TML Daily (September 20) – ON SEPTEMBER 7, the Dexter NDP government in Nova Scotia called a provincial election for October 8.
This comes after months of speculation in the monopoly media about the possible meanings of the outcome, whichever party wins.
The content of those speculations is no secret. The rich in Nova Scotia are deeply divided over future electricity supplies to the province and the implications for power rates and utility regulation. As CPC(M-L) has frequently pointed out, the rich call elections precisely to sort out contradictions in their ranks such as these.
The current NDP government is leading the band calling for the so-called undersea cable link proposal. This envisions linking the province’s electrical grid to Newfoundland via an undersea cable. Emera/Nova Scotia Power would collect, use and resell power generated in Labrador on the Lower Churchill River at Muskrat Falls and surplus to Newfoundland’s needs mostly into the New England market in general and into the Boston area – from which Emera is currently absent– in particular.
The opposition Liberals are favoured in some sections of the monopoly media to more than double their current seat count in the Legislative Assembly and win a majority government in these elections. They want nothing to do with the Lower Churchill Falls power project and seek instead some special arrangements with New Brunswick Power and Hydro-Quebec to guarantee Nova Scotia’s current and future power needs from their surplus power generation.
Avoiding discussion of grand strategic visions, meanwhile, the Conservatives seem to believe that the status quo up to now can be rendered fairer to the ordinary householder with a little tweaking of the power rates regulatory process at the provincial Utilities and Review Board.
The workers urgently need to work out how to set a new direction for the economy, failing which they are reduced to choosing between the different future visions put forward by the current government and the main opposition parties contending to replace them. Either way, the Emera monopoly would be the main immediate beneficiary. It is a multi-national holding company active in the eastern U.S. and created in Halifax to operate Nova Scotia Power as one of its assets.
In the case of the program advanced by the government, Emera would likely gain access at last to the much-prized Greater Boston market, comprising more than 4.5 million people (or almost five times the population of Nova Scotia). Several financial combines on Wall Street are very much on board with this.
The main argument summoned in support of such a development concerns the extent to which electricity would replace reliance on fossil fuels as the main source of home and office heating during the winter. The Morgan-Stanley group leads the Wall Street interests pushing this apparent concern for lowering the greenhouse gas burden that fossil fuels impose on the environment. This group also just happens to be involved in managing the ever-expanding brokerage of enormous supplies of refined petroleum of all grades to the U.S. Department of Defence, i.e., the Pentagon war machine of the American empire that has been marauding Afghanistan and Iraq for more than a decade and now has Syria in its gunsights.
For the last two decades, Defence Department studies of U.S. armed forces’ fuel requirements have repeatedly alluded to the “slowness” with which the northeastern U.S. has been decreasing its reliance on fossil fuels for winter heating. Data and studies published by the Energy Information Administration of the U.S. Department of Energy, meanwhile, have occasionally pointed to the fact that the Pentagon remains the single largest buyer and user of refined fossil fuels of all grades on the entire planet. Indeed, analysis of these different data sources confirms that the northeastern U.S. market is the last remaining regional market in which fossil fuel is consumed mainly for civilian use.
If Newfoundland electrical energy entered the Boston market, not only would Emera shareholders be dancing in the streets, the warmakers in the Pentagon would capture a windfall of refined petroleum as Newfoundland electricity replaced it. It is a kind of war profiteering, disguised as helping save the environment from further greenhouse gas build-up. By the logic of maximum capitalist profit in minimum time _ the logic that determines whether Emera prevails or is defeated by competitors _ the energy supplies needed by Nova Scotians would become hostage to Boston market demand.
What about the Nova Scotia Liberals’ strategy of some special deals with Hydro-Quebec and NB Power? If this becomes the province’s energy policy, Emera’s current yoke over the supply of power to Nova Scotians would become more onerous. By the logic of might makes right, even if other companies were to be allowed to participate significantly in distributing these imported sources of energy to homes and businesses, the provincial regulator would allow rate increases principally to guarantee Emera’s profits. The power lines distributing the energy, after all, are Emera’s private property.
It is important for Nova Scotians to make themselves aware of what is at stake. Support for the undersea cable-Muskrat Falls agenda heightens the war danger. Support for the agendas currently on offer from either government or the main opposition facilitates Emera’s picking the people’s pockets. The option supported by the third political party in this contest, which amounts to keeping one’s head buried firmly in the sand, makes no sense whatsoever to anyone with social or political conscience.
The irresponsibility of the monopoly media in this election is such that it remains silent about how the tentacles of the U.S. empire are gathering Nova Scotians’ future in its clutches. The outcome of this election does make a difference and people must consciously participate in acts of finding out what is going on in the energy sector and take a stand for an energy policy which serves their interests.
1. There are other less consequential contradictions among the parties regarding how far and how fast to go in reducing and/or eliminating dependence on coal and refined petroleum as the main fuel sources in the province’s power plants, and how far to substitute wind-turbines and natural gas as alternative sources of electrical energy in the provincial grid.
2. CTV News carried a report that the Bank of Montreal and some other unnamed financial institutions do not believe the capital can be raised to complete the proposed undersea electric power cable between the island of Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, and have told Emera/NS Power so.
This position just happens to be the fondest hope of Hydro Quebec and the Quebec government. The news itself just happened to break — in an anonymous leak to CTV — after Newfoundland Premier Kathy Dunderdale wound up a meeting in Quebec City with Premier Marois.
CTV’s scoop coincided with the release in Halifax of the election programs of the Liberal and Conservative parties. Liberal Leader Stephen MacNeil crowed how this “proves” his party’s wisdom in rejecting any involvement in the undersea cable project. Conservative Leader Jaimie Baillie used it as a set-up to promote his party’s platform to freeze provincial power rates for the entirety of a term in government under his leadership — i.e., for four to five years.
The interests standing behind the commercialization of Lower Churchill Falls power are unchanged, as are the strategic imperatives of the Pentagon to command any and every source of refined fossil fuel for purposes of empire.