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Premier Dunderdale speaks on Budget, May 10

May 10, 2012

Premier Kathy Dunderdale spoke on the 2012 Budget in the House of Assembly on Thursday, May 10. Her speech, recorded in Hansard here, is pasted below.

View the video online here. Her remarks begin at about 01:44:00.

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MR. SPEAKER: Order, please! The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

It is my pleasure to stand today and speak to Budget 2012. Before I begin, Mr. Speaker, I would like to pass on behalf of myself and the government our condolences to two of our members of this hon. House this week who lost parents. I am referring to the MHA for Cape St. Francis and the Member for Cartwright – L’Anse au Clair. This is a very sad time for them. The Member for Cartwright – L’Anse au Clair lost her father. The Member for Cape St. Francis lost his mother.

It does not matter how old we are, Mr. Speaker, we are never ready for the loss of a parent. This is a very sad time in their lives. Grief is about our own loneliness, Mr. Speaker, because most of us who have a faith tradition understand that our loved ones are gone on to something better. What we have to deal with is our own loss and our own loneliness. I want to say to both the members that I hope there is comfort in knowing that your colleagues in the House of Assembly are thinking about you and your family, and that we will support you in whatever way that we can, and our deepest condolences are extended to you.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, Budgets are funny things, they truly are. Last year, we brought in our first Budget under this new administration, Mr. Speaker, and I was thrilled with it. I thought it was an absolutely wonderful Budget. Not only was it balanced, we were predicting over a $50 million surplus. We had a $38 million tax reduction to every citizen here in Newfoundland and Labrador who had homes to heat. There were all kinds of initiatives and unprecedented growth in programs and services to the people of the Province, Mr. Speaker, and, Mr. Speaker, the reaction was kind of muted.

Mr. Speaker, this year we brought in a Budget, and we continue to be very responsible; circumstances have changed, Mr. Speaker, and we have had to tighten our belts. We have had to continue now on a plan of sustainability, but we have to get much more definitive about that in this Budget, because it is the responsible thing to do.

Mr. Speaker, the wonderful people of this Province continue to surprise me. I was a little worried about what the reaction to that was going to be, because our real growth in programming here is less than 1 per cent. Mr. Speaker, the reaction of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador has been absolutely marvellous, and it shows again how our thinking is in sync.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: And it is important, Mr. Speaker, that our thinking be in sync, and that we are talking and listening to the people of our Province and explaining to them the situation that we find ourselves in fiscally, and what it is that we believe we need to do, informed by the best advisors that we can find, to have that exchange of information on the ground between our MHAs and the people they represent. Mr. Speaker, to have our Minister of Finance go about the Province and listen carefully to what people have to say, whether you are in a NDP district, whether you are in a Tory district or whether you are in a Liberal district and to bring all of that information back, as well as the information that we get from experts, Mr. Speaker, and have that inform the budgetary process, and to use the best abilities that we have on behalf of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador to chart a way forward and to explain to the people why we need to take the decisions we are taking, why we need to tighten our belts, why we need to have sustainable spending. Mr. Speaker, as always, the wonderful people of Newfoundland and Labrador, the most politically astute people in the country, I assert regularly, it is my belief, absolutely get it and have warmly supported the measures that have been undertaken in this Budget, Mr. Speaker.

It is a wonderful Budget, Mr. Speaker. Even though there is restraint in terms of our spending, Mr. Speaker, we still brought forward measures to strengthen heath care, sustain economic activity, improve child care, support apprentices, foster a thriving and skilled labour force and further strengthen our public infrastructure. It is incredible, the difference that eight short years have made, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, I reflect, and I have reflected in this House before, on 2003-2004 when we were elected and first began an exercise in budgeting. For me, Mr. Speaker, and for most of my colleagues at that time on this side of the House, this was the very first time we had engaged in this kind of activity on behalf of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador in a provincial government. To describe it, Sir, as a baptism of fire would be one of the greatest understatements that was ever made. It was one of the most overwhelming experiences of my life. I spent many, many hours lying awake trying to fathom a way through it, because virtually, Mr. Speaker, we were bankrupt.

We talked about how we were going to sustain, first of all, our public pension plans, because if were not able to do something about the unfunded liability, Mr. Speaker, there were predictions that by this time 2012, they could be gone bankrupt and we would have to be paying those pension benefits out of current revenues. What were we going to do about it? Just imagine, what were we going to do about it? This was a looming problem for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. Where were we going to get the resources?

