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'Show us the money': N.L. premier says open to hydro deal if Quebec pays up

New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu looks at documents as Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey, left, looks on, at the beginning of a meeting of New England Governors and Atlantic Premiers Monday, Sept. 25, 2023, in Quebec City. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot

Quebec must be ready to pay if it wants more electricity from Newfoundland and Labrador, Premier Andrew Furey said Monday, describing the current arrangement as “punishing” for his province.

"Show us the money," Furey told reporters in Quebec City, where he is attending the conference of New England governors and Eastern Canadian premiers.

Quebec Premier François Legault has made it clear his province wants more hydroelectricity from Newfoundland and Labrador, and to extend a deal beyond 2041 for power from the Churchill Falls Generating Station. Signed in 1969, the contract has made more than $28 billion for Quebec's hydro utility, while only returning $2 billion to Furey's province.

Representatives of the two provinces have been meeting, Furey said, adding that he's waiting for an offer from Quebec. 

"We're always open to hearing suggestions, we're at the table and we'd like to see what Mr. Legault has to offer," Furey said. "It will have to be a good deal for Newfoundland and Labrador for us to entertain any further developments."

During a visit to St. John's in February, Legault admitted that the Churchill Falls agreement has become "a bad deal'' for Newfoundland and Labrador, but he stopped short of calling it an injustice. At the time, he floated the idea of offering financial compensation to the province before 2041 in order to reopen the contract.

Asked about compensation, Furey said he won't negotiate in public. 

In addition to extending the Churchill Falls deal, Legault has also talked about signing a new agreement with Furey's government for a proposed dam downriver from Churchill Falls, at Gull Island, Labrador.

As Legault welcomed his counterparts to the conference Monday, he suggested that a deal with Newfoundland and Labrador is crucial for Quebec.

"Obviously, to reach our carbon neutrality goals, we have to build more renewable energy," the Quebec premier said.

"So, I'm very much counting on Andrew Furey to upgrade Churchill Falls, and then for Gull Island; we have had excellent discussions and we're very optimistic that we'll be able to move forward on that."

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Sept. 25, 2023.

Caroline Plante, The Canadian Press

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