Taking back our resources – A letter from New Brunswick’s future #7

Written by Chris Rouse on July 19, 2019

View from the Kingston Peninsula. Photo by Chris Rouse.

July 19, 2050 (Kingston Peninsula, NB)

Dear New Brunswickers,

I’m old but happy sitting on my deck looking at the beautiful and bountiful Wolastoq River with the love of my life, who I met in the summer of 2019.

That summer is one I will never forget. Not only because I met my wife, but also because it began a chain of events that led me to become the CEO of Wabanaki Energy, formerly known as NB Power. Through Wabanaki Energy, New Brunswickers and First Nations took back control of our shared resources from private interests for the benefit of everyone and not the few.

I met my wife when the Council of Canadians hosted a community workshop, which I facilitated in Fredericton. We developed an Integrated Resource Plan for New Brunswick, so that our province could meet and exceed our Paris Climate goals.

As we sit here on our deck, we are happy to think about how New Brunswickers came together to meet these goals, because of the plan that emerged during that Summer workshop. What we agreed to that day evolved into what was later adopted in all the Canadian provinces, and by other countries around the world.

We held the event, after the Green Party’s changes to the Electricity Act were defeated in the legislature in the Spring, 2019. After the vote, I approached the Green Party, First Nations, and environmental groups, and we began to collaborate for better legislation, which would put New Brunswicker’s back in control of our publicly owed utility NB Power. The workshop helped us find common ground and give us something to fight for.

We stopped fighting against fracking, pipelines and nuclear generation, and instead turned to building the energy of the future our province so desperately needed.

At the workshop, delegates turned to evidence-based, least-cost environmental, social and economic sustainability principles to guide the decision-making process. Each decision was consensus-based, and what resulted was the new Integrated Resource Plan for New Brunswick. The plan would lead to an equitable solution for everyone in the province, while leaving nobody behind.

The first thing we did was discuss was how to give New Brunswickers and First Nations more control of their energy in the future.

The Green Party introduced new legislation, which would give New Brunswickers more say in the development of the Integrated Resource Plan. The legislation also gave First Nations a say in all resource projects NB Power would develop. This change enabled First Nations to partner with NB Power, and to develop renewable energy resources shared between our nations. The Bill was passed into Law in 2020.

During that summer workshop, another topic that we discussed was the privatization of our renewable energy resources. After much discussion, people decided against giving away our resources to capitalists to profit from. Instead, a model of public ownership was adopted so that all New Brunswickers and First Nations would become the investors in renewable energy.

The revenue from a small $24/ton Carbon Tax, allowed us to make the needed investments to reduce emissions. The Carbon Tax along with reinvesting the return on the investments in renewable energy, in turn, had a very powerful economic compounding effect, which provided all the capital needed for the transition. The return on our public investments were so large, that we used the windfall to fund social programs, free education, lower taxes, and pay down the public debt the Province had gotten itself into.

This also became law when the Green Party won a minority government in 2021, after a dispute between the People’s Alliance of New Brunswick and Conservatives over language issues, which led to a non-confidence vote and early election. It was our first, but not, last Green Party Government. My wife became an MLA, and she was appointed Minister of the Environment, and then refused to sign any of the permits to continue spraying our forests and she led a total revamping of our forestry strategy to resort our Acadian forests.

That year, I was appointed CEO of NB Power, when the previous president was convicted of fraud for his involvement in the Joi Scientific hydrogen scam.

The first thing I did when I became CEO was to take a 50% pay cut. I also cancelled the efficiency subsidies, except for the low-income programs which I expanded. I used the savings to create a massive efficiency investment program in solar panels, home retrofits, and in electric cars. Unlike earlier programs, these new programs were targeted so all New Brunswickers could participate instead of just those who could afford to participate. I created community-based programs, to support locally produced and community-operated renewable energy projects. These programs created well-paying jobs and supported local businesses, that were created to design, build, install, and maintain the new publicly owned infrastructure in renewable energy.

One of my most memorable moments as CEO of Wabanaki Energy, was the day Point Lepreau was shut down in 2030. I had the honour of pressing the button to initiate the final shutdown of one of the worst decisions in NB Power history. Ironically, decommissioning the plant created new jobs, while several New Brunswick businesses became a hub for exporting decommissioning engineering services. Indeed, this decommissioning industry ended up being the only profitable aspect of the nuclear energy industry in New Brunswick.

My last achievement as CEO was in 2045, when I retired, and the Mactaquac Dam was decommissioned. The beautiful and bountiful Wolastoq River restored itself and began to heal. By 2040, the province had achieved zero emissions, 10 years ahead of schedule. By then renewable energy and storage technology was so inexpensive, that we didn’t need the dam.

As I sit on my porch and look at how beautiful the river is, I will never forget that day when the Fifteen First Nations and I signed the contract to decommission the dam like we had agreed to at the summer of 2019 workshop. It gave renewed meaning to our Peace and Friendship treaties.

All My Relations

Chris Rouse

Chris Rouse is an industrial systems integrator with over 24 years experience, and is the Founder of New Clear Free Solutions, a solutions-based environmental group that provides objective scientific, financial, and regulatory information to the public and official decision makers.

In the optimistic spirit of the Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Message from the Future, this letter is a speculative and fictional look back from the future to imagine what New Brunswick could be like if we could meet our climate change obligations. It is fiction, but it need not stay fiction. Each letter offers a vision of what New Brunswick could be like in the future if the province is able to fight climate change and to achieve the IPCC climate goals.

Read the other Letters from New Brunswick’s Future here.

This series is sponsored by RAVEN, and edited by Daniel Tubb and Abram Lutes. Daniel is an environmental anthropologist at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton and a co-investigator with RAVEN. Abram Lutes is an environmental action reporter with the RAVEN project Summer Institute and a member of the NB Media Co-op Board of Directors. If you would like to contribute your own letter, read the Call for Letters from New Brunswick’s Future and send a short outline of your idea to Daniel Tubb at dtubb@unb.ca and Abram Lutes at abram.lutes@gmail.com

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