The Office of the Official Opposition is seriously questioning the Higgs Government decision to quietly increase subsidies to the province’s major pulp and paper mills by 12.5 per cent in May and questions their commitment to lowering NB Power’s debt.
“While nurses and other front-line workers are calling for fair competitive wages, Premier Higgs used his cabinet to secretly give the largest pulp and paper mills millions of dollars’ worth in subsidies” says René Legacy, Official Opposition critic for Energy Development. “We know Premier Higgs is an industry man, but as Premier he should be focused on improving the lives of New Brunswickers, not just protecting big business.”
Since NB Power buys electricity generated at these mills through the Large Industrial Renewable Energy Purchases Program, the subsidies come in the form of an increased purchase price for the electricity generated by these mills.
“NB Power, a Crown Corporation that is currently struggling with a $4.9 billion dollar debt, now has to pay over 12 per cent more for the electricity generated at these plants, and this percentage is now set to increase yearly based on the consumer price index,” says the MLA for Bathurst-West Beresford. “How can we expect NB Power to fix its financial difficulties when Government forces it to pay more for this electricity?”
Mr. Legacy believe the Higgs Government should be looking for ways to help NB Power reduce the size of its debt instead contributing to the problem. “The Auditor General categorized NB Power’s debt as the largest contingent risk to the province, this has to be taken very seriously. Increasing the subsidies to the major pulp and paper mills is completely counterproductive.”