Lorraine Michael Question Period (04.18.2013)

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Yesterday, the Premier made light of my question about the collateral that Corner Brook Pulp and Paper brings to the table if it gets a $90 million loan.

This government loves to praise itself for its sound fiscal management, but even people who know little about fiscal management know that getting a loan requires providing collateral. In spite of all the help from government, the Kruger mill could close in five or ten years’ time, after receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from government.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Is she going to demand nothing less than the Deer Lake power plant as the collateral from Kruger to cover the $90 million loan?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!
MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I find the position of the Leader of the NDP absolutely incredible. Obviously, she does not understand again the structure, or she pretends she does not understand, although she claims to represent a significant portion of the labour movement in Newfoundland and Labrador.

I am sure the people who work in the mill, the hundreds of unionized workers, would tell her how important it is for Corner Brook Pulp and Paper and the unions to successfully negotiate a labour agreement between them. They would have also emphasized to her how important this agreement is to the forestry industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. We need them to complete their work before we get into a discussion of criteria of a loan that might never be made.

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Yesterday the Premier also acknowledged that the Province’s forestry industry teeters on the brink of disaster. By her own admission, the forestry industry in Newfoundland and Labrador will collapse without the presence of Corner Brook Pulp and Paper. As much as we all hope the mill will continue for a long time, we cannot run away from the reality that it probably will not without continued support.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: What planning is this government doing to create sustainable forestry-related industries in this Province in case the worst happens; or will her government again be caught flat-footed with no plan?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!
MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, if there is any flat-footedness in this House, the Leader of the NDP can claim it. Her need to know comes before anything else, even the success of a negotiation between Corner Brook Pulp and Paper and their unions. It comes before the health of the forestry industry in this Province.

We have made a commitment to the people of this Province that none of the money allocated in this Budget potentially for Corner Brook Pulp and Paper will be spent or will be released to them without the full details of the agreement being made public, Mr. Speaker. Then all the questions she has will be answered. If not, we will be here in the House, hopefully, to answer them.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!
MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Third Party.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS MICHAEL: Mr. Speaker, given the precariousness of the forestry industry in this Province, which the Premier has indicated herself, there are other related industries such as the integrated sawmill, biomass and value-added industry which needs support.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL:Mr. Speaker, I asked the Premier: Is her government working on other plans or is she content to throw taxpayers’ money at the problem and hope for the best?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!
MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, it is interesting to note who is following the discussion here in the House of Assembly during the last four years; I do believe you have been here all of that time.

We have had a $28 million forestry diversification strategy at work in this Province for the last four years. Millions of dollars have been made available to companies like Sexon and Burton’s Cove Logging to bring them into the current stage of innovation, enabling them to have the tools they need to compete effectively.

We have not heard you speak anything about that. What we have heard you speak about, though, is an investment in the Northern Peninsula, a very high-risk investment in the Northern Peninsula, Mr. Speaker, because high risk is what you do if you have anything to do with forestry these days.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!
MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In this year’s Budget government has hundreds of millions of dollars committed to the pulp and paper industry and to Muskrat Falls, neither of which, either alone –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!
MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Speaker has recognized the Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I am speaking about the hundreds of millions of dollars in this year’s Budget committed to the pulp and paper industry and to Muskrat Falls, neither of which, either alone or together, can match the importance of the fishing industry which employs tens of thousands of workers and contributes over three-quarters of a billion dollars to our economy, yet with a department with its budget slashed by 33 per cent.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier why Budget 2013 does not show the same commitment of energy and resources into the Province’s fishing industry?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.
SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

So, Mr. Speaker, in her preamble, she condemns an effort to shore up and get a Sustainability Plan in place for the forestry industry in Newfoundland and Labrador. Without knowing one word of the detail, she condemns it.

Mr. Speaker, she continues to condemn Muskrat Falls, despite the provincial support, the support of the people, the support of the unions, a project that will put $20 billion in the Treasury of Newfoundland and Labrador, enable development in Labrador, provide the cheapest electricity rates to ratepayers in this Province, and tries to accuse us of a lack of support for the fishery.

That is not demonstrable; you should be ashamed of yourself.

Associated Caucus Members: 

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