We sat at the Cabinet table and we debated, and we argued, and we fought. We went back and we researched, and we carved it off a piece at a time to try and find a way forward. What was important? What could we live without? Where did we need to make strategic investments? What could we change? Where were our strengths in Newfoundland and Labrador, economically? Where were the areas where we could make some kind of investment? What was in the Budget that we could use to drive economic activity?

Mr. Speaker, I remember clearly, because I was minister of the lead business department, what had been allocated in 2003 for economic development in this Province was $2.6 million. Mr. Speaker, $2.6 million to help businesses, to help organizations, to help communities drive economic activity in this Province; $2.6 million. People were not even interested – federal government entities that operated here in the Province were not even interested in inviting us to the table when they were talking about investment. We were not invited, Mr. Speaker, because we had nothing to bring to the table. What kind of investment were we going to make? Mr. Speaker, we rolled up our sleeves, we sat down and we began to work, and we talked about regional development. We began to dig down, and we began to engage at the community level, and slowly but surely a picture emerged of this wonderful place, where the challenges were but where the opportunities were as well, Mr. Speaker. We began to develop a plan, and very strategically at first, taking those small amounts of money that we had.

I remember in that first Budget, $3.5 million was a lot of money. That could have been a school, it could have been a medical program, and it could have been a new drug. It could have meant whether somebody had teeth or did not have teeth. This was a big allocation of money in this great big Budget, but everything was so tied up and nailed down and paying off debt, that in terms of money that you could work with, the pot was so small, that $3.5 million was really large.

We got a call from Arnold’s Cove telling us that the operator of the plant was moving on. He was pulling out. There was somebody in that community who was prepared to operate that plant and was prepared to put everything he had on the line. He was at a time in his life when he could have walked away at the end of a happy and successful life, Mr. Speaker, and had a good retirement. Instead, he was going to take all that he had, invest in that plant, and secure economic activity for the future of the people in that area of the Province, but he did not have enough to secure the quota. We did not have any control over the quota. The company was given the quota and the company was going to sell the quota. They were going to sell it for $3.5 million.

Mr. Speaker, we did not get the call from the other side of the House, I am going to point out, where the MHA for the region, for that area and that district, sat. Not a phone call, not a letter, and not anybody even coming across the floor and saying: What are you going to do to help? This was a Liberal district.

The people of Arnold’s Cove came to us and the town council of Arnold’s Cove came to us, and the person who was going to make that investment, and said: Can you help? There will not be as many jobs as there currently are, but we will be able to save the bulk of them, and we think there is a way forward here. We need an investment of $3.5 million. I am going to tell you, the angst was up there on the eleventh floor when we struggled with that decision. We said: Yes, we are going to make the investment. It is the right thing to do.

Mr. Speaker, that plant still has its challenges, like many of the areas in the fishery in this Province today, but that plant is operational today. That is good decision making, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: That is good governance, Mr. Speaker. That is good stewardship, Mr. Speaker. That is good politics, but that is not partisan politics. That is doing what is right for the people of this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, that is what we have continued to do. Nearly $8 billion in infrastructure, Mr. Speaker, in this Province over the last eight years – it is amazing.

I remember my first trip to the Northern Peninsula, once I became an MHA, being stopped by people, and being told the tourism industry in that area of the Province was dying because people would not take their RVs up over the road because a tow truck had to come and take them back down out of it. The axels were broken, the tires were broken, and it just was not worth the expense of going up there.

Now, Mr. Speaker, that is not so for any road in this Province any more. There are still roads that need work. My colleagues on this side of the House advocate – especially around Budget time, Mr. Speaker, it is veracious, as you are well aware. Everybody is looking for their roads because they are an important part of infrastructure in communities. They relate to everything. It relates to health care, it relates to education, it relates to economic activity, and it relates to social well-being. They are extremely important. Mr. Speaker, you needed a horse and cart in some areas of the Province in 2003. That is no longer so. Even though we have to ramp back on our spending now, we are still investing over $900 million this year in infrastructure in this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, the money that we get from the resources that belong to the people of this Province is finally being used to the benefit of the people of this Province.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: It is being done in a very, very responsible way, Mr. Speaker. What a wonderful day it was in this House when spending in education went over the billion dollar mark, Mr. Speaker. Is there anything more important in a civilized country than education? When we educate our children, Mr. Speaker, we are securing their future, but we are securing ours as well. A place that has a well-educated citizenry will prosper, Mr. Speaker. Evidence supports that from all over the world.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: There is no more important thing in our Province than our children. We have to make sure that they have good health, that they are well looked after, that their educational needs are met, Mr. Speaker, that when there are issues around their safety and well-being that the society as a whole is there to protect them and their rights, and guarantee as best we can that they have a safe environment to grow up in. There is nothing more important for us to do than look after our children. That always has to be our number one priority. That is what drives so many of the things that we do here in the Province. That is why you brought the debt clock along, as Minister of Finance, to make a point when we were doing consultations around Budget, Mr. Speaker. Sometimes we jokingly say that we are going to bring it over to the other side of the House, in terms of what gets asked here on a daily basis. Hundreds, and hundreds, and hundreds of millions of dollars of want, want, want – the sky is falling. Well, the sky was falling in 2003, Mr. Speaker. The sky is not falling today.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, anybody who never heard of this place before and who would come in and be exposed to Question Period and debate in this House of Assembly and heard only what came from the other side would think truly that the sky was falling, that we were in the most desperate of times. As you have heard here in speeches made by my colleagues here in this House of Assembly and you have heard in news reports – not only here in Newfoundland and Labrador but from across the country – we are leading this country in economic development, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: We have paid down debt, Mr. Speaker, $4 billion. There are not countries in this world that could make that boast, let alone a Province in the country of Canada – $4 billion. It is wonderful. We need to take the time to stop and celebrate that. In 2003, when we worried for days and debated for days about the wisdom of how we invested $3.5 million – to be able to stay that we came from that place in 2003 to 2008 with $4 billion of debt paid down, Mr. Speaker.

Why were we able to do that, Mr. Speaker? We were able to do that because of the resources that we have here in the Province and the approach that we have taken to the development of those resources. Far too long others benefited from the resources that belong rightfully to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. When we came in 2003, we said that the resources had to be developed in the best interests of the people of the Province. The people of the Province said: We agree, so therefore we are going to elect you, and you go do that. We have delivered.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, I began talking about our pension plans. We have put over $4 billion into our pension. Never mind paying down, we have put over $4 billion into our pension plans, Mr. Speaker. A good thing we did; without the recession and all of the economic turmoil we had in the world, they were forecasted to collapse because of the unfunded liability. Imagine if we had gone through all of this economic upheaval and had not made those investments. We would be in some kind of a mess today.

We were not, Mr. Speaker, because we had a plan. That plan was driven by principles. The principle was that we are here to serve the best interests of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Speaker. That is what we have done.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: A large portion of our revenue comes from oil. As everyone – well, most everyone, Mr. Speaker – in this Province and in the world realizes, there is a lot of volatility in predicting oil prices. Some, and some in this House, dismiss the volatility and the difficulty in being able to forecast what the price of oil is going to be and thus whether or not you are going to have a surplus or a deficit, based on production numbers and forecasting, Mr. Speaker, from experts well outside of government. Some, and some in this House, will go so far as to accuse the government of some kind of collusion, fact-finding and fact-hiding, incompetence, and deception in terms of preparing their Budgets.

Mr. Speaker, that is offensive and insulting, not only to the people who sit on this side of the House, but to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. They are not going to buy it, Mr. Speaker. Everybody understands. We have experts, self-educated experts, in this House, some on the other side, who are able to talk to people about the volatility in oil prices and what they can expect to pay for gas, home heating, and so on. You cannot predict it on a daily basis. You have to have an agency. It is so volatile, we need agencies now to help us do that and to regulate as a result.

Mr. Speaker, anybody tuning in and only listening to the other side would think that we have a Province that is falling to pieces, it is going to you-know-where in a handcart, and is being driven in that direction by an incompetent, if not corrupt, government. Mr. Speaker, it is so offensive that one is hard-pressed to know how to deal with it.

So, Mr. Speaker, we have these kinds of allegations made against government members, in the House and out. When somebody is told to get their head out of an oil can, stop bluffing with this one, you do not know what you are doing on this thing, you are mishandling something else, and then, Mr. Speaker, when speakers get up here in QP, or get up in their speeches here and push back, the complaint comes that the government is being nasty, they are being arrogant, and they are being pushy. You can hand it out, but you cannot take it. You cannot take the challenge. Mr. Speaker, you do not have to take the word of anyone in this House of Assembly about the state of economy in Newfoundland and Labrador. You look at any kind of rating agency, whether it be those who look at economic activity, you can look at banks, you can look at labour statistics, this is a Province that is doing really, really well.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, I have always had a political interest, all of my life, and I have always been around the margins – I have either been right in the midst of it or I have been around the margins of it. I have often noticed, in different Administrations, when you get up here and you get on the government side and you get in Confederation Building, you can get in a bit of a bubble sometimes. You can get in your own little environment where people are telling you what they think you want to hear, you are telling each other that you are doing okay and so on, and you can be out of touch with reality, and I have seen it happen time and time again.

When I am down picking up my groceries in the supermarket and people come up to me and say: Premier, you are here picking up your groceries, don’t you have somebody to do that for you? Well, first of all, no I do not. There are none of those kinds of perks. I do not know how many of the other Premiers picked up their groceries, Mr. Speaker, but this one does. Not only do I have on the few occasions I get home to prepare a meal for myself, Mr. Speaker, there is another purpose to it. It is to be out on the ground there at the laundromat, at the drycleaners, every place I can get to, Mr. Speaker, where I talk to people in their own places of work, of activity, about their lives, about what is going on, what is happening, what do they see, what do they think is going right, what do they think is going wrong, and what is it that they think we ought to do.

I am going to tell you, Mr. Speaker, it is one of the most rewarding experiences that I have had since I have come to politics. Do you know the group that excites me the most, Mr. Speaker? It is the young people of this Province. It is our young people who are in high school, who are in the colleges, who are in our university, who are up in Marine Institute. They are full of enthusiasm. They are full of confidence, Mr. Speaker. They are full of hope about the opportunities that await them here in this Province.

I come from a great big family, Mr. Speaker. I am the middle child in a family of eleven siblings; I have five on either side of me, almost like two families. The first five, when they finished school, had little choice about staying in our community and they all trickled away from us to various parts of the world. None of them, in those early years, had an opportunity to stay in Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Speaker. The second five, on the other side of me, most of them have been able to take up roost here and have a very happy, productive life and raise their families here.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, I saw, in my family, a generation in the older ones who were on the defensive all the time, trying to defend who they were, what their work ethic was, the way they spoke, and the way they conducted themselves to the second half of my family saying if you have a problem with who I am, what my culture is, what I sound like, that is your problem, that is not my problem. I am here, I am proud of who I am, I have a rich and wonderful heritage, I have a great education, I come from a wonderful, rich tapestry of tradition, education, culture, arts, music, language, you should be so lucky – you should be so lucky.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, we are going to do everything we can to make sure that remains so, and that we enrich it even more. It is wonderful when I go to our statistics agency that we have within government – one of the best in the country, like so many other things we do in this Province, Mr. Speaker – and find out that we have over seventy languages spoken in this Province today, and most of them outside of the Northeast Avalon. How wonderful for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. We know that we are a wonderful place and how rich and diverse we are, but people from all over the world are coming here to make their home here with us, weaving their culture, their traditions in with ours, and making the tapestry of Newfoundland and Labrador brighter, richer, and stronger. What a vibrant, wonderful place we have.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: That is not to say, Mr. Speaker, that we are without challenges. Almost 30 per cent of our revenue is coming from oil, Mr. Speaker. I am so grateful that we have that resource, Mr. Speaker, and I am so grateful that over the last eight years we have been able to negotiate royalties and benefits that are ensuring that the proper reward for sharing those resources with people who are prepared to make investments are coming home to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: We are able to do all of the things that we need to do here. Mr. Speaker, I also understand, as most people in this Province understand, that that is a non-renewable resource, oil. One of these days we are going to be able to do something with our gas, I hope, Mr. Speaker. These have definitive timelines attached to them in terms of what they are able to bring back to the Province.

We need to firm up our reserves. There is still much more work to be done in oil, Mr. Speaker, off the East Coast, off the West, and off Labrador. The opportunity in Labrador might be gas more than oil, Mr. Speaker, given that we have been searching for gas up there up to the 1970s, searching for oil and found only gas. We do not know if we are going to find more gas, but we will find more resource in the waters off Labrador.

The tremendous resources we have in Labrador now are being further developed and further explored. We have any number of companies that our Minister of Natural Resources has talked about in this House on a regular basis. We have companies there that are saying: We are doing our bankable feasibility studies and we are soon going to be in a position where we are going to be able to say that there are definitive pieces of work going to go on here in terms of mining to build on the wonderful work that is already happening in Labrador West, for example, and at Voisey’s Bay. There is lots of work to be done in Labrador, but again, all non-renewables.

