Politicians prep for Muskrat Falls non-debate

James
James McLeod
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Busy agenda ahead for elected members to discuss when House opens Monday

Premier Kathy Dunderdale speaking to the media. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

The governing PC Party is saying it’s going to be a busy month in the legislature, and it won’t all be about Muskrat Falls.

But whether it’s the ear-splitting exchanges in question period or the mid-year fiscal update, it looks like nearly everything in the next few weeks will be coloured by the $7.4-billion Muskrat Falls megaproject.

Government house leader Darin King said they’re looking at a busy agenda once they get into the House of Assembly Monday, with plenty of legislation including health care, justice and labour issues.

But even though there will be no formal debate on Muskrat Falls, expect the Liberals and the NDP to spend all their time talking about the lack of debate over the megaproject.

Negotiations broke down weeks ago on the format for a special debate, and the Liberals and the PCs are still playing the blame game, a game that will almost certainly carry over into the legislature.

“Their position was they refused to participate in any special debate or allow the rules to be changed in any way unless they were prepared to bring witnesses, and from our perspective, that was a fundamental principle that we weren’t prepared to compromise,” King said.

Liberal Leader Dwight Ball had a different take on the situation.

“It’s absolutely all the government’s fault,” Ball said.

The Liberals have said that without expert witnesses answering questions from MHAs, they can’t have a meaningful debate.

“We started looking for information in July, and none of it was forthcoming,” Ball said.

“The department of Finance stuff, as an example, we only got our first response back (Wednesday).”

Premier Kathy Dunderdale has said the government is on track to make a final sanctioning decision on Muskrat Falls by the end of the month, but the real fireworks could come later on in December.

Dunderdale told reporters this week the government will likely be introducing one or more pieces of specific legislation later on to enable the Muskrat Falls project.

Already, both the Liberals and the NDP have mused about filibustering that legislation.

King said if things go down that road, the PC Party is ready to wade through a filibuster if that’s what it takes to get things done.

“As we’ve demonstrated, government will be prepared to participate in that process for a long period of time, but at some point in time, you know, if there’s no closure being brought, government will have to make the decision,” he said.

“I would hope that there would be a spirit of co-operation and that any debate that the opposition engages in would be for the purposes of improving the legislation and for providing good information to the public, not simply for filibustering to keep things going for the sake of keeping things going.”

But King said the government is going to be tackling a broad range of policy issues in the legislature.

“I don’t want to lose everything else under Muskrat. Because Muskrat is important and it’s going to be front and centre, but there are a lot of other important issues as well that have to come forward,” he said.

“‘I think you can expect four to five good solid weeks of debate on important issues.”

In the spring, the government made it clear that they’re looking to rewrite the Public Tendering Act, and that legislation will very likely get passed this fall.

“We’re trying to work that through in a very comprehensive way, protecting all the values and transparency and accountability that’s so important to the people of the province,” Dunderdale said. “That’ll be a major, major piece of work.”

Dunderdale said the big problem with the current legislation is that it’s too strict, and drives the government to the lowest cost bid.

“The old act is not serving the people of the province well anymore,” she said. “Lowest cost doesn’t always get you the best value.”

In the next month the government will also deliver its mid-year fiscal update, where Finance Minister Tom Marshall is expected to announce that the deficit has ballooned to more than $500 million, due to lower-than-forecast oil prices.

Opposition politicians are already saying that the deficits are a signal that the government has a systemic problem with their finances.

“I’m expecting extremely bad news,” NDP Leader Lorraine Michael said.

“I think government has to look very seriously at the revenue issue going into the future. We have to look at where else revenue can come from.

“One place it could certainly look at is royalties from mining. Mining is an extremely lucrative industry in this province, but actually that industry is getting away with quite a bit when it comes to the royalties they pay.”

Ball similarly called for the government to restructure its finances, and put natural resource revenue into a separate pot, instead of relying on it so heavily for year-to-year revenue.

The fall sitting of the legislature will start at 1:30 p.m. Monday afternoon.

 

jmcleod@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: NDP, PC Party, Department of Finance

Geographic location: Muskrat Falls

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Recent comments

  • MBC
    November 18, 2012 - 08:52

    Yep.....really busy.....in session for a few weeks then break for Xmas, 2 months!

