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Oil and gas talks dominate first day back for Newfoundland and Labrador legislature

Premier Andrew Furey (left) and Deputy Premier Siobhan Coady speak with reporters on Monday.
Premier Andrew Furey and Deputy Premier Siobhan Coady speak with reporters on Monday. - David Maher/The Telegram

Parsons talking with federal government

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Premier Andrew Furey says he’s hopeful a solution to the woes of the oil and gas industry in Newfoundland and Labrador can be found soon.

The first day of a two-week sitting of the House of Assembly was kicked off with questions about the continuing wait for provincial or federal support for the oil and gas industry in the province.

With tens of thousands of jobs and almost a third of the province’s gross domestic project tied up in the industry, Furey had no concrete answers on Monday, but said negotiations continue with the federal government on support.

“We’re still talking with Ottawa. Minister (Seamus) O’Regan is working tirelessly on this file,” said Furey.

Husky Energy announced last week it is reviewing the West White Rose Project and its future in the province. The company has asked the province for direct support for the project, but Furey says the province has its own financial challenges to contend with.

“Frankly, the ask, with respect to Husky, is just too large. We don’t have the fiscal capacity,” he said.

“It’s time to start being honest with the people of the province that we don’t have the ask that they needed. I wish we did, but we don’t.”

The province has put a five per cent equity stake into the project, which cost the province $44 million when the deal was reached in 2007.

Furey says he hopes that money isn’t lost for the province.

“That’s always a concern, but that’s not something we can deal with at this particular moment,” he said.

The announcement of the West White Rose review was the latest bad news for the province’s oil and gas industry. In March, Equinor announced it is deferring its Bay du Nord project, which was expected to deliver first oil in 2025, cost $10.98 bllion for the company to create and produce $3.5 billion in government revenue over the life of the project.

Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie dedicated much of his caucus’s time in question period to the struggling industry. He says it’s too important to ignore.

“The offshore is burning. It’s a topic that involves a third of the economy and many, many jobs, well-paying jobs both on and offshore,” said Crosbie.

“It’s a canary in the coal mine for the rest of the offshore. It’s a topic of extreme importance.”

New Democratic Party Leader Alison Coffin said she doesn't think pumping federal money into the industry is the path the government should take.

“I don’t think a bailout is the right thing,” said Coffin.

“In March, we should have had a plan out to address how we were going to open it again. We haven’t done that. We’ve wasted six months and we’re in a situation that seems to be quite untenable.”

Andrew Parsons, minister of the Department of Industry, Energy and Technology, says he continues to speak with the federal government about the imminent need for support for the industry.

“Again, we have talked to the federal government, we've spoken to them. I know I've spoken to them as recently as this weekend to let them know that time is of the essence, and we will continue to do so,” he said.

“Just because you cannot see everything does not mean that there's nothing happening.”

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