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.