On Nov. 30th Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the long awaited loan guarantee for the Muskrat Falls hydro generating project.
Harper said in his campaign last year, there was a pledge to support the Lower Churchill Hydroelectric Project and the transmission of that power across Atlantic Canada.
“This ambitious energy intuitive is important not only to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, it is important, of course, to Nova Scotians and all Atlanteans. Therefore I am pleased to announce that the government of Canada has approved a loan guarantee for the lower Churchill and the related Hydroelectric Project, ” said Harper.
Harper said that nobody has worked harder for this project than Peter Penashue.
“Peter knows what this great enterprise means, not only for the people of Labrador but to the entire province, to the entire region and to Canada as a whole. And in Ottawa he has been the greatest advocate and his hard work there deserves a congratulations,” added Harper.
The project would be built in the riding of federal Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs and President of the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada, Peter Penashue, who has come under criticism for months for overspending his legal limit in last year’s election campaign.
Questions of Penashue’s involvement in the awarding of contracts related to Muskrat Falls were dismissed by Harper, saying Ottawa is not involved in the tendering or awarding of contracts for the development.
“What is important to understand what the federal government is doing in this project. The government is in no way a contracting party on the project itself, it is the province and the utility involved in all of the contracts. What the federal government is doing under this agreement is providing a loan guarantee at extremely low risk, and frankly, I think in the long-term, zero cost to the taxpayers of Canada, and quite frankly lowers the cost of borrowing to the taxpayers and the ordinary people of Newfoundland and Labrador,” Harper said.
He said that Penashue knows what this great enterprise means, not only for the people of Labrador, but to the entire province, to the entire region and to Canada as a whole. And in Ottawa he has been the greatest advocate and his hard work there deserves congratulations.
“(Penashue) the Member of Parliament for Labrador was elected on a national platform that included this commitment to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and he is doing exactly what the people of Newfoundland and Labrador elected him to do,” said Harper to thunderous applause
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Harper said the Lower Churchill project would make the power grid more secure in Newfoundland and Labrador and the whole Atlantic region.
“That is good news for consumers and producers, for families and business owners,” he added.
Harper said that this project would be a real game changer for the province and the region.
“Our government knows that infrastructure and energy projects like the Lower Churchill Project will bolster growth in one region of the country is good for Canada as a whole,” he said.
Harper said, with Canada as a super power, it is essential that renewable energy continue to be important in a growing part of the governments energy mandate.
“The Lower Churchill Project and related hydro projects is an unprecedented opportunity for the entire region, to substantially reduce dependants on coal and fossil fuels and there associated production of greenhouse gasses,” he said.
Harper said when the Lower Churchill Project is completed, Newfoundland and Labrador will obtain up to 98% of it’s electricity from non greenhouse gas emitting sources, and will also reduce Canada’s carbon dioxide emissions by taking over 3.2 million cars off the road, each and every year.
“The lower Churchill Project will result in and average of 1,500 jobs during each year of the construction with peak employment of 3,100 people. It will also generate $1.9 billion in earning for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador.”
Harper said that both the federal government and the province have been working for almost two years to get the loan guarantee in place.
“It took almost two years to get the loan guarantee in place and it is fully dependant on the on the Maritime link. And part of the commitment we made on the commitment we made was this would be a regional project. That is why the province of Nova Scotia and its facilities are partial to this project. I have been assured by the premier, I am assured by the board of Emera that they are totally committed to this project,” said Harper.
Premier Kathy Dunderdale said, when she looked towards the future of this province, she sees countless opportunities and infinite possibilities.
“It is my sincere pleasure to thank the Prime Minister and the government of Canada, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the government of Nova Scotia for the agreement of the loan guarantee in support of the Muskrat Falls project,” she said.
Dunderdale said the project is an impressive example of inter provincial co-operation where everyone will receive a fair return on their investment.
“For the people of the province, this of course represents an active affirmation from our federal government of our ambition to keep this province on the path to permanent sustainable, renewable prosperity. The Muskrat Falls project is first and foremost for the benefit for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador,” Dunderdale said.
She said, the project would meet the looming deficit and stabilize electricity rates for generations at the lowest possible cost and support industrial development and future mining operations.
She said that communities throughout the province would see economic opportunities as the transmission lines are built to channel the new power.
“As we look at other energy generation projects, this deal means we have more than one option for getting our product to market and gives us a stronger position for future negotiations, we have vast resources in natural resources including gas and oil,” Dunderdale said.
Dunderdale said that with the decline of natural resources the Muskrat Falls Project is about taking action now to harness the return of the provinces nonrenewable resources in order to bring renewable resources online.
“It is no exaggeration in saying that Muskrat Falls is the key sustainable, prosperous future, with an economy based on self-sufficiency. It is the next step as we move from short term project based economy to a renewable economy,” said Dunderdale.
The Grand Riverkeeper issued a statement saying; “The loan guarantee announced is, in the view of Grand Riverkeeper Labrador, UNLAWFUL. As we argued a few days ago in the federal court, alongside NunatuKavut Community Council and Sierra Club of Canada, the federal government has no right to issue a loan guarantee until there has been a lawful complete Environmental Assessment.”
They also went on to say that the governments would be playing Russian roulette with taxpayers money by issuing a loan guarantee.
As we look at other energy generation projects, this deal means we have more than one option for getting our product to market and gives us a stronger position for future negotiations, we have vast resources in natural resources including gas and oil. - Premier Kathy Dunderdale
Dunderdale said, even though there is an action before the Federal Court between Grand Riverkeeper Labrador, the Sierra Club of Canada and the NunatuKavut Community Council, it will not stop the project from moving forward.
“Let me say there wouldn’t be anything proceeding anywhere in the country or anywhere in the world by somebody filing a lawsuit, that could bring everything to a halt…nothing would ever happen,” she said.
Premier Darrell Dexter said this project is a great day for Nova Scotia, Newfoundland and Labrador and to Canada.
“Like me and my colleagues, Prime Minister Harper recognizes that the Lower Churchill Project and the construction of the Maritime Link is about good jobs, and about lower and more stable power grid. It is about building a stronger nation, about building a more unified nation,” said Dexter.
Dexter said that Newfoundland and Labrador was determined to build this project, by partnering with Nova Scotia the project becomes a better deal all around.
“The Maritime link gives Newfoundland and Labrador more assured revenues and access to the world’s largest market for electricity and it gives Nova Scotia a secure renewable power when it will be most needed,” he added.
Dexter said Nova Scotians have had to deal with sky rocketing fossil fuel prices. Many families are struggling to heat their homes forcing them to make the impossible decision of putting food on the table, clothes on their children’s backs or paying their electricity bills.
“The Lower Churchill Project is about reducing the dependency of coal, to switching to cleaner forms of energy that will help ensure lower, more stable power rates for families and business,” he said.
The guarantee gives the green light for the province to move forward in sanctioning the project and with the loan guarantee it will lower the costs of borrowing, with the guarantee is for $5 billion dollars and the equity investment put in by the province is not part of the loan guarantee, but the province will recover when the province starts generating revenues in 2017.