Ottenheimer promises action on Muskrat Falls, child care

James
James McLeod
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Policy announcement suggests a general direction, lacks specifics

John Ottenheimer says that if he becomes the next premier of the province, he’ll do something to make child care more accessible and affordable, and he’ll do something to look at whether the public utilities board (PUB) can be involved in the Muskrat Falls project.

PC leadership candidate John Ottenheimer speaks to supporters and media at a news conference Wednesday afternoon in St. John’s.

When it comes to the specifics, though, Ottenheimer came up empty Wednesday, speaking to the media at a news conference in St. John’s.

As the race to become the next leader of the PC party gets into full swing, the three contenders have started rolling out some policy ideas.

Steve Kent and Paul Davis have both talked about reforming the House of Assembly, and Kent promised Wednesday he would do a “strategic review” of the province’s transportation system.

Also on Wednesday, Ottenheimer called reporters to the Capital Hotel to announce that if he’s elected premier, he’ll work to reverse the perceived “shroud of secrecy” hanging over the Muskrat Falls project.

“We can do a better job,” he said. “I’m a strong believer in ensuring that we engage our public as much as possible. This is a significant project. This is a mega-project. This is a legacy project.”

For starters, Ottenheimer said Nalcor should hold public meetings and respond to questions four times a year instead of just once.

And when he becomes premier, Ottenheimer said, he will try to find something for the public utilities board to do regarding Muskrat Falls.

The PC party under the leadership of then-premier Kathy Dunderdale moved to cut the independent regulator out of the process, limited the scope of the PUB review of Muskrat Falls and, when the PUB refused to certify the project as the least-cost alternative, pushed ahead with it anyway.

The project is under construction, billions of dollars have been borrowed and nearly all the major contracts have been inked.

Ottenheimer said he won’t ask the PUB to revisit any of those decisions.

But Ottenheimer said that if something unexpected came up, there might be a role for the PUB in the future.

The commitment on child care was similarly vague. Ottenheimer said it’s very important, and if he’s premier, he’ll aim to make sure it’s a priority.

“I am committed to safe and affordable and regulated child care within the public system,” he said. “I am committed as premier and my government would be committed to the notion that the well-being of our children is fundamental in our society.”

When it comes to specifics, though — how many child care spaces should be created, how much it would cost and how the government would go about doing it — Ottenheimer said that will have to wait until after he becomes premier.

He said he’s been out of government for several years, and needs to get a sense of what the situation is before he can say what needs to be done.

“I would like to see the numbers, and I would like to review, from a costing point of view, what we’re looking at,” he said.

Over the coming month, members of the PC party will elect local delegates who will come to St. John’s in September to pick the next premier of Newfoundland and Labrador.

jmcleod@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: Capital Hotel

Geographic location: Muskrat Falls

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