Fitzgibbon, superminister, but handcuffed?

Fitzgibbon, superminister, but handcuffed?


Pierre Fitzgibbon was already a kind of superminister in the government.

He led the way, even when suspended and replaced by Eric Girard, while he sold actions that placed him in an apparent conflict of interest, according to the Ethics Commissioner.

By all indications, he will today become a super minister of Economy and Energy.

A scenario that the CEO of Hydro-Québec, Sophie Brochu, denounced last week in the public square, even going so far as to mention her possible resignation.

Her fear is that Hydro will become , with the hyperactive Fitzgibbon as Minister, a kind of “Dollarama of energy”. Nothing would prevent Fitz from fully playing the low-cost electricity card as the universal bait to boost economic development. The energy transition would suffer.

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How will Ms. Brochu react today? Will she slam the door? According to echoes, the resignation is not an “automatism”, “passageways” would be possible.

A CEO of Hydro who has big differences with the government, it is not new. This is almost the norm.

In 2018, before coming to power, François Legault had even supported with all his might Brochu's predecessor, Éric Martel, who was fighting against the Apuiat wind turbine project, on the North Shore (in collaboration with the Innu) , while the Couillard government wanted to force him to accept it. The CAQ leader had promised, if he took power, to refuse approval.

Paradox: shortly after his arrival in government, Legault had to live with the departure of Éric Martel, whom he replaced with Brochu, a choice that was hailed everywhere.

Another paradox, the Apuiat project, which Legault – relying on Martel – had described as ruinous and useless, will be carried out.

Brochu would have made it less costly for the state corporation than the version promoted in 2018 by Minister Pierre Moreau. The price of wind power, in addition, has also fallen.

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The energy deal has changed. The era of generous Hydro-Quebec surpluses, for example, is behind us.

They will quickly melt away, especially if electricity export contracts in New York and Massachusetts end up pulling the promised juice. Either way, the internal demand for electricity has increased; and with the wave of decarbonization, it will explode.

If, in addition, Pierre Fitzgibbon transforms Hydro into “Dollarama” and the company relaunch the construction of dams (as F. Legault has hammered throughout the campaign), the cost of electricity is likely to rise. This would make it less attractive both for Quebecers and for the markets.

To be reassured, Sophie Brochu had mentioned a “governance” that would eventually make it possible to restrain the new superminister.

What exactly ? A source yesterday mentioned the creation of an interministerial committee which would be responsible for defining a “prioritization grid” for projects. We would even announce it today.

It all seems very slim. Would Brochu be content with that? On the other hand, if it was really restrictive for the superminister, what was the point of getting his hands on the Energy, if it was to be handcuffed by a “grid”?

Fitzgibbon, superminister, but handcuffed?