Lorraine Michael Question Period (05.03.2012)

Lorraine Michael

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

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

Today we know that the Nova Scotia government will leave no stone unturned to make sure there is a hearing before their Utility and Review Board concerning their part of the Muskrat Falls Project. They will make regulatory changes if they have to, to make it happen. The Nova Scotia Government is going to ensure that their public utilities board conducts a full review of their part of the Muskrat Falls Project.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Natural Resources: Why is this government continuing to resist allowing the PUB to look at the final Decision Gate numbers when they come?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Natural Resources.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The answer is quite simple: We have no confidence in the Public Utilities Board in this Province to perform the task that they would be asked. They were asked, Mr. Speaker, and given nine months and millions of dollars to provide an answer to a question. They abdicated their responsibility and refused to answer that question, Mr. Speaker. I cannot speak for the regulatory process of the regulatory board in Nova Scotia, Mr. Speaker. Maybe they have that confidence.

What we are going to do and what we have done is hire Manitoba Hydro International, real experts in the area, Mr. Speaker, who were hired by the PUB to review the Decision Gate 3 numbers. We are going to file the other reports, Mr. Speaker, and we are going to give the Opposition what they requested: the opportunity for full debate in this House of Assembly.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

That answer speaks for itself. I hope the PUB is hearing what the minister is saying.

During the provincial election, the City of St. John’s asked government to refund the provincial portion of the Harmonized Sales Tax. Monday night at the St. John’s City Council meeting, we learned that the city and Newfoundland and Labrador Housing could build four more homes for needy families if the Province rebated the HST paid by the city on the new housing project in Pleasantville.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Finance: Will he rebate the provincial portion of the HST to the City of St. John’s for this housing project to help deal with the housing crisis in this Province?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, the City of St. John’s is asking the government to turn over many of its taxes to the city –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MR. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, I am advised by my colleague here that Newfoundland and Labrador Housing brought $4.4 million to the City of St. John’s for the twenty-nine units that were constructed in Pleasantville. Mr. Speaker, we cannot raise the revenue, then give the revenue to the City of St. John’s, then raise the revenue again, and give it to them again. We either give it through offering tax concessions or we do it in direct contributions, which $4.4 million has been done in this case.

Mr. Speaker, I am advised by my colleague there is $29.8 million being spent on affordable housing this year, $8 million for the Provincial Home Repair Program, and money for the rent to income rent sups and rent geared to income. So there is lots of investment that the City of St. John’s and all the municipalities can take advantage of –

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Another question for the minister; no, this time it is for the Minister of Natural Resources. Last year the Department of Natural Resources, Energy Policy Division, according to the Budget and the Estimates booklet, overspent their grants and subsidies budget by $42 million, Mr. Speaker.

I ask the Minister of Natural Resources: What was the $42 million spent on?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Natural Resources.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The Leader of the Third Party is quite correct; you will see there was $2 million for grants and subsidies and we overspent by $42 million, I think, Mr. Speaker. What it related to was the Innu settlement under the Lower Churchill.

The agreement had been to pay $2 million per year. We happened to have $40 million in the Budget, so it was thought that the best way to deal with it was to provide the money to Nalcor who will provide it to the Innu over a period of time; so essentially the question you would have asked me on Monday morning, that is the answer.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Forty more million to Nalcor; thank you, Mr. Speaker.

In response to my question in the House last Tuesday -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: In response to my question in the House last Tuesday requesting salary details which government had decided not to make available this year, the Minister of Finance said he would the information available in due time. It seems due time has not yet arrived, Mr. Speaker.

I ask the Minister of Finance: When will he release the information?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, after the question was asked in the House, I instructed officials of the Department of Finance to engage with officials in other departments to gather the information and I undertook to provide the information as soon as we have it. When we have it I will be happy to provide it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Mr. Speaker, last week, Canada’s Budget watchdog noted government cutbacks have a negative effect on the economy. The reverse of this is also true: program spending boosts economic performance.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Finance: Why doesn’t this government look at programs like child care and home care as an opportunity for economic growth?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Finance and President of Treasury Board.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: Mr. Speaker, this government is spending in program expenses this year $6.6 billion. That is the highest that we have ever spent in any one year. In addition to that, we have engaged in an infrastructure investment of another $900 million.

Mr. Speaker, unlike dictatorships in some countries of the world that take their revenues and keep it and divide that up amongst their family and their friends, every dime that comes into the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, we give it back to the people and we will continue to do so.

Associated Caucus Members: 

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