Furey says upcoming talks with Quebec PM are discussions, not negotiations, over Churchill Falls
On the eve of Quebec Premier François Legault’s visit to St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey downplayed the importance of any discussion of the Churchill Falls Treaty.
Furey told reporters on Wednesday that “very high-level” talks would take place on Friday but would not go so far as to call them negotiations.
“At this point I would use the word ‘discussions’ and not ‘negotiations’. As for what happens after Friday, I’ll certainly provide an update,” he said. However, he added that Legault appears to be approaching the talks “with a sense of urgency” to secure new sources of energy for Quebec.
“I think if you look at the disruptions in the energy markets, particularly in relation to Quebec, there is an urgent need in Quebec, not just for export but also for domestic consumption,” Furey said.
In January, Furey said there would be no guarantee negotiations, adding it’s important to note that Hydro-Quebec still owns nearly 35 percent of Churchill Falls (Labrador) Corporation Limited. At the time, Furey said if negotiations did come about, he was “happy” with Newfoundland and Labrador’s negotiating position.
He reiterated that point on Wednesday.
“Newfoundland and Labrador are in a great position and we will ensure that we adhere to the appropriate timeline to secure the right deal for Newfoundland and Labrador,” Furey said.
“Since I took over, we’ve managed to take care of Muskrat Falls with the price reduction deal. Because of this, we are in a good position. The economy has turned around. We’re not on squats to Quebec. Quebec is coming to us.”
Churchill Falls provides nearly 15 percent of Quebec’s electricity needs. The treaty, which came into effect in 1969 and expires in 2041, has been a sore point for Newfoundland and Labrador for decades. The province is committed to selling electricity to Quebec at a rock-bottom rate of 0.2 cents per kilowatt hour to Quebec selling
Legault said there is interest in expanding Churchill Falls Dam and building a new project on Gull Island, also on the Churchill River.
On Wednesday, Legault told reporters that closing a new deal will take time and will not be easy.
“There is a possibility for both sides. Of course it has to be a win-win agreement,” he said.
“We know it’s important for us to renew the contract as soon as possible after 2041 as it takes about 15 years to build a new dam. So we need to know what our capacity will be from 2041.”
Legault said Newfoundland and Labrador will have some demands that he will listen and weigh to find a deal that works well for both sides.
Need a gesture of goodwill: Brazil
Interim PC chief David Brazil said the situation was “alarming” and “confusing”.
“We read that the Prime Minister of Quebec is talking about coming here for negotiations. Newfoundland and Labrador PM speaks of holding talks We need to know what happens on Friday,” Brazil told reporters.
“Is there already a deal that’s been struck? Are there already some talks about what Quebec will benefit from? What will the time frames be like? The first conversation here should be about how we can right the wrongs of the past and ensure, in good faith, there is a negotiated deal that will benefit the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.”
Brazil said there is a lot of catching up to do in the last 60 years and there must be a goodwill gesture and Furey must release the details of the meeting after it happened.
He said he would like to see compensation paid to Newfoundland and Labrador.
Furey said there have been no talks between Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador officials about a new deal with Churchill Falls, aside from talks he’s had with Legault over the past two and a half years.
The Prime Minister on Wednesday declined to give details of what will be discussed at Friday’s meeting and said he did not want to disclose Newfoundland and Labrador’s commercial interests in advance.
Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador