A campaign stop in Labrador on Tuesday put Progressive Conservative Leader Danny Williams on the defensive over his government's handling of energy issues.
PC Leader Danny Williams faced pointed questions Tuesday over Labrador energy issues.
Williams, campaigning for Newfoundland and Labrador's Oct. 9 election, flew to Happy Valley-Goose Bay to lend support to cabinet minister John Hickey in Lake Melville district.
Williams came to sell his government's record in Labrador, but found himself taking pointed questions over a government energy plan released earlier this month, in particular plans for the Lower Churchill hydroelectric megaproject.
Many people in the region are upset that Lower Churchill power will flow south to the island, without benefits to Labrador — where power costs are among the highest in the province, despite the existing Upper Churchill plant.
"So what's going to happen is that industries are going to look more to Newfoundland than Labrador to set up because there's not going to be no grid or anything for industry to set up to get cheap power," resident William Burden said.
Government officials have said that some ideas proposed for Labrador — such as diverting power from a planned transmission line to the island to the Labrador coast as well — are too expensive.
But Williams tried to ease concerns.
"When it comes to this new power, I can tell you categorically that that industry is going to be here in Labrador," Williams said.
Williams's comments, though, did not satisfy skeptics, including Tory supporters like Leo Abbass, mayor of Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
Abbass is not happy that a Lower Churchill project wouldn't bring power to his central Labrador town until at least 2015.
"I don't believe here in central Labrador we can wait that long," Abbass said. "We require additional power now."
Willing to talk
Local councils in Labrador want Lower Churchill power distributed around Labrador, including to the south coast.
Hickey, the minister of Labrador affairs, said he is willing to talk.
"As it sits right now from what we are hearing, there is more room for discussion and I'm prepared to have that discussion as the Labrador minister," Hickey said.
Even some supporters at Hickey's headquarters admit that discontent in Labrador over the energy issue gives an opportunity to Hickey's opponents.
Hickey took slightly less than 40 per cent of the vote in 2003, edging a Labrador party candidate.
However, the Labrador party has not yet nominated a candidate in Lake Melville, which may give weight to the campaign of current Liberal candidate Chris Montague.
|Last Update:October 9, 10:58:12 PM NDT|
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