In Labrador we also know that we have a great vast resource in the Churchill River. We know that we have great wind resources in Labrador. We have done our tests on wind in Labrador and we know that we have some of the best wind regimes in North America in Labrador. That is true for Newfoundland as well, great sources of renewable energy that are there forever, and ever, and ever.

Nova Scotia is doing tremendous work around tidal energy, but we are not at a place yet where that is developed enough that it is a good commercial investment at this point in time. That day will come, Mr. Speaker, and when it does we will be there too.

When we think about our non-renewables, we know we have to get our debt paid. It is a wonderful thing and we celebrate that we have paid down $4 billion of debt, but, Mr. Speaker, we still have too much debt for such a small population. We need to be able to pay down our debt. Our Finance Minister in our Budget in 2012 has come forward with a plan to do that, to bring that down to the Canadian average over a ten-year period. For the first time in our history we have a plan to deal with debt, instead of a plan on how to rack it up.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, we always need to be thinking ahead. When I talked about our children and how important it is to secure not only where they are now but what their future is going to be, then we need to think about what is going to happen beyond the next ten years, beyond our term. Mr. Speaker, we all hope to be around here for a while longer, and I thank the stars. If we continue in the way we have governed up to this point, Mr. Speaker, if we are responsible, if we remember who we work for and why, as we do everyday in this House, I think we might have the honour of doing some more, further years beyond this term of work for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: We are going to work hard, Mr. Speaker, to be deserving of that opportunity to serve, but in doing that it means then that we have to do good planning. What are we going to do in terms of our economy, Mr. Speaker? The fishery is shrinking in lots of ways. We are making more money from fish in Newfoundland and Labrador now than we have ever done in our history.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Despite that, Mr. Speaker, we see communities that are extremely challenged in terms of the fishery and finding a way forward. It is not easy, Mr. Speaker. It has never been easy to deal with the fishery. I am going to talk a little bit more about that later.

Now I want to talk about the Churchill River, Mr. Speaker, because that is one of the great resources we have. When we think beyond oil, when we think beyond gas, when we think beyond iron ore, what is it that we have in terms of our natural resources that could drive the economy here in Newfoundland and Labrador? One of the great big pieces of that, Mr. Speaker, is the Lower Churchill River. For all kinds of reasons, Mr. Speaker, Muskrat Falls is important, because we have all of this wind, because hopefully we will have tidal. I do not think we are ever going to do much with solar, but in terms of the rest of it, Mr. Speaker, there are great opportunities in non-renewable energy, something that the world needs. This is a great resource for us, not only in terms of providing for the needs of the people and the businesses in Newfoundland and Labrador, but for something for us to take to market to drive our economy, to feed our provincial Treasury so we can continue to pay down debt and invest in services and programs for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, we are not going to develop Muskrat Falls and Gull Island and not transport it, not wheel that electricity outside of Newfoundland and Labrador and do all of that. We have to come away from an isolated system. We are being blocked in Labrador from going the Quebec route, and that is a source of frustration for the people of this Province for the last fifty years, Mr. Speaker. We will continue to work at it. Finally, we are at a place where we have an opportunity to wheel power through Quebec.

I find it a very peculiar way for Canadians in one Province to have an opportunity to wheel power through a sister province, Mr. Speaker, because it is not because of rules and regulations within our own country that we have that opportunity. We have that opportunity because of our sister province’s commercial arrangements in the United States. It is because of the United States regulations and rules that we have an opportunity to apply to run power through Quebec or New Brunswick, because what their federal regulatory agency says is that if you are going to do business state to state or province to state, and you are going to wheel electricity across borders, then you have to reciprocate. You have to allow other states or provinces to wheel electricity across your borders. Because Quebec has commercial arrangements in the United States wheeling power from the Lower Churchill, a lot of it – making a lot of money on it, Mr. Speaker, billions of dollars they make on it annually while we make $100 million maybe, making a lot of money. They wheel that power through the United States, but because they wheel that power through the United States they have a process where we are able to make application to wheel power through Quebec. Now, Hydro-Québec is in charge of the process and we are experiencing some real frustrations trying to get through it, but we have to get through it. We have to get through it that way or we have to find another way to get our power out of our Province. Do you know why? Because our future depends on it.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, we have thousands of megawatts of hydropower in Labrador, we have hundreds of hydropower on the Island. Mr. Speaker, we have thousands of megawatts of power in wind in Labrador, similar on the Island, valued extremely highly, Mr. Speaker. Quebec has made billions and billions of dollars from the Upper Churchill, Mr. Speaker, and we are in a place now where we need to ensure that in terms of the rest of the hydro resources on that river, and any other natural resources we have in this Province, we need to be able to garner those rewards of those developments. Mr. Speaker, we have to come off an isolated system, because otherwise we are going to be absolutely marginalized.