  • lonenewfwolf
    November 17, 2012 - 19:39

    'introducing one or more pieces of specific legislation later on to enable the Muskrat Falls project' yes. that's for sure. more like the legislation will be a set up for emera moving into our system. Dec 17th, 2010 was a very interesting day on the stock market for them. 1/4 billion in stock purchased. it was the biggest single day of trading before or since, and it was two weeks to the day williams stepped down after signing the deal. what we are seeing is the injection of a very large and powerful company into our regulated (with this new legislation soon to be unregulated) energy system. we need to understand more about the deal williams signed and what it REALLY means. its much more than just muskrat falls, its also about deregulating the energy markets here and privatizing the most lucrative parts (such as the transmission and perhaps even the water itself). emera has been buying the company which owns rattle brook. rattle brook is the sister dam to star lake which was expropriated illegally by williams and granted non-existant water rights by harper. BEWARE OF THIS DEAL!! the complacent electorate here may be being used to set precedent for the free trade deals harper and his buddies like gwyn morgan are setting up. all is not as it appears.

  • Tim Jamison
    November 17, 2012 - 14:17

    "It's all the government's fault." - little, teary-eyed Dwight

  • H JeffORD
    November 17, 2012 - 12:34

    There is still a lot of objection to the Muskrat Falls Development, But what are the alternatives ? Wind When IT BLOWS? Natural Gas until runs out, The cost of using A non reneuable source of energy such as oil or natural gas as the source of energy to run a turbine to create power, as supply runs out the cost to run the power will increase, But the power produced by the upper Churchill Falls,or The Muskrat Falls When Built will run forever, Without using the Hundred of Millions Or Billions Of Dollars in oil each year to run the Holyrood OiL fired Generating Plant with all of its Dirty gasses it puts out, When the Water Falls is Developed the cost to run the plant is up to Nature to run.

  • Graham
    November 17, 2012 - 12:13

    This so called premier of ours is one BIG joke. She cant even read a prepared script without stumbleing her way through it. She cant handle any form of criticism and goes on the attack mode if anyone dares to ask her a question she dosent want or cant actually answer. LOST...BEWILDERED...CONFUSED..Thats our Premier..and we are stuck with her for another 3 very long years. God guard and help the Newfoundland.

    • Ben
      November 17, 2012 - 20:52

      Funny Graham...is that the way everyone feels in the opposition office? At least the Premier has stuck to her guns with MF's. How do the Liberals really feel? Because they do whatever the popular thing is for that day. You guys are not someone who should be talking about leadership. BTW...have you watched Dwight on TV lately? Think about it...we could be stuck with the bunch of you guys for 3 years.

  • MANITOBAN
    November 17, 2012 - 11:00

    the NDP have no clue how to run a province, let alone a country. here in manitoba the NDP have us over a billion dollars and growing for the fiscal year. some of the highest provincial taxes in the country, user fees on just about everything, 2.5 tax on gasoline, crumbling roads, a mickey mouse court system, a useless museum, football stadium, inquiries up to their ears. they taken from manitoba hydro to balance the books, and in return allow hydro to raise it rates. manitoba as become the foodbank capital of canada, winnipeg the murder capital, all thanks to the NDP.

    • Does anyone know
      November 17, 2012 - 13:49

      Manitoban, Take the word “football” out of it and you’d sound just like the people around here. Only difference is we blame it on prosperity. That’s right. Prosperity. I’m not kidding. The NDP must be getting very powerful though. Tom Mulchair is thrilled with Muskrat Falls. Our federal NDP members endorse it and the PC’s actually gave a chunk of it to the NDP premier of Nova Scotia, for less than we have to pay for it ourselves!

  • Does anyone know
    November 17, 2012 - 11:00

    Does anyone know why they bypassed/exempted the normal processes that were established for the benefit of the general public (Auditor General, Public Utilities, etc.)? Wouldn’t it have allayed much of the risk for taxpayers to have some idea if we could afford the biggest expenditure of public funds in our history? They assessed it on the businesses behalf. So why didn't they have it assessed on the public’s behalf as well? Anyone know?

  • John Smith
    November 17, 2012 - 09:45

    LOL...Lorriane Michael and the NDP talking about finances as if they knew anything about it. All I have ever heard from them is how they would spend money like drunken sailors...a school in every cove... a hospital in every bay... a fishplant in every town....what a sad pathetic joke the NDP are.

