Re Yukon electrical power:
Marg and I have been travelling and therefore have missed much of the discussion relating to private versus public power and the matter of how Premier Dennis Fentie has handled the issue.
In the September 2 Whitehorse Star, Dawson City correspondent Dan Davidson captured the essence of the issue. He said, “We cannot blame the government for making some attempt to rationalize the power distribution system in the Yukon. The way it sits right now, with Yukon Energy owning most (but not all) of the generating capacity and the Yukon Electrical Co. Ltd. having most (but not all) of the customers is a bit awkward. It works, but there is some unnecessary duplication of effort involved.”
Negotiations regarding electrical distribution are not new to the territory and, in fact, is something that needs to be done to ensure efficient and effective power for our communities.
I served on the board of Yukon Electrical and Alberta Power for 34 years. During this period, I participated in many negotiations between Alberta Power (now ATCO) and the premier of the day, along with the premier’s aids.
This goes back to then-premier Tony Penikett, where a deal was made that would have seen the hydropower generation being exclusively the responsibility of the Yukon government and the distribution (retailing) of power exclusively with Yukon Electrical.
The transmission of power was not resolved at this stage.
These discussions did not involve the board of Yukon Energy, but, I expect, it would have been taken to them at the appropriate time.
The deal was not finalized when Alberta Power backed out at the last minute.
A senior official from Alberta Power visited the McIntyre hydro plant. Guided by John Scott, one of the creators of this plant along with John Phelps, this official fell in love with the uniqueness of the project and said, “The deal is off, I will not turn this historic property over to the Yukon government.”
Forward to John Ostashek’s government. Many discussions were held with the premier, and I was present at all of them.
We did reach an agreement, similar to the Penikett proposal. Ostashek decided he would submit the tentative agreement to the Yukon Energy Board.
They did not approve the deal.
For Fentie to discuss or negotiate with the ATCO group was appropriate. He could not have concluded any deal without his full cabinet approval and with the concurrence of the Yukon Energy Board. I missed much of the controversial dialogue by politicians and by the media, but it would seem Fentie has communicated the issue poorly.
We need Fentie to lead the Yukon. He has demonstrated a leadership quality that has been to the Yukon’s benefit. He has good relations with the federal government and with his colleagues in the other northern territories. Together they have forged a strong northern voice.
If I were asked by Fentie, I would recommend that he proceed with discussions with ATCO and sell to them the retail distribution in Faro, Mayo and Dawson City.
This small step, I am told, would save Yukoners approximately $1.25 million a year.