Findings of panel headed by N.B. candy maker sours those against NB Power sale

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FREDERICTON - Candy lovers soured by the findings of a confectioner who approves of the deal between NB Power and Hydro-Quebec are calling for a boycott of Ganong Bros. Ltd.
David Ganong, chairman of the St. Stephen-based chocolate company, was appointed by the New Brunswick government in November to lead an advisory panel studying the $3.2-billion deal.
In a report released Monday, the six-member panel concluded the deal is good for New Brunswick because it cuts electricity rates and will help the environment.
Those opposed to the sale have responded by using the company's Facebook page to call for a boycott of the sweet treats it makes.
Dozens of people posted comments following the report's release, accusing Ganong of bowing to the Liberal government in exchange for lower industrial power rates at the expense of homeowners.
"I will never buy a Ganong product again," one person wrote.
"NB Power deal is not good for NBers (New Brunswickers), not one bit, but I bet it's good for you Ganong family with your large discount on power after this deal. Sell out!"
Ganong said it's a "ridiculous assumption" that he or other members of the panel acted in their own self interest by coming out in support of the deal.
The company hasn't decided what it will do about the comments, but Ganong said he found them interesting to read and the company is monitoring what's being posted.
"They're entitled to their own opinions," Ganong said in an interview in St. Stephen. "I'm not sure how that relates to not buying candy."
Someone posted a picture of a Ganong box of chocolates with a caption that appeared to take a swipe at Premier Shawn Graham, who has faced considerable public backlash and open dissent within the Liberal caucus for the deal before he renegotiated its terms with Quebec.
"The Graham collection," a caption below the blue and brown box read. "A unique selection of our finest power assets on a graham crust."
Several posters, however, remarked that the call for a boycott was foolish and questioned why anyone would want to punish a homegrown company that employs New Brunswickers.
"If even one job is lost at that factory because of your silly boycott, I hope you're all happy," one person commented.
The panel headed by Ganong found the hydro deal will see residential electricity rates drop six per cent in the first 10 years of the deal, and 13 per cent by 2030. Industrial rates would be 20 per cent lower in the first 10 years and 23 per cent lower by 2030.
Several people also expressed their displeasure with another business member of the panel on the Facebook page, though most of the outrage appeared to be directed at Ganong.
A business expert at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton said it's unlikely the push for a boycott will stick because the debate has nothing to do with the quality of Ganong products.
"There's no evidence that these things have worked in the past," said Barry Boothman, associate dean and professor of strategic management.
"I can't think of a major instance, on a political issue like this, where it's actually had an impact on purchase patterns."
Ganong said there isn't much he can do about a boycott.
"We make very good products. If people want to buy them, they can buy them," he said. "There's lots of competitive alternatives out there. I do not think there is much I can do about that at this point in time, and individual consumers can make their own decisions."
- By Melanie Patten in Halifax and Kevin Bissett in St. Stephen, N.B.

Organizations: NB Power, Hydro-Quebec, Ganong Bros. University of New Brunswick

Geographic location: FREDERICTON, New Brunswick, Quebec Halifax

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