For Newfoundland and Labrador to reach its full potential, Mr. Speaker, in terms of getting all of this energy, we do not need 25,000 or 30,000 megawatts of power; what are we going to do with it? We have to be able to get it out and get a good return on it so we can take that money back here, invest it, and drive the economy here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: We have to punch through Quebec and get through Quebec. We are going to carry on using every resource we have available to make that happen and to make sure the rules are applied fairly. Mr. Speaker, we are going to look at every other kind of technological configuration that can be used successfully to get our power out, Mr. Speaker. That is about nation building.

Somebody said to me in an interview recently: Why don’t you use that argument more often? That is a powerful argument, about Newfoundland and Labrador standing up, being all that it can be, having the opportunity to use its resources, and not be marginalized in a country where you are supposed to be an equal. I said: Absolutely, I understand that argument. I am passionate about the argument.

I can barely talk about the Upper Churchill because I get so –

AN HON. MEMBER: Irate.

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Irate about it. It is so unfair, so unbalanced, and so detrimental to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador that I can barely keep my patience about it. To say – in this federation, when we are supposed to respect one another, where there should be integrity in all of our dealings, and so on – that we could have something so unbalanced, so unfair, and be so limited in our opportunities to rectify it, and to add insult to injury on top of all of that, then be blocked from being able to fully develop what we have left.

Who in Newfoundland and Labrador could not get passionate about that piece? I know you could not put an army together to go up. People say: If you ever go to turn it off, can I come and help you turn the switch off? That is just raw emotion. We are never, ever going to do that, Mr. Speaker. We keep our word. Our word is our bond, and when we sign a contract with somebody it means something.

Mr. Speaker, we are never, ever going to do any of that, but that illustrates the passion that the people of this Province feel for it. It is not hard to get on that horse, Mr. Speaker, and be passionate about it, talk about nation building and our place in Canada, why this ought to happen and why the federal government ought to be facilitating it.

While you are doing all of that, you also have to be thinking: that is all great if it happens, but what can we do to ensure that it happens, and happens in a way that makes sense for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador? While all that is true in terms of your nationalistic feeling and being a passionate Newfoundlander and Labradorian, the fundamentals still have to make sense for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. It has to make sense for ratepayers if you are going to develop a project in this Province that the people are going to have to pay for. That is the beauty of Muskrat Falls: it works on both levels, Mr. Speaker. We can develop Muskrat Falls and it breaks, finally, the hold that Quebec has over this Province, because there is an alternate way out for power.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: On the next level, Mr. Speaker, it makes sense because the fundamentals make sense for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: It makes power more affordable in the long-term, Mr. Speaker. We have been a year here trying to convince just the people on the floor of this House of Assembly that the power is needed. It was a great day for me when I heard the Leader of the Opposition finally get up and acknowledge we need the power.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Well, gosh, good; that is grand, that is great – acknowledges that we absolutely are going to need the power, Mr. Speaker. The minister, Nalcor, MHI, Navigant, and Dr. Wade Locke have laid out the economics of it and said that this is the least-cost way to provide power to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador on a go-forward basis.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: The federal government, the banks, everybody we talk to, Mr. Speaker. We hear from the other side that is not so. Tell us who says it is not so? Give us one expert. First of all the argument here was we did not need the power. So we knocked that down, Mr. Speaker. Then, the light bills are going to double. No, they are not, Mr. Speaker. We knocked that down. Mr. Speaker, they say we are not going to accept Nalcor’s numbers. Well, whose numbers are you going to accept?

