Quassa dodges questions about URRC power rate report
QEC rate hikes to take effect in less than three weeks
Premier Paul Quassa, who serves as minister responsible for the Utility Rates Review Council, dodged questions from Tasiluk MLA George Hickes last Friday about his government’s position on the Qulliq Energy Corp.’s latest power rate proposals.
The URRC is a low-profile body that’s supposed to review utility rates in Nunavut and make recommendations to the Nunavut government.
The only utility it actually reviews is the Qulliq Energy Corp., whose latest general rate proposals were released to the public this past November and are due to kick in less than three weeks from now on April 1.
That rate application asked for two things: a 7.6 per cent across-the-board rate hike for all classes of customers and the start of a process called “levelization” that would eventually lead to the same rates in every Nunavut community.
The net combined effect of the two sets of changes would be to increase rates in larger communities like Iqaluit and Rankin Inlet and reduce them in smaller communities like Whale Cove and Kugaaruk.
But the URRC won’t be able submit a report to the GN on their review of the QEC’s proposed scheme until March 26, only five days before April 1, Quassa said in response to a question from Hickes.
This year, April 1 falls on Easter Sunday, in the middle of what is effectively a four-day long weekend in Nunavut.
And Quassa did not directly answer a question about the impact of the rate changes on Iqaluit.
In Iqaluit, businesses such as retail stores would see an 11.4 per cent rate increase on April 1 and a hike of 8.3 per cent next year.
“As my constituents here in Iqaluit can attest, it’s a fairly substantial increase in rates that Iqaluit will get hit harder than the majority of other communities, some of which will actually drop,” Hickes said.
“What is this government’s position on moving from a community-based rate structure to a territory-wide rate structure?”
Quassa could not answer the question.
“That’s a good question, but again, we haven’t really gone to the point where we’re going to decide either way,” Quassa said.
“Again I cannot really answer that particular question because we haven’t really decided yet as to how we’re going to deal with it. As I said earlier, the report will be going to the minister of the QEC on March 26 and we will go from there,” he said.
During the same exchange, Quassa also couldn’t answer a question about why the QEC minister submitted the corporation’s general rate application to the URRC this past Oct. 27, three days before the territorial election.
“This is an ongoing process and they have to proceed, even if there is a general election. Everything else proceeds. It’s just the same thing,” Quassa replied.
The process for handling QEC rate applications is convoluted.
First, the corporation hands its rate application to the minister responsible. Last October, that would have been Pangnirtung MLA Johnny Mike, who was defeated in the election and left the portfolio in November.
The responsible minister then hands the rate application to the URRC, which is supposed to review it and seek public comment.
When the URRC has finished that work, it submits a report with recommendations to the minister, now Cambridge Bay MLA Jeannie Ehaloak, who has held the position since Nov. 21.
The minister then reviews the review council’s work and “provides instruction” to the QEC on rates.
But the decision is generally understood to be a collegial decision by cabinet.
A different minister is responsible, however, for the URRC. Right now, Quassa holds that responsibility.