Letters to the editor -
The Telegram and the Opposition parties have missed the real purpose of the Lower Churchill benefits strategy which the provincial government released July 14, 2010.
The benefits strategy is a statement of public policy on how the industrial and employment benefits of the project will be managed. It is not a "deal" as The Telegram has asserted in its headline.
It is, nonetheless, an important document because it makes substantive commitments to the people of the province.
It says the government will be equally as diligent with its own projects as it is with private sector resource projects. It says that the thousands of jobs created by this investment in our future will accrue to the benefit of Newfoundland and Labrador first.
Importantly, this benefits strategy also communicates our expectations to contractors and sub-contractors. These businesses need accurate and timely signals from Nalcor Energy and the provincial government so they can construct their proposals and bids, taking into account the benefits obligations.
The "request for proposals" for the main engineering contractors was released by Nalcor Energy last week, so it was essential to release the benefits strategy around the same time.
The document spells out the location of offices and the amount of engineering work that must occur in the province.
The Official Opposition's claim that the benefits strategy is premature suggests that the bidders need not understand our benefits expectations when preparing their bids.
Such an approach would create uncertainty and risk, and potentially jeopardize many high-paying jobs.
The benefits strategy is a guide for the whole Lower Churchill project and is part of an unfolding plan.
The steady progress towards the start of the project is evident in the substantial progress on preliminary engineering, aboriginal agreements, environmental assessment and, in the last week, the request for proposals for engineering consultants as well as the benefits strategy.
I would have expected both the opposition and The Telegram to applaud the release of information on this important project for the people of the province.
Our government remains committed to openness and transparency and will continue to inform residents in a timely and responsible manner.
Minister of Natural Resources