Northern Pass- Who are we doing Business with?
Letter to the Editor
Published: Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, April 20, 2011 23:04
13 April 2011
When the impact and fall out of a business venture affects a large number of people, there are often many varied and specific things to consider. In the case of the "Northern Pass" discussion, the focus appears to be what the environmental impact will be on New Hampshire. Having been a longtime resident of the province of Quebec, I wonder whether New Hampshire residents know who they are really dealing with. Hydro Quebec, the company and its history, needs to be analyzed more closely in order to comprehend the probabilities that lie ahead.
The focus of the numerous town meetings, ad hoc coalitions and the "Live Free or Fry" website has been the environmental impact that the Northern Pass project will have, and so miss the point. Although the bulk of this argument, the environment, is solid, it can incorrectly paint people as environmental "nuts". This style of argument has a long history of pushing everyone else out of the dialogue. Politicians and corporate giants have already showed repeatedly throughout history that their concern is not the environment. This is what Hydro Quebec is counting on. As long as we remain solely focused on the environmental impact rather than the nefarious dealings and disreputable business practices of the company, these issues will not be brought to the forefront. New Hampshire residents should instead be concerned with the company that our state is doing business with. Our voices currently risk being ignored, while a much larger concern should be getting the attention of the citizens and thus the politicians who have the power to stop Northeast Utilities from entering into any agreement with Hydro Quebec. New Hampshire should not be allowing a company such as Hydro Quebec to become a partner of any sort. The environmental impact is merely a piece of a more sinister issue. A vital piece of information is being overlooked. Hydro Quebec is not New Hampshire's friend.
The best route by which the citizens of New Hampshire can make an informed decision is to understand not only the environmental impact of the Northern Pass project with Hydro Quebec but also the background of the company itself. At first glance, Hydro Quebec generates, transmits and distributes electricity, mainly using renewable energy sources, in particular hydroelectricity. It is one of the biggest electrical utilities in North America. Its sole shareholder is the Quebec government and as such, it has an exclusive monopoly and is often no more than a political tool.
Since its inception in 1944 Hydro Quebec has systematically taken over the assets of every energy company in its path within the province of Quebec, including the previous monopoly MLH &P (Montreal Light, Heat and Power Company). The Quebec government fully supported this course of action and further gave its blessing by publicly nationalizing the entire electrical industry under Hydro Quebec within the province of Quebec. With approval to sell electrical power to the United States in 1997, Hydro Quebec began its march forward to do the same damage across the border. There should not be any doubt in anyone's mind what Hydro Quebec's intentions are upon its arrival in New Hampshire. It will seek to absorb every energy company in its path and any competitors will soon be owned and controlled by Hydro Quebec establishing a monopoly and thereby controlling prices. It is a fallacy to think by allowing Hydro Quebec in to New Hampshire that energy costs will be kept down in the future. Once here, Hydro Quebec will seek to undermine the finances of any other local hydro electric company and will not be deterred until Hydro Quebec has gained full control.
Ford Motor Company, Philip Morris and the Disney Corporation are all icons of American corporations. Americans in general would not want these to be considered representative of American attitudes, values and behaviors. In comparison, Hydro Quebec is a pseudo-public corporation that had been previously nationalized by the Quebec government to further its political agenda for economic and thus greater political power. As any Canadian is fully aware, the agenda of the Hydro Quebec Corporation and its parent, the provincial government of Quebec, is to secure sovereignty apart from the country of Canada and has far more than financial profit at stake. To put their agenda in proper perspective to an American it could compare to Microsoft using its political and economic power and control to promote and extort the United States to allow the State of Washington to secede from the nation and form their own country. Any resident of Washington that would support their own sovereignty would promote and support the objectives of Microsoft while the other residents who are content and proud to be citizens of the United States would find the tactics and agenda to be unsettling in the least and treasonous at most. In such a scenario Americans would consider Microsoft's behavior to be in contravention of American values much like the typical Canadian suggests Hydro Quebec is.
If you delve deeper under the surface, you will find a company that enters in to below cost contracts with disregard for the law (Dougherty). Arrogance reigns in this corporate culture. There have been many accusations of corruption, involvement with mobsters and offers of kickbacks for private deals (Legault). Thierry Vandal, the President and Chief Executive Officer who now sits on the Conference Board of Canada, has been charged with spending inappropriate and excessive amounts of money and submitting false expense claims. He has used Hydro Quebec's name to promote personal business activities and engaged in dishonest transactions (Goodfellow). Hydro Quebec is constantly in court, fighting lawsuits with disgruntled parties (CTV, Frais Cachés). A quick internet search for the listings of judgments involving Hydro Quebec at the Supreme Court of Canada reveals an alarming 453 cases; most notably docket 22705 from February 24, 1994 involving Hydro Quebec's disregard for Canadian Electrical Policy as well as the National Energy Board (Supreme Court of Canada). All attempts by the media and the public to hold the company to scrutiny are stonewalled. Union representatives are often under investigation and well known for intimidation and mobster-like coercive tactics on projects (Patriquin, Enquête). With nuclear power in their energy mix, Hydro Quebec has destroyed millions of acres of land and ruined countless rivers.