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Hydro-Quebec union representatives are condemning the quality of the document tabled today by François Legault and Charles Sirois regarding the future of Quebec’s education system. The document proposes an increase in spending to the tune of $950 million a year—$600 million of which would require a 23 per cent cut to Hydro-Quebec’s operating costs over a four-year period.

CUPE representatives of the 17,700 Hydro-Quebec workers point claim the document fails to make reference to any study or argument explaining where the $600 million would come from. In their opinion, it would be totally irresponsible to trim the muscle from a particularly powerful and successful corporation that pays significant dividends to the Quebec government, not to mention the fact that it has the lowest electricity rates in all of North America.

With more than $2.5 billion in net profits in 2010 and over $1.8 billion in dividends being paid to the Quebec government, Hydro-Quebec generates a tremendous amount of money for the economy and for all Quebecers. This highly effective company that does not need any sorcerer’s apprentice to deliver the goods year after year,” says Richard Perreault, president of CUPE Local 1500 (Syndicat des employés de métier d’Hydro-Québec).

Since Legault cannot document his claim about the $600 million, we can only assume that he is relying on the same hypotheses as the Montreal Economic Institute. Remember that the MEI is a right-wing think tank and not a scientific-based research institute. Its publications, much like those of Claude Garcia, should not be used as works of reference, especially not when it comes to assessing Hydro-Quebec’s efficiency, says Pierre-Guy Sylvestre, an economist on CUPE’s research team.

International reputation for excellence

Hydro-Quebec is recognized worldwide for its expertise and dynamic nature. Recently Electric Light & Power magazine named our crown corporation as the “2010 Utility of the Year”. Here is what the editor-in-chief had to say about Hydro-Quebec: “My editorial team and I evaluated all North American electric utilities. Hydro-Quebec topped them all when we factored in environmental responsibility, satisfied customers, transmission technology, low rates, and profits.”

Quebecers get more bang for their buck

In addition to raking in the profits that pay for schools, hospitals and roads, Hydro-Quebec’s electricity rate is the most affordable in North America. Montreal has the lowest rates compared to other major cities across the continent, and amounts to a third of the cost in cities San Francisco or New York City.

What’s more, our rates are remarkably stable. Since 1999 the increase in electricity bills in Quebec has simply reflected price trends. We pay more or less the same amount as we did a decade ago in constant dollars, in all sectors.

Hydro-Quebec is a powerhouse. It’s a flagship of our economy and our energy base. We must be wary of anyone who makes claims without scientific support. Hydro-Quebec has always been the object of envy and attraction to a certain right-wing economic branch of our society who seeks to destroy it in an attempt to privatize it,” concluded Richard Perreault.