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Politicians and CEO’s divided on the Atlantic Loop

By Joe Thomson Jun 22, 2023 | 9:37 AM

Çağlar Oskay / Unsplash

The Atlantic Economic Forum wrapped up yesterday in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.

It was the inaugural event dedicated to discussing the regions opportunities for growth and development, held at StFX University’s Brian Mulroney institute of Government.

Some of the East Coast’s, and Canada’s, biggest names in business and politics were on hand to discuss an array of issues and ideas, but one kept popping more than others:

The Atlantic Loop.

It’s a proposal by the federal government to build infrastructure that connects Nova Scotia and New Brunswick to the hydroelectricity generated in Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was the opening speaker for the forum. In his speech, he touted the Atlantic loop’s potential to transform the region.

“Just think, the East Coast could, and should, be a clean energy powerhouse. This federal government will be there to help make it happen,” said Trudeau.

Not everyone is as enthusiastic about the loop, however. Nova Scotia Premier Tim Houston spoke about the loop during a cabinet meeting last week. He agreed that the loop presents a good way of achieving the province’s climate change goals, but says it is not the be all end all, and that he won’t put Nova Scotia in a compromised financial position to fund it.

“If the Atlantic loop is just not economically feasible, is too much of a financial burden for Nova Scotians to bear, then we have to look at other alternatives. And I think that’s kind of where we’re at,” said Houston.

The Premier isn’t the only person questioning the financial implications of the loop. At the forum this week, David Chaundy, the CEO of the Atlantic Provinces Economic Council, spoke to us about his concerns for the loop.

“Businesses and consumers want the lowest cost. If we’re going to spend billions of dollars investing in something that is not the lowest cost solution then ratepayers and businesses and houses are going to be paying more,” said Chaundy.

Like Houston, Chaundy has no doubts about the loop’s potential to achieve our goal of moving away from coal powered energy by 2030. Both men are just weary of the financial issues the loop’s $4.5 billion price tag may bring with it.

Sean Fraser, Member of Parliament for Central Nova, is credited with coming up with the idea for the forum. He was featured as a panelist and speaker multiple times throughout, and he touched on the loop as well.

Contrary to Houston and Chaundy, Fraser believes that the loop would actually be an economic benefit for Atlantic Canada.

“If you even ignored that it’s the right thing to do, it’s in our economic self-interest. If we don’t move forward with an opportunity to green the electrical grid in the region, the investments that rely on customers that are seeking to buy clean goods are not going to make the investments in this region,” said Fraser.

MP Sean Fraser speaks on a panel during the Atlantic Economic Forum (Photo by Joe Thomson).

Meanwhile, the province’s opposition leader says the government needs to act on the Atlantic Loop.

Zach Churchill says they’re leaving billions on the table, and wants to know how the province will get off coal by 2030.

Churchill says it’s too good to pass up.

“The Atlantic Loop provides an option for the province to get off of expensive coal, lower and stabilize our power bills, and lower our energy targets. The Premier is not moving forward with this, and we should know why,” said Churchill.

Despite the differing opinions surrounding the loop, everyone seemed to agree that Atlantic Canada needs to be looking at clean energy as a way not only to protect the environment, but as a means of turning the region into a player on the global scale.



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