A third energy cable linking P.E.I. to the mainland will be a top priority for Charlottetown NDP candidate Joe Byrne during his campaign for the May 2 federal election.
Byrne announced the strategy, aimed at reducing electricity costs for Islanders, during a campaign rally Sunday attended by more than 100 supporters at the Hillsborough Community Centre.
Byrne said one of the federal government’s roles is to provide balance across the country by making everyday commodities, like electricity, available at a reasonable cost.
Which is where a third cable, funded by the federal and provincial governments, fits in, said Byrne.
“A third cable just makes so much sense,” said Byrne. “It’s going to increase our capacity to buy electricity at cheaper rates from on a longer term basis off the grid and that’s going to have an immediate impact for reducing the cost of electricity for all Islanders.”
The cable would provide other benefits besides reducing the cost of electricity, added Byrne.
The project would gradually pay for itself by reducing the $8 million cost Islanders pay Maritime Electric each year to keep diesel generators on standby, he said.
The cable would also help Island businesses producing wind-generated electricity by providing a way to reach possible customers outside the province.
This would stimulate the generation of clean renewable energy from the province, creating an alternate energy job field on P.E.I., added Byrne.
Sunday’s rally wasn’t the first time a third energy cable for P.E.I. has been brought up.
The former federal Liberal government had made the third cable an election promise but the plan was ignored following the government's defeat.
The provincial government sent a request for the cable to the federal government during last year’s fall sitting of legislature.
Egmont Conservative MP Gail Shea responded by saying the federal government wouldn’t pay for the cable.
Premier Robert Ghiz has made the third cable a priority in recent talks with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.
Byrne said Shea failed to deal with the issue.
“I understand that no is an answer too, but I think an MP is elected not just to take no as an answer but to keep making the case from an economic point of view, from an environmental point of view and frankly, from a human point of view.”
There was much support for Byrne’s point of view at the rally, attended by a largely Latino and newcomers to P.E.I. crowd.
Byrne, who earlier in his career worked as a missionary in the Dominican Republic for five years, began his speech to the crowd in Spanish.
Adaluz Cieria was there to support the candidate, after first meeting him when she immigrated to Canada from El Salvador 22 years ago.
She said she’s always been able to depend on Byrne.
“We’ve been in different situations and, no matter what, you could call him in the middle of the night, anytime, and he would help,” she said.
Irene Lopez and her mother Margarita had similar views on Byrne.
“When my mother came here 18 years ago, we called Joey,” said Irene.
Byrne met Margarita at the airport when she immigrated to Canada and has remained close since, considering him part of her “Canadian family.”
“He has a special gift to connect to other people in his life, no matter race or age,” she said. “It’s not just the Latin community, all Canadian people need him.”
Byrne has been a volunteer and social advocate for almost 30 years and has worked with newcomers and immigrants since the mid 1980s.
He said, if elected, he hopes to bring lessons learned from those years of experience and his missionary work to Parliament.
“(After) working with people that, no matter what conditions they lived in, were hopeful for change,” he said, adding that he’s hopeful of bringing change to the province if elected.
One of the first changes will be ensuring Islanders have comparable electricity prices to other provinces by building the cable, he said.
“This third cable is going to be one of the top priorities and I won’t stop, I won’t stop fighting for it until we get it.”