Filibuster continues in House of Assembly

James McLeod
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House of Assembly

Politicians are still in the House of Assembly, debating Muskrat Falls enabling legislation, and it looks like they’ll be there for a while yet.

The filibuster of two pieces of legislation began yesterday and continued overnight. Unless the opposition parties back down, or the government moves to shut down debate, it looks like MHAs will continue debating until at least Christmas Eve.

Bill 60, currently being debated, involves expropriating land and creating an easement for the electrical transmission lines running from Muskrat Falls to Soldier’s Pond outside St. John’s. Bill 61, which is also being considered by politicians, essentially forces the Public Utilities Board to pass along Muskrat Falls costs to ratepayers, regardless of how much it costs to build it.

That legislation also enshrines in law that Nalcor has a monopoly as wholesale producer of electricity in Newfoundland.

Liberal and New Democrat politicians are talking about their general opposition to the current deal to develop Muskrat Falls, but they also say Bill 61 specifically will remove important consumer protections provided by the PUB.

The government says the two new laws are needed to reassure lenders and secure the best possible interest rates for financing construction of Muskrat Falls.

Both Bill 60 and 61 are in the second reading stage in the legislature. Government has used the House standing orders to limit the opposition’s ability to stall proceedings.

However, at the next stage of debate — Committee of the Whole — the opposition has effectively unlimited opportunity to filibuster.

Natural Resources Minister Jerome Kennedy has explicitly said the government will not shut down debate, and it will continue as long as the opposition wants.

The debate hasn't been without a few hiccups, though. There have been a few blowups between MHAs and accusations of profanity flying around in the House. 

Around lunchtime, politicians were forced to briefly leave the chamber because of some sort of dust or haze in the air. 

Debate is expected to continue through the day, and likely overnight today and tomorrow.

Organizations: Public Utilities Board

Geographic location: Muskrat Falls, Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • Tim Jamison
    December 19, 2012 - 23:33

    I'm so glad this nonsense has finally turned a corner. And now we move through time, to the place where all these naysayers complain bitterly about how they miss the oil plant, the same place where everyone else rolls their eyes at said complaints

  • Maggy Carter
    December 19, 2012 - 15:01

    @ COCO - No, people who switch (in many cases switch back) to fossil fuel, rely on wood, or install high efficiency heat systems (e.g. geothermal, heat pumps) will certainly reduce their exposure to Muskrat, but can't eliminate it. There are at least three reasons for this: (1) as people switch, rates will be increased still further to compensate NALCOR for the lost sales with the result that your light bill will rise rapidly even if you don't use electric heat; (2) in order to deter any switch away from electric, government will slap heavy taxes on home heating oil and increase wood cutting fees; (2) even if you found a way to go off grid completely, you won't escape Muskrat. When total NALCOR revenues fall below what is needed to amortize the 60 year debt (and raising rates only pushes more customers away), government will step in with massive operating subsidies from the treasury. To pay for this they will of course raise taxes - income, HST, whatever it takes to feed the Muskrat Monster's thirst for cash. Bear in mind that by law (the law it is ramming through the House), island ratepayers are not being tapped only for the 40% of Muskrat power government says we will need (which itself is a lie) but for 100% of the power output. Any sales to Labrador industry or to export markets go directly to NALCOR's bottom line and not to pay down the loans on Muskrat. Pretty scary, eh?

  • Coco
    December 19, 2012 - 12:14

    The take or pay clause means that Nalcor can charge us for what they think we need rather than what we actually use but some people are saying that if they burn wood and use generators, they won't have to pay for Muskrat. Are they right?

    • Tim Jamison
      December 19, 2012 - 23:28

      If you think burning chords of wood or burning diesel would be cheaper than turning up the thermostat, it means you're a blowhard or you don't run a household. Or both. Burning those materials is more expensive than any household power bill in the world

  • Cold Future
    December 19, 2012 - 12:01

    Half and hour later and still creating new islands. In 2000 province Quebec deregulated electricity to allow competition and the free flow of import and export electricity to comply with the north american free trade agreement. Here we are in 2012 trying to create legislative changes to prevent such activity to enable the building of an uncompetitive white elephant that will ensure that electricity rates will remain the highest in canada and inflict on the people all of the uncompetitve disadvantages that carries with it.??????? If we are forced to deregulate to allow our elctrical energy export we will become more screwed than we are now.

    • Tim Jamison
      December 19, 2012 - 23:30

      Wow. Doublespeak much? Your entire comment stinks worse than the field next door during the Summer. The one with the BULL in it