Sunday, August 06, 2006

Energy politics and Greg Byrne to return to the legislature?

Still more election coverage in today's papers.

The big news, buried in a Daily Gleaner story on candidates in the Fredericton region is:

"That leaves Fredericton-Lincoln where we have a mystery candidate waiting in the wings," said (Liberal executive director Dana) Clendenning.

Sources suggest that it will be Greg Byrne, a practicing lawyer, former MLA in Fredericton Fort-Nashwaak during the McKenna years and current president of the New Brunswick Liberal Association.
Byrne running in Fredericton-Lincoln would make for a very, very interesting situation on a number of fronts. First, it would probably destroy what slim chance Allison Brewer has of winning a seat. In all honesty, if this is true, I would expect her to move over and run in Fredericton-Silverwood. Byrne lives in and represented much of Fredericton-Lincoln when he represented the old Fredericton-Fort Nashwaak riding and I would think would win this riding handily. Even with the huge Tory sweep of 1999 he only lost by 200 votes.

The other interesting facet this would make for is cabinet making should Graham form a government. Fredericton is going to be very top heavy and it will be hard to choose who to leave out. Byrne a former leadership candidate, top cabinet minister, current president of the party and the co-chair of Graham's leadership campaign that pulled much of the organization together for Graham to win would have to be in the cabinet. There is also Kelly Lamrock, Graham's House Leader and critic responsibile for everyting (education, justice, post-secondary, innovation, labour, etc, etc) who one could not imagine being left out of cabinet. T.J. Burke has been a top critic (justice first then energy) and it would be seen as a snub for Graham to leave the only Aboriginal ever elected to a legislature in the Altantic provinces out of cabinet. In Grand Lake, veteran Gene McGinley (who served a term and a half in the 70s before returning in 2003) is the current justice critic and was a former top lawyer and president of the labour relations board. McGinley could perhaps get the speakership. Then in Fredericton-Silverwood, if Anne Bertrand wins she would be an able minister and may be in by default by being one of very few women to choose from. Very interesting indeed.

(An interesting side note, Lord who had to split the Attorney General from the Justice department because he had only one lawyer in his caucus and needed to use him elsewhere, is facing 5 lawyers as Liberal candidates in 5 Fredericton-area ridings... I'll leave it to you to determine whether or not this is a good thing for which party!)

Also, the Telegraph-Journal is running a story about how energy is likely to be a key issue in the campaign. Good news for the Liberals. Graham has been all over energy since 2003 - it has been his main issue and is one on which he actually has a fair bit of credibilty - and the huge error Lord made by regulating gas prices could turn out to be insurance part II.


Anonymous said...

While your party political comments are hard to dispute, the views of the electorate are harder to gauge. The public insurance issue shows that a good percentage of NBers are far from the 'don't trust government to do anything' camp. I suspect that shows the pan canadian increasing gap between rich and poor.

Energy is not likely to be a key issue for one simple reason, neither party has very dissimilar politicies. Even the Irving papers have been covering wind power sporadically, and you'd really have to live under a rock to not realize how heavily the rest of the world is investing in it. The tories aren't doing much, the liberals ditto. The idea of having TWO nuclear plants may make the nuclear industry happy, however, to average NBers it could easily be seen as a way to make even more of their tax dollars disappear.

There is no real need for it, in fact with wind power there isn't even a need for one, particularly with the inevitable closure of large pulp mills. Having two plants sends a clear signal that either wind power is out, or else the province is interested in massively developing energy production to sell to americans, something a good percentage of people are opposed to (particularly when, without the Board, it means higher rates here).

For gas regulation, the liberals would have to show they could 'do it better', which has never been a real vote getter. The public insurance thing had the tories completely ignoring a major hit to most people's wallet, which is just a special kind of stupid.

The liberals certainly aren't going to go Venezuela on gas, so they have the same limited options, perhaps adopting Nova Scotia's model, but that's it. Anybody that thinks Shawn Graham is going to rock the Irving boat doesn't know the Graham-Irving history very well. There's a reason his seat is in Kent county, where the Irvings are from. History also shows the liberals aren't about to piss off the Irvings, and strategically keep their mouth shut or parrot the tories, such as the Memramcook quarry or the LNG deal.

So while many New Brunswickers are rightly concerned about energy, neither party stands out. The liberals have been seen in the past to be less inclined toward private power, but those kind of ideals tend to evaporate quickly once in power.

Anonymous said...

Something that SHOULD be made an election issue is that as Lord's government showed, private industry is loathe to invest in nuclear startups because of the horrendous cost overruns. However, typically how it works is that one government spends taxpayers money to build up the infrastructure, then when the next government gets into power in the next decade-the other political inevitability, they sell it to industry once the costs are stable.

Two nuclear plants means exactly that, I suspect in the last round when Lord was trying to get industry involved the conditions were simply so onerous that he knew he'd take a beating at the polls. On the other hand, its not surprising Bruce Power (the only bidder) made that offer since there are no guarantees of anything when it comes to nuclear power.