    • What an act
      November 17, 2012 - 10:25

      Another great performance by our very own impeccable and personal impersonator! You are awesome. No one and I mean no one does a better impersonation routine. It’s the absolute best. I get such a great kick out of it. LOL. Hit the road with a live show John. Be your own manager and make millions. LOLOLOL

    • W McLean
      November 17, 2012 - 13:41

      The Progressive "Conservative" government in NL is the biggest-spending provincial government in history. In any province.

  • Darren
    November 17, 2012 - 09:12

    Its tough not to laugh when you hear Lorraine Michael say they need to look at other places for revenue! If it was up to the NDP we would have all the oil contracts cancelled and that revenue would be much smaller. Its so easy to complain when you dont really have to be annountable, and you don't really know what you are talking about! As for the Muskrat Falls debate...lets get on with it in the House. Lots of us in Labrador are waiting for it to begin.

  • Marty
    November 17, 2012 - 09:04

    With so much legislation to be addressed, why wasn't the House back in session in September? Important decisions about the future of the province is not something that should be rushed a few weeks before they have a "Christmas break". Get I there, get to work and stop the childishness!

  • MR. SCROOGE
    November 17, 2012 - 09:03

    it appears from this article that the politicians will be up to their games when the house resumes on monday. you can be sure of one thing folks, they won't be playing games when it comes to collecting their pay cheques and their pensions. ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTING !

  • taxpayer
    November 17, 2012 - 08:54

    WOW ! the circus resumes on monday. i say circus because these overpayed politicians sometimes act like clowns in a circus. OOPS ! what am i saying? you can go to a kindergaten class and get a straight honest answer, before you can from these politicians. their only goal, and only goal is collect a fat wage which they don't deserve, wine/dine on our dime, travel the world, free expence claims, and how can we forget that big fat pension they will collect for little or no work to the taxpayer. so folks, stay tune. THE CIRCUS IS BACK !

  • Maurice E. Adams
    November 17, 2012 - 08:51

    How about not spending the people's one-time oil revenues on an unneeded Muskrat Falls project, purely so that the mining companies reap the benefit? What a joke. To allow this rape of the people's one time oil revenues for the sole purpose of reducing the costs and increasing the profits of mining companies, and then talk about scraping back a few pennies by way on increased royalties. Where is the opposition, where is the vision, where is the leadership? ---- Where is the morality of playing such games with the people?

  • John Smith
    November 17, 2012 - 08:46

    Just one short year ago we elected the PCs by a landslide....they blew away the competition. They have a strong and clear mandate to proceed with muskrat falls. Ask yourself the question...Did I think if a PC government was elected that they would NOT go ahead with muskrat? Of course not. We all knew for months before the election that electing the PCs would mean a green light for Muskrat, and anyone who denies this is fooling themselves.We also all pretty much knew that the project would cost more...if we delay further...it will continue to increase.The PC government, and even the third party were on board for the debate...but not the Liberals...no siree...they were not going to have a debate> Ask yourself why? Honestly...why would the Liberals not want to debate? What are the Liberals hiding? Lack of preparation, lack of good questions, lack of insight??? Who knows? What we do know is the the PC governement was ready and willing to debate this in the house...and the Liberals put a stop to it. Can't let too much information get out there eh' Liberals? Even Dwight Ball was on the news the other night stateing that he is not totally opposed to the project. The only reason I can think of is that the Liberals are cowards...they do not have what it takes to stand up in the house and debate what is a good project for this province. They can't even come up with one good reason why they are against the project, let alone debate it in the house. Yes, they must be afarid...afraid to show the people of the province how weak and inneffectual they really are. Too late Liberals...LOL we all know that already...

    • W McLean
      November 17, 2012 - 13:43

      Similar to their strong, clear mandate in 2003 to strengthen access to information? Or their strong, clear mandate in 2007 to bring in whistleblower protection legislation?

    • Political Watcher
      November 18, 2012 - 09:56

      Remember John, they used the New Energy slogan as a rouse; they promoted themselvs as the new energy not Muskrat Falls. Next, this Gov't ran away from the people and his as soon as the election was over. The "New Energy" didn't inform the people that they would close the house and draft draconian legislation that would silen all to help push a bad deal through. Just think about it; just a couple of years prior they apponted a group of "skill professionals" from their own ranks to be on the PUB; now knowing that MF is such a bad deal they now say the have no faith in their skills to review the deal. Now, if they are afraid of their own there is something being hid here. If they are no longer skilled, replace these high payng positions with someone who is skilled and let them review the deal. I hope that when they are out of Gov't that the deal is reviewed and if anything amiss is found that criminal charges follow.