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Lower Churchill is a transformational project that will create long-term economic and environmental benefits: CIBC's Jim Prentice

Newfoundland, Quebec and Ontario need to sit down and work out a long-term plan

ST. JOHN'S, April 27, 2012 /PRNewswire/ - CIBC (CM: TSX) (CM: NYSE) - The Lower Churchill hydroelectric project will transform industrial development in the province and provide significant economic and environmental benefits, says the Honourable Jim Prentice, P.C., Q.C., Vice Chairman of CIBC.

The keynote speaker at a Newfoundland and Labrador Oil and Gas Industries Association luncheon today, Mr. Prentice expressed his support for building the Muskrat Falls and Gull Island projects. He told his audience that he supports "development that helps generate widespread and long-term prosperity - and is, at the same time, environmentally sustainable.

"In my view, Lower Churchill is all this and more. It is a transformational project for Atlantic Canada that will take the region to a new level of industrial development. It will also help move our country closer to becoming a true clean energy superpower - an enviable goal for reasons both environmental and economic."

Mr. Prentice noted that the recent Public Utilities Board report on Lower Churchill has "muddied the waters" rather than providing the people of Newfoundland and Labrador with clarity. He supports the approach of Premier Dunderdale, including bringing the issue before the legislature again for a new debate.

"History will be the judge of the actions of our provincial and our federal politicians when it comes time to make the challenging decisions on moving forward with an investment in Lower Churchill. This is how it should be - how it must be with projects of ambition that will have a long-term impact on the provincial economy. The ultimate decision rests with the people we elect."

But when it comes to deciding on energy megaprojects, be believes elected officials need to look beyond today to see the world five, 10 and even 25 years in the future. The danger lies in assuming the future will look the same as today.

"An element of foresight must be brought to bear - an element of vision. When developed, the Lower Churchill will ultimately be judged as an investment not over the course of its construction but over the course of its lifetime. The longer term benefits of this investment will certainly be worth the financial risk today.

"Hibernia, the Upper Churchill, James Bay, the oil sands: none of these were a slam dunk. Each of these major infrastructure investments proceeded because smart people had the vision to look toward tomorrow - and the foresight to see the world as it would be. Each of these projects was controversial. Each had opponents. And each, in the end, has delivered value and economic growth."

Mr. Prentice spoke to the fact that not only will the project create some 16,000 person years of employment in the province but that there are significant export opportunities in the U.S. and in Canada once the Muskrat Falls and Gull Island projects are completed. He cited the New England states where 55 per cent of electricity generation comes from the burning of fossil fuels, versus only 13 per cent from hydro and renewables - and where the electricity grid is in need of significant upgrade.

"Here is an opportunity for Canada and the United States to work together to ensure that we realize the full potential for growth of the American market for clean Canadian hydro. The amount of power available for export would reduce carbon emissions by the equivalent of taking 3.2 million cars off the road.

"And then we look to the west - to Ontario, a province that is moving aggressively to wean itself off coal, a province that will require new sources of clean electricity as its population grows."

To deliver on these economic and environmental benefits he called for Ontario, Quebec and Newfoundland to sit down and work out a long-term plan to deliver clean, renewable, affordable power into markets with high demand.

"I am neither a Quebecer nor a Newfoundlander. But I have read enough and was a federal politician long enough to understand the history of mutual sensitivities about Upper and Lower Churchill. But we have before us a game-changing regional energy play for the 21st century - a project with the potential to bring together three provinces in the pursuit of economic prosperity and the advancement of environmental good. This is no time for the grinding of axes.

"Building a province or a nation is never an easy exercise. It takes dedication and courage. It demands perseverance and ingenuity in times of trial. It requires leadership and drive in times of hardship. Today, Canada stands on the verge of a new period of growth and development - a period that holds the potential for sustained prosperity as we develop our resources, diversify our markets, rebuild our manufacturing base and look to exciting new opportunities.

"We must always remember that our country remains a work in progress. We must never forget that the job of continuing to build Canada is our task and our trust."

A copy of Mr. Prentice's full speech is available here.

Mr. Prentice joined CIBC on Jan. 1, 2011, and has responsibility for expanding CIBC's relationships with corporate clients across Canada and abroad, and for providing leadership on strategic initiatives to enhance CIBC's position in the market. He joined the bank following a successful career as a lawyer, Member of Parliament and one of the most senior Ministers in the Canadian Government, serving variously as the Minister of Industry, the Minister of the Environment and the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. 

CIBC is a leading North American financial institution with nearly 11 million personal banking and business clients. CIBC offers a full range of products and services through its comprehensive electronic banking network, branches and offices across Canada, and has offices in the United States and around the world. You can find other news releases and information about CIBC in our Press Centre on our corporate website at www.cibc.com.

SOURCE CIBC

PDF with caption: "Speech-En.pdf". PDF available at: http://stream1.newswire.ca/media/2012/04/27/20120427_C9824_DOC_EN_12799.pdf

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