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Power Corp looks to re-organize

Jason Unrau
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Nov 08/06) - Brass from the Northwest Territories Power Corporation appeared before territorial leaders last week to discuss a possible restructuring of the government-run company.

The plan would allow the power corporation to invest in higher-risk hydro projects without putting customers or the parent company in jeopardy, president and CEO Leon Courneya said Oct. 31.

The scheme would see the company and its subsidiaries operate under a holding company. "It's not an attempt at privatization," said Courneya.

"What we are really trying to do is allow ourselves to participate in real business."

The holding company would allow the power corporation to invest in projects such as the Taltson River hydro expansion, said Courneya.

Currently, the company must seek regulatory approval from the public utilities board for any new business ventures. As well, it is not allowed to borrow more than three times its equity level, which is estimated at $85 million.

While the legislation is still in the conceptual stage, reaction to the "exploratory" presentation made to the Standing committee on Governance and Economic Development Oct. 31 was mixed.

"I see this as being another legislative piece of equipment that the power corporation will be able to use to distance itself from government (and) put it under another shade of darkness from the public," said Tu Nedhe MLA Bobby Villeneuve.

Great Slave MLA Bill Braden called the initiative "long overdue", but tempered his enthusiasm with cautious optimism.

"For us to undertake larger-scale development, we're going to need this kind of structure," he said. "But I want to get an independent view of this restructuring."

David Krutko, minister responsible for the power corporation, spoke in favour of the restructuring scheme.

"At the end of the day, we have to generate more revenues to deliver power to communities that's economically viable," said Krutko.

The restructuring could fast-track projects to deliver hydro power to mines and the Mackenzie Gas Project. "And in order to remain viable, we can't just rely on 40,000 people."