Premier Dennis Fentie shut down debate on the Liberals’ Yukon Energy Corporation Protection Act on November 4.
The draft law would require the government to hold a referendum before selling the utility’s assets. However, the bill would still allow what’s called rationalization: a proposed asset-swap between Yukon Energy and the Yukon Electrical Company to detangle the roles of energy production and distribution.
The government supports the spirit of the bill, said Fentie, but it’s currently hobbled by several flaws.
He questioned whether a referendum is the best method of judging public opinion. And Fentie said the bill doesn’t recognize the government’s “obligation to manage energy resources” or say which parties have “fiscal capacity and the responsibility for building assets into the future.”
“The bill should not be an impediment to providing Yukoners with more efficient, affordable and reliable energy,” said Fentie.
He’s not alone in being critical of the bill. Brad Cathers, who quit his job as Energy minister in August over Fentie’s handling of the ATCO scandal, has said the Liberal anti-privatization bill has holes big enough “to drive a Mack truck through.”
And the NDP’s Todd Hardy opposes the bill because it doesn’t restrict independent power production, a policy being considered by the Yukon that would allow private companies or First Nations to operate hydroelectric dams and sell energy to the government.
This appears to be the plan for the expansion of the Mayo hydroelectric dam.
Ottawa is prepared to pay half of the five-megawatt project’s $142-million cost. It remains unclear how the territory plans to pay the remaining $71 million, but the Na-cho Nyak Dun plans to lend the Yukon government one-quarter of the cost of the Mayo B hydroelectric project.
Hardy doesn’t object to First Nations becoming partners in energy production, but he’s wary that the same policy could allow private companies to gain influence over the power grid.
Fentie insists independent power production won’t result in privatization.
And he continues to claim his government never considered privatizing Yukon Energy, although documents leaked over the summer show that’s not the case. Alberta-based ATCO made a bid to merge Yukon Energy’s assets into a new energy company that would have been privately controlled.
Still, Fentie continues to repeat his mantra that such talks are about “partnerships,” not privatization.
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