|Wikileaks:||View 03HALIFAX394 at Wikileaks.org|
|Classification:||UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY|
|Tags:||ENRG EPET PGOV CA Energy Elections|
|Redacted:||This cable was not redacted by Wikileaks.|
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 HALIFAX 000394 SIPDIS DEPT FOR EB/ESC/IEC/EPC AND WHA/CAN DOE FOR PI (DEUTSCH) SENSITIVE E.O. 12958: N/A TAGS: ENRG, EPET, PGOV, CA, Energy, Elections SUBJECT: PROVINCIAL ELECTIONS PRODUCE NEW LINEUP OF ENERGY MINISTERS AND ISSUES REF: (A) HALIFAX 0356 (B) HALIFAX 0309 (C) HALIFAX 0238 SENSITIVE BUT UNCLASSIFIED -- PROTECT ACCORDINGLY. 1. (SBU) SUMMARY: Canada's four Atlantic Provinces have all held provincial elections this year: Newfoundland-Labrador (October 21), Prince Edward Island (September 29), Nova Scotia (August 5), and New Brunswick (June 9). With the exception of Newfoundland-Labrador, the incumbent governments were all re-elected, but there have been some changes in the lineup of energy ministers and energy priorities. Of the four provinces, Newfoundland-Labrador will see the most profound changes where political veteran Ed Byrne is the new minister. Byrne will be working with his boss, new Progressive Conservative Premier Danny Williams, in pushing Ottawa on their key energy priority -- enhanced benefits from offshore resource development. Cecil Clarke is Nova Scotia's newly named energy minister, and like Byrne will focus on greater revenue flows from offshore developments. New Brunswick's new energy minister is a rookie provincial politician, Bruce Fitch, who will have primarily electricity issues on his plate, including the negotiations to build a second transmission line to the State of Maine. Meanwhile it will be business as usual in Prince Edward Island where Minister Michael Currie will continue to oversee issues such as access to natural gas and wind energy. END SUMMARY 2.(U) Newfoundland-Labrador --------------------------- A. Political Background: In the October 21 provincial election, the Progressive Conservatives under Leader Danny Williams captured 34 of the 48 seats in the House of Assembly. The Conservatives' win overturned a 14-year long reign by the Liberals, who were left with 14 seats, and the third place New Democrats with their same two seats. With his comfortable majority, Williams and his Conservative party have a solid mandate to lead the province for the next four to five years. B. Energy Portfolio/Minister: Premier Williams has maintained the same ministry structure as the previous Liberal administration -- energy matters are in a dual portfolio with the mining sector. The new minister is a political veteran, Ed Byrne, and a former leader of the party. First elected to the Newfoundland House of Assembly in 1993, Byrne was re-elected in 1996, 1999 and in the October election. While in Opposition, he served in several shadow portfolios, and followed energy issues closely during the time he was the Leader of the Official Opposition. The 40-year old minister is a skilled, affable politician and dedicated to the Premier. C. Substantive Energy Issues: The new Williams government has several energy items on its political agenda with the most significant the pledge to seek jurisdictional control over offshore energy resources. The government also wants an improved revenue sharing agreement from the federal government. Further, the government wants to restructure its provincially owned utility, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, either as an energy company or alternatively, turn it into a new energy corporation to participate in all areas of the offshore oil and gas sector. On the electricity side, the Williams government also wants federal help in facilitating negotiations with the Province of Quebec over hydroelectricity development in the Labrador region and transmission rights across Quebec. 3. (U) Prince Edward Island --------------------------- A. Political Background: Prince Edward Island voters re-elected the incumbent Progressive Conservative party in a September 29 provincial election. With Premier Pat Binns at the helm, the Conservatives took 23 of the 27 seats in the Legislative Assembly, leaving the Opposition Liberals with just four seats and the New Democratic party with none. Like his Newfoundland counterpart, Premier Binns has a solid hold on the Island political scene for the next four-five years. B. Energy Portfolio/Minister/Issues: Premier Binns has made no changes in how his government handles energy matters -- responsibility for the sector is a unit within the province's ministry of Development and Technology. The Premier also kept the same minister in the Department, Michael F. Currie. Minister Currie was first elected in 1998 and was re-elected in 2000 and 2003. His energy priorities continue to be pursing access to Nova Scotia offshore natural gas and further development of wind power facilities. 