QUESTION PERIOD: March 15, 2012

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, government has rejected the first two recommendations of the only truly independent external review of government’s Muskrat Falls project which the environmental assessment panel recommends to be done before sanctioning. Mr. Speaker, government’s response to the recommendations is a blanket rejection without any in-depth explanation.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Will he explain to this House the basis for the rejection of the two recommendations?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, the member opposite wonders sometimes why I do not answer her questions, but I think there are four questions in there so I will just try to pick one and answer. I assume she is talking about the economic analysis and the need for a least-cost option analysis.

Mr. Speaker, analysis have been conducted. It is pretty obvious to everyone, including the Premier of Nova Scotia, who, by the way, you should read his news release today; a very, very good news release supporting this project from an NDP Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: It might be helpful if I could make a suggestion to the Leader of the Third Party that she have a conversation with Premier Dexter. He could probably educate her on the benefits of this project, not only to the people of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador, but to the people of Atlantic Canada, and Canada as a whole.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

It is obvious; I ask one very specific question, he did not answer one. It is a good thing I did not ask a multiple three or four.

Mr. Speaker, government does not accept the Joint Review Panel’s recommendation 4.2, which says there needs to be an independent analysis of alternatives to meet domestic demand for electricity.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Did government do a full analysis of each point made in recommendation 4.2? There are eight. Did they do an analysis of each point, and if they did, would the Premier share this analysis with the House?

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.

This was an environmental assessment panel. We certainly take into account all of their comments on the environment. When we look at least cost options, Mr. Speaker, it becomes very simple. Nalcor gave Decision Gate 2 its greeting. Natural gas was eliminated, Mr. Speaker. Wind was eliminated except to the extent it could be integrated into the system when it is fixed up.

Mr. Speaker, what is left? That is why I keep saying to the Leader of the Third Party, what is left? What are the options you are talking about?

Mr. Speaker, we have refurbished Holyrood and we have Muskrat Falls. Again, I say to the Leader of the Third Party: Do you accept we need the power? Because, if you do, we have to do something about it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, we asked Nalcor for the detailed analysis of alternative energy options supposedly they did. We were told that whatever we had was on the public record. Mr. Speaker, the panel judge that the information on the public record was not adequate, as we have decided.

Mr. Speaker: Will the Premier share with this House the analysis that was conducted that led them to decide that the panel was wrong?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Mr. Speaker, it seems to me that there are breaks in the one big happy family theme, because we have Mr. Mulcair, who apparently supports the project, we have the late Mr. Layton, who supported the project, we have Mr. Harris, who supports the project, we have Premier Dexter, who supports the project, and the Leader of the Third Party does not support the project, based on her analysis. Well, Mr. Speaker, for a full year she did not know that Muskrat Falls existed in this House – Muskrat Falls or the fishery, and now she is an expert.

Mr. Speaker, we have conducted an analysis – it becomes very simple, Mr. Speaker, we cannot build a 650 kilometre gas line, we cannot import natural gas, we cannot develop 300 to 500 megawatts of wind – so what is left? We have Gull Island – which we would love to do – Muskrat Falls is the least-cost option, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

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

Mr. Speaker, I point out to the government –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MS MICHAEL: Mr. Speaker, I cannot answer.

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Leader of the Third Party.

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I would point out to the minister, Mr. Speaker, that the panel pointed out quite rightly that the choice by Nalcor of the one island only option was based on what? We do not know, they did not know, that is why we keep asking for the analysis of the other alternatives.

Mr. Speaker, the Joint Review Panel recommended Nalcor examine the suggestion made by the Helios Corporation that an 800 megawatt wind farm on the Avalon Peninsula would be a viable energy alternative to the Muskrat Falls proposal, in terms of supplying domestic needs economically. Mr. Speaker, government did not accept this recommendation, it is one of the parts of 4.2.

So, Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Will she share with this House the analysis on which they based the decision to reject that recommendation?

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.

Does the member opposite not accept that Manitoba Hydro International, who were hired by the PUB, independent of Nalcor, and independent of this government, that that is an independent report. Is that what she is saying? Is she criticising not only the PUB, but Manitoba Hydro.

