David Freeman says Canada should avoid making the same mistakes as the U.S. when it comes to the environment.

“We’ve just about cleaned out nature’s store down here in the United States, and it’s precisely because we’ve done such a bad job with our own environment that we think we’re in a position to warn you folks up in Canada about some of the mistakes we’ve made,” says Freeman, the newly installed president of the New York Power Authority.

“I’m perplexed why that should ruffle anybody’s feathers,” he said in a recent interview with Maclean’s magazine.

Freeman took on the job on March 1 as head of the public utility that supplies a quarter of the electricity used in New York State. Soon after, he got NYPA to back off on a 20-year, $5-billion contract with Hydro-Quebec, citing a power glut in New York and “unresolved” environmental problems. He has also traded sharp words with Reed Scowen, Quebec’s delegate to New York and a former Liberal MNA.

Freeman, a former energy advisor to U.S. President Richard Nixon, is starting to change the nature of the debate about energy in the U.S. He says utilities should start to develop alternative energy sources, like wind-power and solar power.

“He’s changed the whole nature of the debate,” says Robert Blohm, a New York investment banker. “By moving so quickly to open up channels of communication with the natives and environmentalists, he’s created the impression that Hydro-Quebec’s biggest foreign customer—NYPA—has suddenly switched sides.”

Grand Chief Matthew Coon Come said Freeman maybe ushering in a “turn-

ing point” for energy’ policies in Quebec. “It’s taken an awful long time and an awful lot of effort, but maybe Hydro-Quebec will no longer be able to find the money to go ahead,” he said in the May 2 issue of Maclean’s.

But Reed Scowen is skeptical about Freeman. “What’s he trying to do?” he grumbled, before immediately answering his own question : “Nobody knows.”