I want to commend the Graham Government for their decision today concerning the increase in power rates.
A lot of people, including the opposition Conservatives, have been very wary of the widely expected increase that was announced yesterday and comes in just under 10%.
Last year, when NB Power asked for an increase of 11.4%, seeing an election on the horizon, the Lord Government announced a lot of surprising measures. Many of which they had specifically rejected before as irresponsible financially and bad in terms of policy. Most notable among these was the widely known HST rebate program and a cap of 8% for a rate increase, regardless of whether the Public Utilities Board thought it was warranted and in conflict with their previous orders for NB Power to break even. Everyone knew these actions were inconsistent with the principles of conservatism and with the past statements of the Lord Governmemt and were made solely because they had a minority government (Tanker was still sitting as an independent).
This year, NB Power has asked for an increase of 9.6% (one which would probably have been unnecessary or at least lower if not for the irresponsibility of the Tory intervention last year). Spinks has wrongly suggested that this is the government's fault and should be seen as the same or similar to the income tax increase and rightly pointed out that this will mean more revenue for government (in terms of the HST collected on the hgiher power rates).
The government response has been tempered and logical. Rather than irresponsible policy u-turns, the Graham Government is going to invest the increase revenues of $37 million into new programs which will be developed to ease the burden on low income earners and to prevent it from driving businesses out of the province.
The fact that this increase will not change the fact that New Brunswick has the lowest electricity rates in Atlantic Canada and that the government is going to take any monetary benefit it gets from the increase and give it back to the consumers seems far more reasonable than the Tory reaction which was to cripple NB Power by slashing its needed revenue and launching a flawed HST rebate program which they never implemented, planned or developed.