Atlantic Canada's premiers are looking for a decision soon from Ottawa on a proposed Atlantic Loop energy corridor, noting Wednesday that it will take time to get the massive project built and climate targets are looming.
The estimated $5-billion loop proposal would connect the four provinces to hydroelectricity from Quebec and Labrador and is seen as a key part of an alternative energy mix for the region.
Following a meeting in Pictou, N.S., host Premier Tim Houston told reporters that although talks are ongoing, the premiers need word on how or if the project can proceed.
“Time is passing,'' said Houston. “We need to make sure we have clarity from the federal government on their timelines and of course their financial commitment.''
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey said the project needs to start “fairly quickly” because of its size and scope, adding his province can speak from its experience in getting the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project up and running.
“They (mega projects) don't happen overnight. They need significant due diligence, they need planning, they need engineering and then they need the actual construction time,'' Furey said.
He said it's time for a clearer plan as all provinces strive to meet aggressive climate emissions targets. “And if those goals are aspirational and not achievable, then we need to be realistic with the public as well,'' he said.
Furey added the provinces also need to be open-minded about alternative energy sources because the loop is only a “piece of the puzzle'' when it comes to addressing energy needs and climate change.
A study released last month by the Halifax-based Ecology Action Centre backed that notion, pointing out that although the loop is important in meeting future energy demand, the region needs a balanced approach.
The study noted a mix of renewable energy would be particularly important for Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, which are the only two provinces in the region that still have coal-fired generating plants. Both provinces have committed to phasing out their coal-fired generation by 2030.
But New Brunswick Premier Blaine Higgs warned that his province is facing double-digit increases in electrical costs in the coming years, and there has to be room for such things as liquefied natural gas and offshore oil and gas before a full switch to green energy.
“We are seeing a renewed interest to look at some of the traditional energy sources just to get us through this patch,'' Higgs said.
During their meeting, the premiers also discussed issues such as the rising cost of living, immigration and health care.
Prince Edward Island Premier Dennis King said talks continue on how best to share health-care resources at a time when all systems are challenged by increased wait times and shortages of medical professionals, including doctors and nurses.
“We have always been for an Atlantic approach to the overall delivery of health care,'' King said. “We rely on it.''
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