capacity available to Atlantic Canada, before that solution, whatever the potential solution, can be identified," said Ball.

Both premiers insist it's too early to talk about which specific projects, like the multibillion-dollar Gull Island projects, might make sense to supply that need.

N.L. backed

Ball said other provinces have been supportive of the Fiscal Stabilization Program and that said he'll be reiterating its importance to Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland.

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said his province will continue to support Newfoundland and Labrador.

"No economy can survive and thrive when you look at the drop-in revenue that Newfoundland and Labrador would have had of over $1 billion and have a program that provides you $8 million," McNeil said.

"There's simply no way that you can mitigate that without support from the national government, and we wholeheartedly support that and will continue to do so."

The program allows the federal government to provide financial assistance to any province faced with a yearly decline in its non-resource revenues greater than five per cent, according to the department of finance website.

Provinces must apply for payments within 18 months after the end of the fiscal year but may also submit a claim for an advance payment. 

Chrystia Freeland in St. John's 

The meeting comes on the sidelines of the Council for Atlantic Premiers. Quebec wouldn't normally be a part of the discussions, but Ball invited the premier to join some of the meetings.

Freeland is also expected to join the premiers Monday afternoon, ahead of a one-on-one meeting with Ball on Tuesday morning.

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