Lorraine Michael Question Period (12.11.2012)

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Third Party.

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

According to Bill 53, to be discussed today in this House, the Public Utilities Board will apply to most transmission lines and related assets in Labrador while excluding those that are part of the Muskrat Falls Project. The PUB will not apply to lines or the setting of transmission rates for Muskrat Falls.

I ask the Premier, Mr. Speaker: Why is her government exempting electricity transmission related to Muskrat Falls from the Public Utilities Board?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: I think the Opposition House Leader asked the same question recently, Mr. Speaker, and I guess I will give the same answer again.

Mr. Speaker, the PUB has a role to play in terms of the industrial rates in Labrador. They will set transmission rates. Mr. Speaker, the generation rate will be set by Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro based on a policy. The PUB will continue to set rates, Mr. Speaker, for residential and commercial customers in Labrador as they do on the Island.

Mr. Speaker, we need a guaranteed revenue stream in order to assure the bond rating agencies and the federal government that there is going to be monies to satisfy the requirements of paying the project. It is as simple as that. So, therefore, there has to be a restricted role of the PUB.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Let’s try it another way, Mr. Speaker. It is incredibly ironic that the government sees fit to solidify the Public Utilities Board’s role in setting industrial rates for mining corporations in Labrador but not for the protection of the people of the Province.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier again: Why is her government giving mining companies more protection than the people of the Province who are going to foot the bill for Muskrat Falls?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, we have answered this question time and time and time again in this House of Assembly. It is nothing short of incredible. Not that we should not be asked hard questions, Mr. Speaker, and put forward the answers, and if we have to do that a number of times before people understand, so be it, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, isn’t it interesting that the Province through the development of Muskrat Falls not only provides the most stable and lowest-cost rates to ratepayers here in the Province, enables industrial development in Labrador, but will earn over $20 billion for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador over the lifetime of the project, and not one question on that, Sir.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Mr. Speaker, I am just asking the Premier, why is this government so obsessed with keeping the Public Utilities Board out of the Muskrat Falls Project?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, some time ago the Liberal Administration exempted hydro projects of this size from the PUB’s jurisdiction. The government is a regulator, too, Mr. Speaker. They like to shout across the way that it was only for the Lower Churchill and that power was for export. That is not so, Mr. Speaker. It was also for a hydro power project here on the Island. Those are the facts of it.

Mr. Speaker, what we did, we did what the Liberals refused to do. We did try to bring this project under the scrutiny of the PUB. Over nine months and over $2 million later, they would not give us a recommendation.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

For the Premier to say as she did yesterday that we could only lose the Muskrat Falls generation facility if people do not pay their light bills is nonsense. Cost overruns, on the other hand, do pose a very real threat.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Why will she not own up to the fact that cost overruns could put the Muskrat Falls Project into the hands of Emera?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The only nonsense we hear day after day comes from the Leader of the Third Party, Mr. Speaker. If she would take the time to try to understand the project, then perhaps she would not ask these silly questions, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: What we have is a situation where we have a project that is in the best interests of the people of this Province. It will provide stable electricity rates and water will run for 100 years, Mr. Speaker. People have to pay electricity bills. Therefore, is it better that the money goes to oil companies offshore or is it better that we develop an asset of our own, Mr. Speaker, which will allow for a prosperous and bright future for our children, and an asset that we will have forever?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Third Party.

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

The Premier knows as I do that she opened the door to privatization when she signed the federal loan guarantee that included section 4.11.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: What else did her government give up to Emera besides this out clause?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, in their desperation to show that Muskrat Falls is not in the best interests of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, they are clutching at straws.

Mr. Speaker, what is their alternative? What is the alternative? Mr. Speaker, they talk about the cost of the project, so one can assume I guess from that they agree that there is a need for the power. Mr. Speaker, there is a $2.4 billion difference between Muskrat Falls and the next least-cost alternative, which is Holyrood.

Mr. Speaker, if there are going to be cost overruns on one, there is going to be cost overruns on the other. Because the other is more expensive, the cost overruns will be greater, Mr. Speaker. She is not making any sense.

Associated Caucus Members: 

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