Quebec scientists and engineering firms are too buddy-buddy with Hydro-Quebec to be able to do an objective study of the proposed Great Whale River Project, say environmentalists.

“It’s very well-known in Quebec that it’s difficult to get consultants to work for you if you’re going to do something critical of Hydro-Quebec/’ says Daphna Castel, president of the Mouvement Au Courant. “Hydro-Quebec gives many of those companies most of their contracts. If they’re too critical, they won’t get another contract.”

Castel was commenting on a recent Nation story which reported that nearly half the companies that conducted studies for Hydro’s Great Whale impact review are run by Liberal donors. Of the 34 companies that conducted studies between 1989 and 1993,15 are run by contributors to the Liberal Party of Quebec. In total, these donors gave $88,695 to the Quebec Liberals over the last five years.

The 34 companies conducted a total of 230 studies for Hydro’s $400-million impact review. Another phase of studies into Great Whale was conducted in the late 1970s and early 1980s, but these were done largely by Hydro’s own researchers.

Hydro submitted its impact review to five government committees studying Great Whale in Aug. 1993. The committees will rule on Sept. 15 whether the Great Whale review conforms to their guidelines, or whether Hydro must go back to the drawing board.

The Liberal links of many of the companies raise questions about the impact review’s objectivity, said Francois Tanguay, an energy specialist at Greenspeace.

“If you consider that it’s Liberal Party chums who give money to the government, which gives contracts back to them, it doesn’t do much for the clarity of debate,” said Tanguay.

“Once they get good contracts from Hydro, it’s very hard for them to be critical,” he said. “Democracy has really taken a black eye.”

Tanguay said Crees and others who are opposing Great Whale in the ongoing public review are unable to find researchers in Quebec to do studies that question Hydro-Quebec. As a result, Hydro’s opponents have had to look outside Quebec for researchers.

“It’s a very unhealthy situation,” agreed Castel. “There’s way too much interweaving between the interests of the government, business and Hydro-Quebec.”

It’s not just the Liberals who are at fault, she added. “The Parti Quebecois and the Liberals see energy in the same way—as a milking cow for their different interests. For a very long time, the government in power has used it to gain political advantage, and then Hydro-Quebec takes advantage of the links between business and the government for its own advantage. It’s an almost incestuous relationship.”

Castel said the revelation about the Liberal donations shows the importance of creating an independent regulatory commission that would oversee Hydro-Quebec. Such a commission already exists in B.C. and many U.S. states, and in other industries which are dominated by one monopoly. Castel cited the example of the CRTC, a federal commission that keeps tabs on the telecommunications industry, which is an industry dominated by one big company, Bell Canada.