A tale of two bills

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Muskrat Falls is a done deal. Is anyone surprised? The government reiterated its support for the controversial hydroelectric project Wednesday through an unprecedented private member’s bill put forth by the premier herself, thereby forcing a vote after a mere two hours of debate.

Set aside, for now, other hurdles facing the project — Nova Scotia has not yet sanctioned its part of the deal, and there are a couple of court challenges to be resolved.

Ignore, for now, the numerous concerns raised by critics of the project — cost overruns, lack of regulator oversight and high power rates.

Don’t even consider, for the moment, that the whole purpose of private member’s bills is to allow ordinary back-benchers to take a shot at legislation. Canadian parliamentary rules clearly state private member’s bills refer to “public bills dealing with a matter of public policy introduced by members who are not ministers.”

Instead, let’s compare the way Wednesday’s bill was treated by the Speaker of the House, Ross Wiseman, with the treatment of another bill tabled two years ago by the NDP.

When his time came to speak Wednesday, Liberal Opposition Leader Dwight Ball proposed an amendment. To the end of the bill that resolved to support Muskrat Falls, he wanted to add, “subject to a clear endorsement of the Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities after a complete and unrestricted review, unlimited by arbitrary constraints of time and scope.”

The Speaker called a short recess, and came back with an answer: “The Chair has ruled that it is not in order.”

No explanation was given.

Ball then requested another amendment, with slightly different wording.

Before the Speaker could call another recess, Liberal House Leader Yvonne Jones requested a point of order.

She said members should be allowed to debate the amendment before any decision is made. Wiseman said he must rule first. And he did. The amendment was rejected.

But Jones figured out a way to make a point. She proposed wording that simply acknowledged that a full review by the regulator was not obtained. The Speaker allowed it.

Rewind to May 2010.

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael proposed a private member’s bill that urged the government to take more action to curb VLT addiction.

Where Michael’s bill called for the government to “increase funding,” Finance Minister Tom Marshall replaced it with “continue enhanced programming.” Where the bill called for a faster reduction in VLTs, Marshall changed it to call for a plan to address gambling addiction in general.

These amendments were ruled in order. Michael was furious.

“The amendment, basically, has totally … changed the focus of the (motion) I put on the floor,” she said.

In the end, she voted against her own bill.

So, what’s the difference? It’s hard to say.

Perhaps the best person to answer that is Ross Wiseman.

Organizations: Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities, Liberal House

Geographic location: Nova Scotia

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  • WINSTON ADMS
    December 07, 2012 - 10:11

    John, you fault others for not debating the merits of MF to address power needs. I have put out an analysis how efficiency with wind and small hydro is a better and lower cost option. Where is your or Nalcor assessment of this approach? No debate by you on this. You want to avoid this. Has anyone given a constructive rationale against this proposal? Either it has merit or it does not. Nalcor is now proposing "to do a pilot project of efficient heating" I am 3 years ahead of them with my resaerch.$ 243.00 for heat for a full year with heat at a minimum of 21C. And hundreds of customers are installing them because they work. Can't debate this , hey John? Efficiency is not progress? CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH, HEY JOHN?

  • Maurice E. Adams
    December 07, 2012 - 08:40

    If we need more power, John, how come even up to 2041 and beyond about half of Holyrood's capacity is not even needed (and Nalcor just reduced their annual Holyrood forecast need for Holyrood by about 5% annually ---- from just last year's forecast)?..... Do that sound like a province running out of power, or increasing its need for more power ---- see info-graphic at www.vision2041.com

  • NLgal
    December 07, 2012 - 08:05

    This gov is the Harper equivalent or worse. How low can they go? The Sleezy politicians in power are a disgrace to the this province and country. Nothing like we've ever seen before. Can't get much worse.

  • John Smith
    December 07, 2012 - 07:56

    Oh...I see how this works...you can't debate the merits of the project...so now let's debate and disect the goings on in the HOA? This is all about the opposition trying their best to grandstand...as they did with Bill 29. The NDP exaggerated, lied, fabricated...all to get the public to think they are uncovering some great evil, and are the savior of the public. What a load. This is about us needing electricity, and about muskrat being the lowest cost option....any, and everything else is not releavant...it is fluff....something the opposition and the turd party specialize in...

  • Kev
    December 07, 2012 - 07:35

    It won't be that much longer before the people have their revenge on PC arrogance.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    December 07, 2012 - 06:58

    Democratic dictatorship at its best.