It has taken millions of dollars and a lot of years to develop this project, Mr. Speaker. What are we supposed to have some little group or some little committee over here on the side that we give $20 million or $30 million to, to plan the Lower Churchill project simultaneously with Nalcor? I never heard anything so ridiculous before in my life. They are only Nalcor’s numbers. Nalcor, one of the finest companies that has ever been incorporated in this country, Mr. Speaker, an ethical company, which is extremely important to us. There is nothing more important to this government than dealing ethically with people, Mr. Speaker. We know what it is like to be on the other side of a deal that is unbalanced, unfair, and does not work for both partners. We are not ever doing that to anyone, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: The people of this Province are an honourable people, Mr. Speaker, and when they give their word, when they make a commitment, when they sign a contract it means something to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador. It means something, and it is important that people – I would suggest, especially when you are doing up platforms for elections and talking about writing in new terms and new conditions for existing contracts, that you remember that, that your word means something, that your contracts mean something.

When you spend two years negotiating a contract with an oil company about how you are going to develop a resource and what the company is going to get, and what the people of the Province are going to get, you strike the fair balance and you take a lot of time to do that, Mr. Speaker, and ensure that there is balance and fairness there. When you sign that off, you go away assured that the company is going to keep its word and that there are clauses in those agreements to ensure that they do. The company needs to go away assured that you have dealt with them in good faith too and what you told them they were going to get, they are going to get, Mr. Speaker. Parties ought to remember that when they are writing platforms, because Newfoundlanders and Labradorians’ word is their bond. It means something, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, Muskrat Falls works, it works for ratepayers. We need a new source of electricity, Mr. Speaker. We can find it in Muskrat Falls. We want that resource to be renewable. We find that in Muskrat Falls. We need it to be as cheap as it can possibly be. Muskrat Falls does that, Mr. Speaker.

We have economic opportunities, particularly in Labrador, Mr. Speaker, where industrial development is going to require power. We have the opportunity to provide that power in Muskrat Falls. Mr. Speaker, we have an opportunity to break the hold that Quebec has over economic development in this Province, and also in terms of what is happening in Atlantic Canada, in the Maritimes particularly, which is why all of the other provinces are so interested in this project and the regional co-operation and the opportunities for economic development. You have that in Muskrat Falls, Mr. Speaker. That is why we have people from across this country, from various organizations, from various governments, from various parties, Mr. Speaker, endorsing this project.

I do not have any issue with members of the Opposition or the Third Party asking questions about this project and ensuring that we are doing everything that we ought to do to make sure that the interests of the people of this Province are being protected. Mr. Speaker, every expert – and Nalcor, in terms of the expertise that it has in its company, it has been built very methodically. What interest would Nalcor have in developing a project that was not in its own corporate best interests? Its own corporate best interests are the best interests of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, because they own Nalcor. We own it. Every cent that Nalcor makes comes to the people of the Province, Mr. Speaker. What government would ever want to have another Upper Churchill hung around their neck? Not me, Mr. Speaker. I do not want to go down in history as the Premier who negotiated the second Upper Churchill contract, not on your life, Mr. Speaker; but, for me to play it safe, and for me to ignore the legitimate needs and planning required for residents and economic development in Newfoundland and Labrador because I am afraid to take a risk, a calculated risk, a risk that is well understood, that is analyzed and based on all of the best evidence and the best advice you can get to go ahead, and take a decision that is in the best interest – I am prepared to do that. I am prepared to do that, Mr. Speaker, but I am not prepared to hide. I am not prepared to not live up to the pledge that I made to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, to come in here and do the best job that I could do, to serve their interests, to plan ahead, to drive economic development and to do all of the planning that we could possibly do and execute to secure the future of this great place. I am not hiding, Mr. Speaker.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: While I do not want another Upper Churchill, Mr. Speaker, I do not want us in a place where we have lost countless opportunities for economic development, particularly in Labrador. How are mining companies going to go ahead with these huge developments without power, Mr. Speaker? If they have to develop all of the Lower Churchill themselves, they are not coming; they cannot afford that kind of investment. It is cost-benefit analysis. Here we get the best of both worlds. We get renewable energy at a reasonable cost. It takes us off the volatility of oil; it takes us away from the dirt of oil and the fouling of environment of oil. It drives industry, it opens up economic activity in this Province, and it creates a pathway to the rest of the Maritimes, the rest of Atlantic Canada. Hopefully we will be able to go to Ontario. We have gall; we are going to continue to press our issues in Quebec, Mr. Speaker, but we are going to have opportunities in the rest of Atlantic Canada and the United States as well.

