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“Let's put our energies in the right place. We must not let the private sector take it over,” says the campaign.

Hydro-Québec : unions launch an ad against the private sector

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Extract from the CUPE video advertising campaign which will be broadcast starting January 8.

  • Thomas Gerbet (View profile)Thomas Gerbet

Seven Hydro-Québec employee unions will launch an advertisement on Monday to share with Quebecers their fears of privatization of the state-owned company, Radio-Canada has learned. They are worried about rising prices, a loss of control and a loss of expertise with major electricity development projects to come.

< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">The advertising campaign, called “Our Own Energy,” is funded by the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE). It will be broadcast for a month on television and online. We see actors representing Quebecers who express their attachment to Hydro-Québec as a public collective good.

Facing the camera, various people, young or older, talk about low prices, Quebec values ​​or even green energy. Hydro-Québec is a collective heritage that must be preserved, we can read in the online campaign.

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CUPE represents a total of 16,000 Hydro-Québec union members, the majority of employees. These are linemen, electricians, trades workers, office staff, professionals, technicians… Engineers and management, for their part, are not represented by CUPE.

No one, at Hydro-Québec or the Quebec government, has mentioned a privatization of the state company, but CUPE has doubts as to the fact that future assets could be entrusted to the private sector, while Hydro-Québec must double its electricity production by 2050.

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We are asking ourselves questions, and we want to be convinced, to be reassured, explains Pierre-Guy Sylvestre, economist at CUPE research department.

We want to launch a broad conversation with all Quebecers, the government, Hydro-Québec, public decision-makers […] on electricity production and the future of our electricity, because we have several fears.

A quote from Pierre-Guy Sylvestre, economist at CUPE, which speaks on behalf of 16,000 Hydro-Québec union members

Union members fear that the bill which will be presented this winter by the Minister of the Economy, Innovation and Energy, Pierre Fitzgibbon, will open the door to private production and of electricity transmission like that of TES Canada, in Mauricie.

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Union members fear that Minister Pierre Fitzgibbon, through a bill which will be presented this winter, will open the door to private production and of electricity transmission.

Self-production “is only the beginning,” Minister Fitzgibbon has already warned. CUPE fears that companies that need large servers (for example Google or Amazon) will also become electricity producers and sell their surplus to Hydro-Québec, as some aluminum smelters already do.

Private companies aim to make profits. Privately produced electricity will cost more to Hydro-Québec, which will have to pass the bill on to its customers, us Quebecers.

A quote from CUPE advertising campaign against the privatization of Hydro-Québec

We fear an increase in rates, but also that we can no longer use Hydro-Québec as an instrument of socio-economic development, says Pierre-Guy Sylvestre. Last year, the state-owned company paid a dividend of $3.4 billion to the Quebec government, the highest in its history.

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Linemen are among Hydro-Québec's union members represented by CUPE.

Union members also fear a loss of control, with private companies potentially making decisions that are not in our interest or that of the environment. Mr. Sylvestre mentions perhaps less good service in remote areas.

Finally, the loss of expertise worries CUPE, which calculates that 10% of Quebec's electricity production is already private, especially with wind power, the development and maintenance of which are managed by different companies. This is a missed opportunity, according to Mr. Sylvestre. If Hydro-Québec was able to build the Romaine hydroelectric complex, our members think that we could very well build and maintain a wind farm.

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The development and maintenance of the wind energy sector are managed by different companies in Quebec.

Asked to comment on this advertising campaign, Hydro-Québec did not respond to us on Thursday.

The state-owned company announced in November a gigantic plan to develop electricity production to add up to 9,000 megawatts (MW) of power to its network by 2035, i.e. #x27;equivalent to building five Romaine complexes in 12 years.

Hydro-Québec is thus at the heart of the decarbonization and economic development objectives of François Legault's government. But, at the moment, there is not enough electricity to meet all demands. A total of 1000 MW were allocated, while 30,000 MW were requested.

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Michael Sabia, CEO of Hydro-Québec, presented a growth plan for $185 million network.

If the 30,000 MW of unmet industrial demands to date all start to self-produce like TES Canada, the equivalent of 30 TES could monopolize the best and most advantageous natural resources, worries Jean-Pierre Finet, analyst to the Grouping of Environmental Energy Organizations.

Mr. Finet fears that Quebecers will have to obtain supplies at a higher cost to decarbonize the economy if electricity has to be sought further away because the most advantageous resources will have been privatized. .

Another energy sector analyst, Jean-François Blain, is concerned by the government's bill and by the TES Canada project which, according to him, eloquently embodies this model of privatization: collect and transport the electricity produced, therefore transporting and distributing, through its own network, electricity through wind and solar equipment scattered across the territory of a dozen municipalities, outside its land ownership, to deliver it to its own facilities (or possibly to third parties).

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Pierre-Olivier Pineau, professor at the Chair of Energy Sector Management at HEC Montréal (Archive photo)

For his part, professor of energy sector management at HEC Montreal Pierre-Olivier Pineau thinks that production must be opened to the private sector: Change is not automatically a betrayal against the Quebec nation. On the contrary, it could be a way to better develop the sector.

Is there any harm in energy seekers obtaining themselves their electricity? This is what we do with other essential goods: housing, food or clothing, underlines Mr. Pineau.

Is it up to Hydro-Québec to supply electricity to all these projects? It's not possible, there are too many.

A quote from Pierre-Olivier Pineau, professor at the Chair of Energy Sector Management at HEC Montreal

Opening production to all those who want to do it does not imply that Hydro-Québec is privatized or that it loses its role, believes Mr. Pineau. On the contrary, this will further establish it as a hydroelectric producer, as a transporter on Quebec soil and as a distributor. She has a lot to do in these three areas.

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