Mr. Speaker, Manitoba Hydro International was clear: we can incorporate 80 megawatts into the system when fixed up in 2025. Mr. Speaker, we have unlimited wind potential in this Province, and we will develop wind if and when we can. Right now, we have a couple of wind farms ongoing. This is a classic example, Mr. Speaker, of seeing what she wants to see and not taking into account the fact. So, do not let the facts get in your way.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS MICHAEL: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I do not need the minister pointing his finger at me. If somebody is ignoring the facts, he is ignoring the fact that Manitoba Hydro was only permitted to analyze the two options that Nalcor had already decided upon. The PUB was only permitted to analyze the two options given to them; they were not allowed to go out of that framework. That is a piece of fact I would like the minister to think about, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, another recommendation rejected by this government was that there needed to be a more thorough examination of the potential for renewable energy sources on the Island; wind, small-scale hydro, tidal, to supply a portion of Island demand as a better energy option to the Muskrat Falls.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the minister: Could we have some facts in answering why they rejected that recommendation?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. KENNEDY: Some facts, Mr. Speaker, we are going to need energy in this Province, we need power. It is going to cost money. We need more power; the price of oil is going up. Holyrood costs more money, so we refurbish Holyrood, Mr. Speaker, at a cost of $600 to $800 million, it does nothing for the environment. We develop small hydro and wind, Mr. Speaker, seventy-seven megawatts of small hydro and we develop wind. Mr. Speaker, it costs $2.2 billion more than the Muskrat Falls option.

Muskrat Falls is clean, renewable energy. It has the support of the Premier of Nova Scotia, has the support of the federal government who have conducted their own economic analysis, Mr. Speaker, and concluded that the loan guarantee is appropriate, not just from a political whim(??? or win???) but from an economic analysis. What more does she want?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

Mr. Speaker, government actually did say with regard to Recommendation 4.1 that it accepts in principle that a review of the project’s financial viability is required prior to sanction.

Mr. Speaker, I ask the Premier: Will she tell this House what government will do to ensure Nalcor confirms prior to sanction, that Muskrat Falls will in fact provide significant long-term financial returns to government for the benefit of this Province?

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.

What Muskrat Falls does, Mr. Speaker, it not only provides energy to the Province at present – it sounds like she is against Labrador mining developments also because they cannot go ahead without power. It provides power for the mining companies, Mr. Speaker.

You know what it does, Mr. Speaker, it provides a future for our children and our grandchildren. It allows for us to develop a renewable energy source, Mr. Speaker. As we utilize our oil, the non-renewable energy is used to develop a renewable energy economy, Mr. Speaker, consistent with the energy plan. The difference between, Mr. Speaker, this side and that side, we have vision, they have tunnel vision.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

MS ROGERS: Mr. Speaker -

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The hon. the Member for St. John’s Centre.

MS ROGERS: Mr. Speaker, the rent supplement program through the Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation helped 1,732 families, many of them seniors and people with complex needs. They helped this year. It was a wonderful program but it was exhausted months ago. There are at least 13,000 tenant households paying more than a third of their income on rent, and many of them are paying half their income on rent. As rents skyrocket, Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the government: Will the government expand their rental assistance program to help more of the thousands of families who cannot afford their high rents Province-wide?

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister Responsible for Housing.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Mr. Speaker, what a difference a day makes. Yesterday we did not have a plan. Yesterday we were not investing. Today the hon. member on the other side is telling us to increase our investment. I do not know what they are asking, I have to say, Mr. Speaker. I will say that the plan that we have in place, Secure Foundations, is solid foundation for us moving forward and addressing the needs of the people in this Province with regard to housing. I stand by that, and again I challenge the member opposite to come forward with, let’s say, more creative solutions than just simply what you have just put forward.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

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

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MS ROGERS: Mr. Speaker, the affordable housing initiative that was a joint federal-provincial and municipal program has proven to be a successful program for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador-

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

MS ROGERS: Even with the challenges for both developers and non-profit groups that had to access it. Also, in the latest proposal call there were more applications than the money that could accommodate - approximately double the amount - and many of the projects were affordable housing for seniors and people with complex needs Province-wide. Many community groups and housing groups have asked that the Province provide a stand-alone unilateral program for 2013 to bridge the gap-

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Minister Responsible for Housing.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Mr. Speaker, I am trying to find a question in all of that rhetoric but I did find something that came across, and it was the success that this government is having in support of affordable housing.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

MR. HEDDERSON: Mr. Speaker, 1,100 over the last number of years.

MR. SPEAKER: The time for Question Period has expired.

Associated Caucus Members: 

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