Unfortunately, the real losers are rural and northern NBers where many wind farms could be located. In fact, if I were in a rural county up north I'd be putting together my own plan and then banging on the door for funding and advertising it all over the place. Build a wind farm, then build the industrial park close by and you don't even have to connect to the grid-a major cost hurdle. Then you've got free power to industry. That's a major selling point for any area.

Spinks said...

Byrne doesn't live in the riding (not that that necessairly precludes him) but they'll probably want someone from the riding. Not sure who the Tories will try to get. I suspect Eric MacKenzie may try again or his son-in-law Fredericton City Councillor Tony Whalen.

Let's face it, Brewer doesn't have a snowball's chance in you know where anywhere in this province. She'll be loud and make lots of noise but her party is going further into the dumps after the next election.

nbpolitico said...

anon at 9:09 - I am not really sure what you are on about. While Graham has said he wants to explore building another nuclear plant (to sell juice to the US and use the revenue to lower domestic power rates - which is what you say he can't do)

On gas regulation, I don't think the solution has anything to do with pissing off the Irvings, it has to do with getting rid of the regulation. The gas prices since July 1 are higher than the national average than they were before. Graham just has to say that Lord has unnecessary regulated an industry and caused higher prices for consumers as a result.

Also, Graham has been beating the drums for wind and tidal power for several years and has, according the the papers, a requirement for 15% alternative energy (not counting Hydro, unlike Lord) production by 2015 and has a big announcement on alternative energy on Tuesday.


anon at 9:22 - I agree that nuclear power has had bad cost overruns in the past but this is when it was being used by crown corps for domestic power. The rates you can charge New England for the power would be plenty high to allow for any cost overrun.


spinks, I don't disagree with you on Brewer, as I said "it would probably destroy what slim chance Allison Brewer has" ... "slim chance"

As for Byrne, where does he live? He lived in that part of the riding when he represented it. And I am pretty sure Tony Whalen doesn't live in that part of the riding and, even if he does, he's a Liberal ;)

Talk about not having a snowballs chance, that would be MacKenzie if he were to run again.

Spinks said...

My bad about Whalen, must make Christmas dinner interesting. Hoo boy.

Byrne lives in Marysville which will be Lamrock's riding.

I agree about MacKenzie. He would get trounced but I suspect the pickings are pretty slim in a riding which has a chunk of downtown and the University crowd. Obviously that's why Brewer is picking the riding, hoping the extreme leftists among the University crowd will help her. It still won't be enough.

nbpolitico said...

Weird, my bad too. I thought that Byrne lived on the south side.

As for Fredericton-Lincoln, it is not as bad of a riding for the Tories as you suggest. It now includes Lincoln (obviously) and it is actually where New Maryland PC MLA Keith Ashfield lives (Lincoln was previously in the New Maryland district and Ashfield is still going toreoffer in New Maryland). I would think the Lincoln would be good Tory country and particularly opposed to Brewer. Though she does have the university probably half of the off campus students live on the other side of Regent Street in Fredericton-Silverwood as would the more progressive upper class. I think it would be smarter for her to run there but I suspect the logic of her campaign was that if she were to run in Fredericton-Lincoln, with no incumbent, she might be able to win because people like to vote for "the leader". With Byrne running, that logic is worthless. Thus, I repeat my prediction that she'll run in Fredericton-Silverwood instead.

Anonymous said...

NB Politico. Good stuff. Your analysis about Greg Burn is right on. He is very affable gentleman. He was also mover and shaker for the Shawn's election to become leader over that lawyer from Grand Falls - forget his name that is how important he was.

Will be visiting your site in future.

Spinks, we may few debates here.

Anonymous said...

What I am 'on about' is that 'political chatter' aside, a good proportion of NBers wanted gas regulation. Lord certainly isn't the type to bring in legislation unless there is demand for it. So saying you are going to dump regulation is a pretty big chance to be taking. The question is whether they have actually SAID they are going to dump it (I haven't seen that) Keep in mind, gas prices went up everywhere, in Ontario they increased 13 cents in one day.

So if people think 'regulation' means prices will go down or stay the same then they are dreaming. To do that you have to regulate production, something which no government is talking about, and hence the 'piss off Irving' remark.

For energy, that is a contentious issue and I can speak for a good many new brunswickers that their chief concern is affordable energy costs, not building up an industry which MAY generate revenue for other things. That is a HUGE 'if', and has so many variables that it would be a tough sell. NB Power has a huge debt, but for years has sold power to PEI and some to Nova Scotia, so the idea that 'if we just make more to sell, we'll have all kinds of cash' is a stretch.

Everything I have read from their spokespeople is that they want to build two, but as you say, "they just want to examine" is typically code word for "we'll see which way the wind blows". However, in politics, as Spinks points out, perception is reality, if the liberals said it enough that I heard it (I don't really listen much) then many others will likewise assume it since they talk about it so much.

As for wind, no doubt there will be 'talk', but again, funds are limited, Graham can't really do much more than Lord and say "we'd like more wind by..." such and such a date, which means forget seeing any new investments. Leaving it to the private market in a province with regulated prices means there is no real incentive to move it ahead, which is why virtually every wind power construction has had not only the commodity, but strong government support and a ready market, which isn't the case in NB.

