Questions about PM dominate fiery question period
Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks with the media outside the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa today. — Photo by The Canadian Press
Even as the Opposition blasted Premier Kathy Dunderdale for the Muskrat Falls hydro deal and her relationship with Prime Minister Stephen Harper, a federal government source said he will make a major announcement on the project when he visits St. John’s today.
The source said Wednesday the prime minister will announce support for the construction of the subsea cables today, but it may not necessarily be in the form of loan guarantees.
Won’t back loan guarantee
The government source said Harper won’t explicitly back the loan guarantee, as this requires further approvals.
“My understanding is that it’s going to be a demonstration of tangible support for the project ... in some form that will be of ben-efit to ratepayers in both provinces,” the source said.
Without the backing to reduce borrowing costs, there were fears that the project would have meant huge rate hikes for electricity in both provinces, said the source.
“They’ll hedge on explicitly on a loan guarantee, but they’ll approximate the value that would have flowed to ratepayers.”
“I’m anxiously looking forward to his visit and any announcements he might make,” Dunderdale told reporters outside the House of Assembly Wednesday.
But even as Dunderdale was hinting at good news, she was sparring with Liberal Leader Yvonne Jones over the issue.
Jones was also trying to tie Dunderdale to Harper’s budget delivered earlier this month but never passed because the government was defeated, as well as other commitments the federal Conservatives have made.
In the past several days, provincial MHAs have been conspicuously supporting federal Conservative candidates in the May 2 election.
But Jones said Harper — and his friends — are not to be trusted.
“(The Harper Conservatives) in 2006 said they were going to bring 650 troops into Happy Valley-Goose Bay; that they were going to preserve 5 Wing Goose Bay,” Jones said during question period. “Where is the file now? Where is the commitment from the Harper government now? Why have you guys not delivered for the people of Happy Valley-Goose Bay?”
“My understanding is that it’s going to be a demonstration of tangible support for the project ... in some form that will be of benefit to ratepayers in both provinces.” Government source
Jones also asked about budget cuts to Marine Atlantic, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
Dunderdale said that those issues were federal government territory, and she wouldn’t get drawn into it.
“Mr. Speaker, I suggest she come and meet Mr. Harper and ask him directly,” Dunderdale said. “I am not Mr. Harper’s spokesperson.”
Jones also focused on a quote from Dunderdale’s in the past.
“She went out and said that you could not trust Stephen Harper,” Jones said. “Now that you are on the record as saying that you do not trust Stephen Harper because he broke his promises on the Atlantic Accord and on equalization, what has changed that we should trust him on any other deal that he makes with Newfoundland and Labrador?”
Dunderdale responded that her comments were aimed at Harper during the “Anything But Conservative” campaign of the 2008 election. Since then, she said, times have changed.
“People learn and people have the capacity to change.,” Dunderdale said. “Mr. Speaker, it is a new day and I am glad that the Leader of the Opposition is contemplating that the feds might offer us a loan guarantee.”
Harper is scheduled to hold a rally at the Delta Hotel in St. John’s 5:30 this evening.
With files from The Canadian Press