4. (U) Nova Scotia ------------------ A. Political Background: The Progressive Conservative party, led by Premier John Hamm, is a precarious situation following the August 5 provincial election. The Conservatives won the election with their securing 25 seats in the 52-seat Legislative Assembly. However, the combined total of the seats held by the second-place New Democrats and third-place Liberals outnumber the Conservatives. (The NDP have formed the Official Opposition with their 15 seats and the Liberals have 12.) Given that configuration, the Hamm government is relying on the support of the opposition members to get legislation passed in the Assembly. Pundits predict that the support is probably short-lived, meaning another election will likely take place within two years. B. Energy Portfolio/Minister: Nova Scotia energy matters are in a separate and new ministry of energy which Premier Hamm created in 2002 from the remnants of the old Nova Scotia Petroleum Directorate and from a section of the Natural Resources department. Premier Hamm has picked a relatively inexperienced cabinet minister to head up the portfolio, 35-year old Cecil Clarke. Clarke first entered provincial politics in 2001 and was re-elected in August. He had one previous cabinet posting as minister of economic development. C. Substantive Issues: Like Newfoundland-Labrador, Nova Scotia is looking to the federal government to give the province more revenue from offshore development. This was the chief item on the Premier's energy agenda during his first mandate and will continue to do so in this second. Also of importance to the Hamm government is supporting future exploration and development, protection of offshore workers, and facilitating partnerships with foreign companies. 5. (U) New Brunswick -------------------- A. Political Background: The incumbent government of Progressive Conservative Premier Bernard Lord made a successful re-election bid on June 9, 2003. However, the party emerged barely hanging onto enough seats to form a slim majority government. The Conservatives took 28 of the legislature's 55 seats, the Liberals 26 and the New Democratic Party one. The scant majority is making for an uncertain political situation in the province, made even more speculative by rumors that Premier Lord may resign and move to federal politics. Lord is touted as a top contender to head up the newly proposed Conservative party of Canada. Should Lord decide to go for the party's top job, it would force a by-election, a contest that ultimately could end the Conservatives' majority. B. Energy Portfolio/Minister: Despite his government's uncertain future, it is business as usual in the province. When picking his post-election cabinet, Premier Lord decided to increase the profile of energy matters in the province by creating a separate energy department. The Premier named rookie politician Bruce Fitch to head up the new portfolio that was formerly part of the Natural Resources Department. Elected to the Legislature for the first time in the June election, Fitch has no legislative experience and was a professional financial planner and the mayor of a small town near Moncton before entering provincial politics. C. Substantive issues: Minister Fitch has a long list of energy matters on his plate, mainly those associated with the provincially-owned utility, New Brunswick Power (NBP). The utility has continuing financial problems, including a debt that has now reached the $3 billion mark. Fitch is also overseeing the opening of the province's electrical market to outside competition, a development that will remove NBP's competitive advantage and produce additional fiscal concerns. Other issues are ongoing negotiations to build a second high voltage transmission line to the state of Maine, the future of the debt-ridden Point Lepreau nuclear power plant, unreliable Orimulsion fuel imports from Venezuela, and a possible deal with Quebec to expand a power plant in northern New Brunswick. On the oil and gas side, the province's chief priority remains gaining further access to natural gas, either from offshore Nova Scotia or through a proposed LNG plant in the Saint John area. 6. (SBU) COMMENT: Of the four provinces, Newfoundland-Labrador has the heaviest energy agenda, primarily focused on cutting a new deal with the federal government on offshore management and revenue sharing. In a 2001 meeting post had with Danny Williams and Ed Byrne, both vehemently asserted what they perceived to be the province's right to get more benefits from their natural resources, primarily in the oil and gas and fisheries sectors. Now with Williams as the new Premier and Byrne as his energy minister they are poised to start laying the groundwork for this new, politically charged campaign. 7. (SBU) Just how intense or confrontational this new campaign becomes will undoubtedly depend more on what changes occur in Ottawa after Paul Martin assumes the Prime Minister's job. Premier Williams has been quite vocal in expressing his optimism that Martin's ascension to the Prime Minister's office will bode well for his province. Williams sees the future prime minister as being more open to working with Newfoundland-Labrador and the other provinces, with Williams going as far as predicting that there would be a new spirit of "cooperative federalism" in the country. Given that it will take some time for the dust to settle around Ottawa, Williams appears to be taking a wait-and-see approach, a stance he called "rational and logical". At the same time, he made it clear on the election campaign trail that he is prepared "to go to war with them" if there is no political will in Ottawa to give his province a greater share of the offshore riches. END COMMENT HILL
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