Question Period: April 4, 2012

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please! The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

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

Mr. Speaker, clearly, the Premier and her government were caught off guard by the PUB’s refusal to endorse their Muskrat Falls proposal based on the information the PUB were supplied with. It appears government did not have a plan for the possibility of this decision.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Has government discussed a plan with Nalcor regarding what next steps to take with the Muskrat Falls proposal?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, what I did not expect from the PUB was a refusal to fulfill the terms of their mandate. Now, Mr. Speaker, when you call on an organization that is instituted to serve the people of this Province, who have been given a mandate, and accept a mandate, Mr. Speaker, you expect them to fulfill the mandate. So, no, I was not prepared, and no, I was not prepared for them not to recommend, Mr. Speaker – I did not know what their recommendation was going to be, and I was prepared to accept whatever it was – they refused to fulfill their mandate. That is a reality now that we have to deal with, and as a government, we have decided how to move forward, and I have shared that information with Nalcor.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

So I have to assume from the Premier’s response, that in actual fact she has not yet sat down and met with Nalcor to put a plan together. Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, we have asked government for independent examinations of all electricity generating options on the island. Government has consistently refused to consider these options, which might prove preferable to government’s Muskrat Falls approach to meeting long-term power needs. The Premier has now promised more reports and information before our debate on this issue.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: How can we be sure that the reports government has commissioned relate to the specifics related to the Isolated Island option?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, I remind the Leader of the Third Party because she says it does not make it so. I have had any number of meetings let me tell you with Mr. Martin over the last week, so your information and your statement are incorrect.

Mr. Speaker, we have had a number of experts review the information with regard to the development of Muskrat Falls. Every one – every one of those experts, Mr. Speaker, had sufficient information to come to the conclusion that based on Decision Gate 2 numbers, Muskrat Falls is the least-cost option and we need the power.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I remind the Premier that yesterday we heard the Minister of Natural Resources talking about a meeting here and a meeting there and bumping into somebody somewhere else.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: I ask the Premier: What confidence can we have in information the minister gathers while shopping around for endorsements?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, we have Navigant; we have Manitoba Hydro; we have the consumer advocate and his expert; we have Dr. Wade Locke who sometimes, I admit, is the second coming from the other side of the House, other times he is the devil incarnate, so it depends on what day of the week. We have a lot of respect – we have a lot of respect for Dr. Locke. Mr. Speaker, we had the late Jack Layton; we have Jack Harris; we have Premier Dexter; we have the federal government of Canada; and now we have Dean MacDonald. How many more (inaudible)?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, the PUB is charged with ensuring the lights stay on in the Province. The PUB has expressed serious concern on Nalcor’s design of their HVdc transmission system, which they note, along with Manitoba Hydro, does not meet industry standards. This is undoubtedly going to also be of serious concern for Nova Scotia’s PUB as they do their review over the next several months.

So, Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: How will this problem with design –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS MICHAEL: – affect the deal Nalcor is currently negotiating with Emera in Nova Scotia?

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would like to remind the Leader of the Third Party that there is a difference between seeking endorsements and doing due diligence. As a government we take steps, Mr. Speaker, on our own to ensure the information we are being provided with is accurate.

Mr. Speaker, what should give the hon. member some solace, although I doubt it, is that we are engaging Manitoba Hydro International, the very team of experts hired by the PUB who have been critical of Nalcor, to further review the issues that she talks about. So Manitoba Hydro International, Mr. Speaker, will review the Decision Gate 3 numbers. They will look at the project, they will take the work that was – by the way, which was paid for by the taxpayers of this Province – and they will now use that information, Mr. Speaker, to make a decision on Decision Gate 3.

All of the issues will be looked at. We are not hiding anything. We want to get to the bottom of this. The hiring of Manitoba Hydro International is a good example of this.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for The Straits - White Bay North.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MITCHELMORE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Finance. The New Democratic Party has been calling for a reduction in small business tax from 4 per cent to 3 per cent. Seven other provinces now have a more competitive business tax, with the news that Nova Scotia will reduce its rate to 3.5 per cent.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister: Will Budget 2012 include a reduction in small business tax to prevent losses in the small business sector?

Thank you.

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, this government has lowered taxes more than any other government in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MARSHALL: We certainly want to put money in people’s pockets. We have lowered our small business tax rate down to 4 per cent. Of course, unlike Nova Scotia, we have not increased the HST by two points.

So, Mr. Speaker, I encourage the hon. member to have a nice Easter break and come back. We will release the Budget and we can have a great discussion at that time.

Thank you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for The Straits - White Bay North.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. MITCHELMORE: Mr. Speaker, seafood producers claim they will not pay the price for lobster set by government’s pricing panel. They said that it was too high. This had the potential to send the whole industry into jeopardy. Mr. Speaker, lobster is, for the most part, shipped live. There is little or no processing.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture: Will he take the initiative, begin work on creating a seafood marketing co-op which will remove the intermediary, create more price stability and increase profits for harvesters?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KING: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

The issue the member opposite raised is - I have to say that I am not aware that there are significant challenges in the lobster industry at this point in time. It is always difficult when there is fear mongering in the House of Assembly. I am aware that discussions have been had and I am aware that there has been an agreement between the FFAW and the processors on a base price for lobster that will see the season open. I say to the member opposite, if that changes and I would certainly like him to advise me if I am not already aware, but I am not aware that there are challenges today.

Also, Mr. Speaker, the member raises a good point and I think I have talked about it in the House of Assembly before; we are indeed committed to a marketing council for the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It was our government who actually announced several millions of dollars in last year’s Budget to do just that and we are working on that initiative.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Member for St. John’s Centre.

MS ROGERS: Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Transportation and Works. Government owns vacant buildings and land across the Province that could be used for affordable housing. Municipalities and housing groups have asked the government to make some vacant properties available for affordable housing without success.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister: Will he work with other provincial government departments to develop a strategy for transferring available land for the construction of affordable housing?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister of Transportation and Works.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I say to the hon. member opposite, Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation, my department; we work with all departments in government. We manage our assets and we do make available to anyone who wants to come forward with a good plan, whether it is for affordable housing or whatever. We would certainly partner with them to make what is available that we can make available to move forward on any viable project.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: I am sorry; the time allocated for Question Period has expired.

Associated Caucus Members: 

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