The Politics and Regulation of Hydroelectricity : The Case of Quebec in the Thirties

For many, Quebec government intervention in hydroelecticity began in 1963 with the nationalization of the industry. In fact, this was the last stage of a progression in policy whose beginnings can be traced back to the Quebec Electricity Commission in 1935. Was this commission effective or was it just a window dressing exercise by the government in order to calm down political agitation ? To answer this question, two types of tests are used. First, we conduct an event study analysis of the expected effect of regulation on the stock market prices of utilities. Second, we examine the effect regulation has had on the evolution of rates in Quebec. Both approaches point towards ineffectiveness. The political economy model explains why. The political struggle was quite unequal. The consumers, numerous but mostly unorganized, were not united because of the large gap between domestic and industrial rates and were disadvantaged by the inequalities of the electoral map. They were fighting a small and tight group of power companies with large financial means and close relationships with the government.
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