Michael reflects on the past year

James
James McLeod
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NDP leader discusses Bill 29 and Muskrat Falls

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

For New Democratic Party Leader Lorraine Michael, 2012 was a good year.

For the first time in her political career, Michael went into the House of Assembly as

the leader of a political party with a few other members of her political party there to back her up.

“It was a positive adjustment because it meant that I didn’t have to be the only voice. It was wonderful not having to speak, myself, to every single bill,” she said. “We had to learn the rules of the House more closely, because we had an opportunity to operate as a caucus, therefore I now was using rules of the House in a way that I didn’t have to before.”

Essentially everyone in Newfoundland and Labrador politics agrees the defining issues of the past year were Muskrat Falls and Bill 29.

Until the mar-athon Muskrat Falls debate during the week before Christmas, the Bill 29

filibuster was the longest legislative action of its kind in Newfoundland and Labrador history.

The legislation, which passed following a weeklong debate in the House, drastically restricted public access to information, and expanded the types of documents the government could keep secret.

Michael said Bill 29 was a big issue in its own right, but as with just about everything else in Newfoundland and Labrador politics these days, she tied it back to Muskrat Falls.

“It was important, not just in and of itself as a piece of legislation, but the implications for something like Muskrat Falls,” she said. “I really believe they brought it in to make it more difficult for us down the road to get inside information on Muskrat Falls.”

In her year end interview with The Telegram, Michael’s tone while talking about Muskrat Falls was exasperated.

She said the NDP has held a consistent position on the project all along.

“We never made a statement on the project itself. It was on process and it was on getting enough information to know if it could work economically,” Michael  said. “That’s still where we are on Muskrat Falls.”

Michael has generally refused to come out and say she’s “against” the project in the same way as the Liberal Party has; instead, she’s insisted that the government hasn’t provided enough information to prove that the project is solid, especially when it comes to the economic viability.

“Put everything aside and ask the question: What are the energy needs of the island of Newfoundland? And what are the ways in which that can be put together? The government didn’t do that so we’ve never had enough study done to say that Muskrat Falls is the cheapest way to go,” she said. At this moment in time, I do not believe that we can afford this project. Does that mean I’m against dams? No. That’s not the bottom line. The bottom line is, can we afford the project?”

Michael said she doesn’t think politicians have spent too much time talking about Muskrat Falls in 2012, but she said they’ve been retreading over the same talking points again and again.

“We haven’t gotten open answers from the government in the House of Assembly, so finally being able to discuss it in the House of Assembly hasn’t brought any more information, not because we’re not asking the right questions, but because government won’t give the answers,” she said. “The level of the discussion, the quality of the discussion is all shaped by government’s refusal to be open with information.”

Michael said that as a party, they’re constantly mindful that no matter what the big problems of the moment are, they have to remember their bread-and-butter issues.

“For example, we still do not have a home-care program, and we still do not have a plan from government with regard to a home-care program. We don’t have a plan with regard to early childhood education. We have bits and pieces, but they still really haven’t put a plan in place,” she said. “We still have major, important social issues that are still there, and one of our efforts as a party is to make sure in dealing with something like Bill 29 or Muskrat Falls, that we don’t let those other issues fall to the wayside.”

jmcleod@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: New Democratic Party, Liberal Party

Geographic location: Muskrat Falls, Newfoundland and Labrador, Island of Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • Maurice E. Adams
    December 27, 2012 - 15:19

    After more than 35 years as a public servant, going into politics would be like going from the fat into the fire. But I have learned one thing, especially from Jerome Kennedy, having a law degree does not in itself make one a good representative of and for the people --- or the province.

  • Graham
    December 27, 2012 - 13:57

    Maurice we agree FULLY my friend. The whole point of my comment was to show thwt there appears to be no place in this government for someone who thinks in a rational manner like you do. The clowns we have there now have all the answers Kathy allows them to have. This bunch under Dunderdale is nothing more than a continueation of the Williams administration. Hell they even have the Williams Motto "MY WAY OR NO WAY" To watch Dunderdale spew out her crap saying all Newfoundlanders would never have to leave home again because of Muskrat Falls and the jobs and prosperity it will bring is enough to make anyone loose their Christmas dinner. This woman cant even read from a prepaired script she just stumbles and mumbles her way through it all. No wonder Harper likes her so much. She's a complete push over. Lost....Bedwildered.....Confused......That our beloved Premier ZDunderdale and sadly it shows more and more on a daily basis.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    December 27, 2012 - 12:10

    Graham, I think my comment shows the opposite --- that neither I nor the opposition parties were the ones that were supposed to have the answers........ "Government" is the one that should have had the answers but didn't, and the opposition should have posed a lot more, and more precise, questions long before the filibuster......... How many times did government members in public, in the media, and Ministers in the House and in public say for example that Holyrood burns 18,000 bbls of oil day, yet on average it is more like 5,000 bbls a day and the 18,000 bbls only applies when operating at capacity ---- yet over the last 9 years it operated at capacity for only 1.6% of the time (5.5 days a year), over the last 5 year less than 1% (about 1-2 days a year), and last year --- not at all --------- yet, not once, even though Ministers used the 18,000 bbls a day comment in the House numerous times --- to my knowledge not once did any opposition member challenge such a misleading statement. Government was frequently allowed to mislead the public about Muskrat Falls ---- UNCHALLENGED....... About the greenhouse gas fiasco? ------ 92% of the province's GHG emissions is unaffected by Muskrat Falls --- the biggest (by far) emitter being Large Industry (the private sector -- 42%) ---- yet government is making ratepayers pay $9 to $12 billion dollars for Muskrat Falls to reduce the 'public sector' portion by 8% (Holyrood)...... Where is industries' (the private sector) contribution to GHG reductions? The 8% is on the backs of residents/ratepayers, when the residential sector contributes only 4% of the province's GHG emissions. ..... There is no end to this fiasco. I did not hear the opposition bringing up any of these and many many other questions, when they could have ---- long before now. There are/were many others --- efficiency, demand projections, the $20 billion tax grab, the 50 year cost comparison, etc. etc. etc. .... Some were finally and barely touched on during the last week. Nothing to be proud of, for sure.

  • Graham
    December 27, 2012 - 11:33

    Maurice can I assume you will be running in the next election? You do seem to have all the answers. THis joked of a governmet lead by the BIG JOKE Dunderdale did nothing more than go through the motions and passed and sanctioned whatever the darn well pleased. YES WE DEMOCARICALLY ELECTED THEM, but this government is nothing more than a modern day DICTATORSHIP. ABSOLUTE POWER ABSOLUTE CONTROLL TOTALLY CORRUPTED?....ABSOLUTELY

  • Maurice E. Adams
    December 27, 2012 - 08:33

    How, on the one hand can you say "I do not believe that we can afford this project." And on the other hand, “We never made a statement on the project itself. It was on process and it was on getting enough information to know if it could work economically,” “That’s still where we are on Muskrat Falls.” ....... If you can conclude that we can't afford Muskrat Falls, how then can you not be "against" it?.......That does not make sense to me, and is flawed logic.......... In any event, it was not the oppositions' job to disprove the viability of Muskrat Falls, both parties should have have been fully and actively against the project when "government" did not prove that it was affordable, that is was needed and that it was within an acceptable level of risk -- PERIOD...... It was government's job to do those things. It did not, and the opposition should have opposed the project on that basis alone. In short, government and both opposition parties failed the people of this province. But it will be the people who will pay the price.