As Governor Shumlin said here, and everybody heard him on CBC and NTV: if you got the juice, we got the use.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: This is a good project and, Mr. Speaker, every other hydro development in this project has been exempted from the PUB. This is the only government to refer a project of this type to the PUB. The Leader of the Opposition stands today and says, the PUB says your project – the PUB did not say the project was not the least-cost alternative. They did not say any such thing; they did not say anything. Their own experts, who they went out and they hired without any advice or help from us, their own experts, MHI, went out and said: Yes, you need the power; in fact, you need more power than you think you need. On top of that, this is the least-cost alternative.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: But the PUB set all that to one side and said MHI’s report was pretty good, about the Muskrat Falls, and they had good things to say, so we are not going to talk about the good things now; we are going to talk about all the negative things. That is what they said in the report; that is in the preamble to the report: we are going to talk about the shortcomings. That is all we are going to talk about here. That is some kind of an imbalance in a report when you are not going to talk about any of the good stuff.

Some people had some good things to say and there are some questions that need to be answered. We will absolutely make sure that they are answered before we go to sanction, no question about it. When you have somebody, Mr. X or Ms X, says such and such and such about the project, and it is not viable because of this, who the heck is it? Who is it?

If the PUB is going to quote this person as saying the project is not viable because of this reason, could we know who it is and what their expertise is? It is like me going up and telling a surgeon, do not do that, boy, you do not know what you are doing. You should cut this way instead of cutting that way; you should take this piece out and leave that piece in. If you are going to have any kind of credibility around any of this, then you have to tell people who you are and what your expertise is so that people can take that into account when they are weighing off what it is that you have to say.

Mr. Speaker, then when somebody over here has the nerve to question that kind of reasoning, then everybody over on the other side of the floor goes, how dare you, Premier, question. Well yes, I am going to question. The right to question is not only left with people on the other side, Mr. Speaker. Everybody thinks that everybody on this side of the House – we are not a punching bag over here. We do our work. We are prepared to defend our work. We do not mind having our feet held to the fire. I am prepared to get up here. That is my responsibility, to get up here and answer questions.

MR. KENNEDY: The NDP do not have (inaudible).

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: I wish there were a few more of them, Mr. Speaker. We have been answering the same five questions now, Mr. Speaker, we have been answering them for six weeks. I suppose in another two months we will still be answering the same five.

Mr. Speaker, that is my responsibility to speak to the people of the Province and to answer the questions that they put forward – but, Mr. Speaker, I am not a punching bag. I am not going to stand up here and let everybody over on the other side of the House say what they like, and call us what they like, and accuse us of what they like.

I remember the first session, Mr. Speaker, when we had three women leaders and we talked about, that people expected something different, a new approach. I am not sure, but they might have expected civility. They might have expected somebody to treat somebody respectfully. Maybe they did not expect people to get up and ask questions and insult people and cut them down to a pair of cut offs, and then get highly offended and play the victim when somebody responds. What I am going to say to the members opposite, we come here prepared to do our work. We come here prepared to do our work, and no quarter is asked by anybody on this side of the House. No quarter asked, but remember no quarter given either.

So, you come here and we are prepared to debate, Mr. Speaker, we are prepared to deal with people honestly, we are prepared to deal with people respectfully, but, Mr. Speaker, we are not going to be kicked around from dog to devil.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER (Wiseman): Order, please!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Mr. Speaker, we are not going to be accused of being corrupt and underhanded.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

I remind the member her time is expired.

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Leave, Mr. Speaker?

MR. SPEAKER: Does the member have leave?

AN HON. MEMBER: Leave.

MR. SPEAKER: By leave.

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

So, Mr. Speaker –

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Oh, oh!

MR. SPEAKER: Order, please!

The Speaker has recognized the hon. the Premier.

The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, this is an exciting time in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: There are wonderful things happening in this Province, Mr. Speaker, opportunities that we have never had before. Opportunities, so that after 500 years, finally we have all of the things, all of the resources, all of the tools we need to become all we could be, Mr. Speaker, all we knew we could be, all that we ever wanted to be. Our children know it, our young people know it. They sense it. They have it in their hands, Mr. Speaker. We are going to do everything we can. We are going to remember who hired us and why. We are going to remain a principle-driven government, Mr. Speaker. We are going to deal honestly and straightforwardly with the people of the Province and with the people on the other side, Mr. Speaker. The sky is not falling, Mr. Speaker. There is nobody over here trying to pull a fast one, Mr. Speaker. When you treat us respectfully, you will get respect in return.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

Link to the original Hansard (transcript) of proceedings

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