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Premier says he won’t back down after Nova Scotia Power credit rating downgraded

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Prime Minister Tim Houston said the government would not back down after Nova Scotia Power’s credit rating was cut over a decision to cap electricity prices.

Utilities parent company Emera warned that lower credit ratings would lead to higher borrowing costs. That could ultimately lead to higher prices for customers, he said.

Rating agency S&P Global announced the downgrade on Monday, citing a move by the state to limit electricity price hikes to 1.8% this year and next.

The agency said the cap would increase business risks for utilities.

Houston dismissed such concerns.

“I’m not in the business of managing their stakeholder relationships,” he said. “They can do that. They’re high-paid executives, they have a lot of stakeholders, and they should manage those relationships.”

The prime minister said Nova Scotia imposed the cap to protect its citizens from high utility bills. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Houston said the state imposed the cap to protect people from “extremely high utility bills.”

Earlier this year, the company had applied for a rate hike of nearly 14% over two years.

“Nova Scotia Power and Emera are in a very concerted effort to scare people into taking the government down, and we are making it clear that we are not taking this down,” Houston said. “My only obligation is to the state taxpayer.”

“It would cost us more.”

However, opposition politicians said the fact that Nova Scotia Power now has the lowest corporate investment rating in North America is a concern for toll payers.

Kelly Regan, a liberal MLA at Bedford Birch Cove, said, “The Houston government didn’t do their homework again.”

The Democratic Party’s new leader, Claudia Cender, said the ideas her party had put forward to change the way Nova Scotia Power operates were being ignored.

“Our electricity bill will still skyrocket because Nova Scotia Power bears a lot of the costs,” Chender said. “If the company costs more, so do our costs.”

Houston said his government is simply backing rate payers and making sure that double-digit electricity price increases won’t happen in the next two years.

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