Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey tried to calm anxieties on Monday about Quebec’s potential interests in his province’s hydroelectric resources.
Furey met Quebec Premier François Legault for the first time on Monday morning in Montreal. He held a virtual news conference following the meeting, assuring reporters his province’s past mistakes with Quebec won’t be repeated.
“I can see people dusting off their keyboards right now to write fearful, anxiety-provoking blogs over whatever meeting just happened,” Furey said. “I want to again assure people that there were no specific details discussed toward any potential agreement, and if there was, we’d be very open about it and make sure that everyone understood that it would be in the best benefit of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.”
The meeting came days after a reported settlement stemming from the Churchill Falls energy project, which entitles Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro to a payout worth nearly $25 million from Quebec’s hydro utility.
The Churchill Falls agreement was first signed in 1969 and has yielded close to $28 billion in profits to Quebec — compared to just $2 billion for Newfoundland and Labrador. The deal ends in 2041 and has withstood several court challenges.
Furey characterized the 1969 deal on Monday as “lopsided” and “punitive” to his province.
When asked how he thinks Legault views the deal, Furey responded, “As premier of Quebec, he represents Quebecers, of course. But I think there is an understanding that this has not been a balanced approach.”
Fears about history repeating itself arose again in May, after a report from Furey’s economic recovery team recommended packaging Labrador’s hydroelectricity resources — possibly including Churchill Falls — and selling them to the highest bidder in order to help the province dig itself out of debt.
Furey insisted Monday that it will be Newfoundland and Labrador that benefits when that deal concludes.
He said he and Legault discussed mining, energy and other economic opportunities, but they didn’t get into specifics.
“I think that together, working in a collaborative way, recognizing that Newfoundland and Labrador has to be the primary beneficiary of any potential future deals, is the way to move forward,” Furey said. “Because it is our resource.”