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December 13, 2016

‘Blank Cheque Act’ forcing Albertans to pay for NDP’s shocking electricity mistakes

Today, Wildrose called for Bill 34 the ‘Blank Cheque Act’ to be scrapped and the PPA debacle to be fixed as new information shows how unprepared NDP government lawyers were in their lawsuit against power companies, the Wildrose Official Opposition said today.

Under Bill 34, there is no limit to the amount the Balancing Pool can borrow in order to cover its losses in the electricity system. There is no fixing this bill, and there is no real need for it either.

The Balancing Pool already has the ability to cover its losses due to the government’s PPA debacle through a rate rider.

The only real purpose for this bill is to hide the government’s mismanagement of the electricity file from Albertans until after the next election.

The need for this borrowing bill was caused by the NDP raising the carbon tax on heavy emitters in June 2015 by 33 per cent. The tax increase allowed ENMAX to return its Power Purchasing Agreement  which was rendered more unprofitable by the change in law.

“Bill 34 is asking Albertans to sign a blank cheque to the government for unlimited borrowing off the backs of taxpayers to subsidize their experiments and mistakes in the electricity system,” Wildrose Leader Brian Jean said. “This is a law that is asking Albertans to pay for NDP mistakes. They should just undo the mistakes, or if they are going to follow through, then be up front about it and not hide the costs from Albertans until after the next election.”

New court documents obtained by Wildrose show NDP government lawyer Joseph Arvay, who worked against the Northern Gateway pipeline project in British Columbia, admitting amidst confusion during court proceedings he was looking at documents related to the lawsuit against ENMAX “rather cold”.

This after Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman called Arvay “the very best lawyer in the country who has a track record of standing up for the public interest.”

Wildrose Shadow Electricity & Renewables Minister Don MacIntyre said the court documents show how naïve the NDP was about Alberta’s electricity system after they came into power and how unprepared they and their lawyer were in their court case against Calgary-owned ENMAX.

“First, they raised taxes, forcing massive losses to the Balancing Pool, then made up a phony court case against Alberta power companies and now their $500k B.C. lawyer hasn’t even done his homework,” MacIntyre said. “This shows a stunning level of incompetence within the NDP as Albertans are being forced to pay for their whack-a-mole policy agenda.”

BACKGROUNDER
Timeline of events that led to the Blank Cheque Act, Bill 34

  • June 30, 2015 – The NDP government announces it’s increasing the carbon tax on heavy emitters by 100 per cent by 2017
  • August 2015 – Minister Phillips announces the members of the Climate Change Advisory Panel chaired by Dr. Andrew Leach, announcing dates for consultation and submissions
  • September 11, 2015 – Balancing Pool releases report “Impact of Greenhouse Gas Regulation Changes” showing the changes to SGER may push some PPA costs above the expected pool prices. Specifically highlighted is the potential for termination under change in law provisions.
  • September 18, 2015 – TransCanada sends its submission to Dr. Leach. They note that buyers could terminate if policies are implemented before the expiry of the PPAs, “Depending on the timing of the implementation, the impacted parties could be PPA buyers (pre‐PPA expiry) or asset owners (post PPA expiry).”
  • September 30, 2015 – Capital Power sends its submission to Dr. Leach, including a section on the potential for and consequences of PPA terminations.
  • December 9, 2015 – ENMAX notifies senior government officials and political staff they are considering terminating the Battle River 5 PPA under Article 4.3(j). They are alleged to have informed Deputy Minister of Energy, the Assistant Deputy Minister of Electricity and Sustainable Energy and the Senior Policy Advisor to the Minister of Energy
  • December 9, 2015 – Senior government officials prepare a briefing note to respond to change of law clause for question period
  •  December 11, 2015 – ENMAX notifies Balancing Pool it is terminating its PPA under Article 4.3(j)
  • January 27, 2016 – Balancing pool confirms the termination of Battle River 5 PPA “pursuant to Article 4.3(j)
  • March 7, 2016 – TransCanada gives notice it will terminate its Sheerness, Sundance A and Sundance B PPAs pursuant to Article 4.3(j).
  • July 25, 2016 – Deputy Premier Sarah Hoffman announces legal action against the PPA terminations. The filing claims ministers were never made aware of Article 4.3(j) before the first week of March 2016
  • November 30, 2016 – The  NDP government introduces Bill 34 the ‘Blank Cheque Act’, legislation that if passed gives the government authority to backstop an unlimited amount to cover losses in the Balancing Pool