It won’t be the Easter Bunny or Santa Claus coming to town Thursday, but for Premier Kathy Dunderdale, it’s very likely the next best thing.
Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expected to make a campaign pledge to support the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric development when he visits the province later this week.
Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Dunderdale wouldn’t confirm anything, but said she’s full of suspense.
“The Prime Minister is coming on Thursday, and I’m looking forward to that with a great deal of anticipation, and we’ll see what Thursday brings,” she said. “I’ve said time and time again that I would be struck amazed if the Prime Minister wasn’t supportive of Muskrat Falls. It’s a very good project for the people of the province.”
The province has been lobbying hard for federal support on the $6.2-billion project.
In mid-February when Harper was in St. John’s to formally unveil a new Marine Atlantic vessel, Dunderdale laid out her case for the project.
In turn, the government asked for a detailed breakdown of the economic case for the project, and a number of conditions and parameters necessary to garner federal support.
“Those parameters have been under discussion since we met at the inauguration of the Blue Puttees,” Dunderdale said. “He had some very serious questions about the economics of the project. He needed to understand it fully. He put together a team to work with ourselves and Nalcor.
“The Prime Minister is coming on Thursday, and I’m looking forward to that with a great deal of anticipation, and we’ll see what Thursday brings.” - Premier Kathy Dunderdale
“We’ve been very seriously engaged for a number of weeks now, and I think we’re at a place where we should be able to hear something very soon.”
The federal support would take the form of a loan guarantee, which would allow Nalcor to finance the project at lower interest rates. Nalcor CEO Ed Martin has said that it would amount to a difference of two percentage points on the overall interest rate, which would translate into hundreds of millions of dollars in savings.
The federal government wouldn’t actually have to pay any money, but it would have to carry a portion of the debt on its books.
Since the Harper government lost a confidence vote in the House of Commons Friday and an election is underway, Harper cannot actually make any announcements on behalf of the government.
Any committent he makes Thursday would only be in the form of a campaign pledge if the conservatives are re-elected.
St. John’s South-Mount Pearl incumbent Liberal candidate Siobhan Coady told The Telegram Tuesday evening Leader Michael Ignatieff has already pledged his support for the project if the Liberals win the election.