Lorraine Michael Question Period (12.13.2012)

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Third Party.

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

Today, in the same press release, government claimed it was unable to predict the provincial economy nine months in advance, but then also claimed that the benefits of Muskrat Falls will still be flowing fifty years from now.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: How can this statement be seen in any way as being a responsible statement on fiscal stewardship?

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.

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to the prediction of oil in the short term, it is very difficult as a result of the volatility – as my colleague pointed out earlier, we have the question of what happens in China and India, it affects the demand for oil in the world. We have had shale oil, Mr. Speaker, that is having an impact.

In the short term, volatility is difficult to project. Mr. Speaker, in the long term, the basic principles, the fundamental principles of supply and demand still apply. Even though we know there will be increased production in the United States, we also know there is an increased demand in the world.

What we are told by the experts: It is, in fact, easier to look a decade out in terms of the projection of the cost of oil than it is in the short term. Mr. Speaker, with Muskrat Falls, we know how much is going to be produced, and electricity bills will be paid.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Third Party.

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

This government has had nine years and eight Budgets to get the Province’s finances on solid ground. It has known all along about the volatility of oil.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: It has known all along about the volatility of oil. This government has celebrated the surpluses, yet made no provisions for the downside.

So, Mr. Speaker, how can Premier claim her government is practising good fiscal stewardship?

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 used the same methodology in determining the revenue of the Province, predicting the revenue of the Province, in the last nine years. It was only a few short months ago when the NDP House Leader was on in the media accusing us of deliberately underestimating the revenue from oil so that we could have the joint surpluses.

Mr. Speaker, I would suggest that the Leader of the Third Party confer with her House Leader and at least they try and get their story right.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Third Party.

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

I assume the government is now going to recognize that our House Leader should be separate from the leader of the party. I am going to be pursuing that one, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Finance says this year’s –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: – Budget shortfall has tripled his spring prediction reaching $750 million.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Does that sum include the $100 million-plus cost of the bungled AbitibiBowater paper mill cleanup you brought on the people of the 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, expenses that are incurred are included of course in the expenses of the Province. Some of the environmental cleanup – that has to be estimated. The engineers and the scientists in the Department of Environment will go out and do an inventory and do an analysis. As the Minister of Environment said the other day, they will do an analysis.

That contamination that is harmful to public health and public safety – that will be done. Then an estimate will be provided for in the public accounts and that is based on the recommendation of the Auditor General.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The fall financial update shows the Premier is caught in a vice. Huge cash demands for her Muskrat Falls Project vying with the first of what will likely be many serious cash shortfalls in the Province’s Budget. The Province’s finances are a mess.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Will she choose to download her mismanagement onto the backs of the people through cuts to services in order to bankroll her Muskrat Falls Project?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, as the Minister of Finance has outlined in this House a number of times, Muskrat Falls will not add one penny to our net debt. We have had responsible governance. We have reduced our debt by over $4 billion in the last nine years, Mr. Speaker.

Daily, daily, daily in this House we hear requests from the Third Party, Mr. Speaker, for hundreds upon hundreds upon hundreds of millions of dollars of new spending in this Province. Why don’t they tell us how they intend to fund it, Mr. Speaker?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The Leader of the Third Party.

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

It is one thing whether or not Muskrat Falls will affect our debt. One thing is certain: It is going to take over $2 billion of cash out of our income. Mr. Speaker, when things are going well –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: Mr. Speaker, when things are going well this government always is quick to take credit, holding themselves up as competent stewards of the public purse, but now when things are not going so well, are they taking any responsibility? No, Mr. Speaker, it seems somebody else is to blame.

Will the Premier stand up and take responsibility for the massive deficits that will be racked up by her government beginning this year?

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 always understood our responsibility to the people of the Province. They are foremost in our minds and in our planning, and everything we do. We remember who hired us, Mr. Speaker, and why.

Mr. Speaker, when we developed our Energy Plan in 2007, we talked then, very specifically, about how important it was to get away from basing over 30 per cent of our revenues on the volatility of commodities and why we decided to use some of the money from our non-renewables to transition to a renewable economy to get rid of that volatility and have a sustainable financing platform foundation for the Province.

Associated Caucus Members: 
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