As for the northeast, gas is FAR different than power. Gas is private, power is not. Maine and the other states have static populations and nuclear reactors of their own. Maine is pushing wind and tidal power, and although there as studies pointing towards a single energy unit, that won't happen unless New Brunswick privatizes like its neighbours Nova Scotia and Maine.

However, the real question is what the liberals are going to choose and how they will play it. Their website on Power is pretty vague with just five sentences about keeping it public and coleson cove. Until we see specifics everything is heresay. However, we do know what the conservative platform is, so I suspect a policy that will try to talk about alternative energy sources and hope that nobody asks too many questions.

nbpolitico said...

You may be right that a lot of people wanted gas regulation but now that they've seen the result they certainly want it no longer.

Good leadership means doing what is right even if it is not popular. The inverse is true too, you should not do something that is popular if you know it is wrong.

Not only is that good policy but it is also good politics. People will not care if they asked you to do something if it has come around and bit them in the rear, they will blame you for having been bitten.

The gas regulation move, a complete reversal of Lord's long held policy, shows that he was shortsighted, opportunistic and without principle.

What will the Liberals offer as an alternative? It remains to be seen but it may not matter, as has oft been said here and elsewhere. Opposition parties do not win elections, government parties lose them.

Anonymous said...

Who is 'they'? Who are these people? You've spoken to THOUSANDS of New Brunswickers? Come on, lets have some perspective. At the very most I doubt people here know more than a hundred people, and even that is a stretch. Out of that, the odds of conversing with every single person on gas regulation is slim. So, again, it takes a fair bit of hubris to claim that just because you don't like a policy, it is therefore 'wrong' and that New Brunswickers all agree with you.

As said above, without gas regulation the price increase could have been double. That's pretty straightforward and not a radical thought, its common sense. The idea that somehow all New Brunswickers who wanted gas regulation saw the prices go up and then said "oops, well I guess that didn't work, better get rid of it".

To most commentors, 'good leadership' typically means doing what that person happens to think is 'right' even if, as said, most people don't agree with them (which is usually a good sign something is up right there).

There is no 'right' in something like gas regulation, there is simply different alternatives. Why that shows 'opportunism' seems bizarre in a supposed democracy. When a party actually does what people ask it is called opportunism and their 'leadership' should have meant they would refuse the will of the people. That's a bizarre notion of democracy, and one that I could do quite well without.

That the liberals haven't said they will get rid of regulation shows just how popular it is. As they have been quite critical of the issue it will be interesting to see what their solution is. The maxim posted above, like most maxims, is only partly true. More likely its that "opposition parties win elections WHEN governments lose them".

nbpolitico said...

anon at 4:44...

I offer my opinion and my perception on what other New Brunswickers feel, I do not claim to actually speak for all New Brunswickers.

Nor am I a mouthpiece of the Liberals. If I think Lord is wrong on the issues and the Liberals are silent or also wrong that doesn't change the fact that Lord is wrong.

If you don't want to hear my opinion and don't like the way a phrase it then don't read my blog ;)

Anonymous said...

If you don't like my comments on your comments, don't read them:)

EVerybody is entitled to an opinion, nobody is disputing that. When people claim to speak for others then that is no longer political analysis. I wouldn't even bring it up but so much of the content of the blog is so good. Once it enters into the arena of 'heres what voters will do' or 'here's what they want' it becomes pointless because every person can simply say "No HERES what New Brunswickers will do".

Nobody says you can't say it, but nobody says you can't be called on it-unless you want to start editing your comments.

nbpolitico said...

anon at 11:01 - I think it is reasonable for me to expect that people will assume that I am not God or some omnipotent creature and therefore when I say, using your words, "here's what voters will do" and "here's what voters want" I meant, "here is what I believe a majority of voters will do" and "here is what I believe a majority of voters want"...

Obviously I do not know what voters want and obviously not all voters want the same thing, however, I am suggesting what, from my perspective, the results of the election and other political circumstances will be based on what is going on in the mind of the general populace and the politicians. This is all obviously conjecture on my part but it is what I believe a deciding portion of the electorate will believe.

Anonymous said...

Then at least say WHY that is the case. Back it up. If, like the above, you say 'people no longer support gas regulation', thats pretty spurious. There are not facts that support that. When their opinions just happen to coincide with what you believe, then that becomes even more spurious. I have my opinions, but I don't for a moment assume they are shared by others, most of whom I haven't met.

At least polls make it arguable, especially for the issues, and depending who does the poll. Or if you happen to be from a tiny riding and belong to an association and at last nights meeting everybody was saying such and such, again, that's at least backing it up.

Again, I don't care, its your blog, but when arguments are made on those lines it would be folly not to bring it up. As a personal note, its also not even necessary, as said, there are excellent political analyses done on many of the threads, journalism level analyses. If the blog WERE as you say, 'just your opinion' then I, and no doubt many others, WOULDN"T be here. There are thousands of blogs with people just shooting off their mouth on their view of the world, for my part, I don't know why anybody would care, but what is here is CONTENT, which differentiates it, as least to me. That makes it more valuable than even the newspapers.