Make power utility reinvest in province: Liberal leader
Last Updated: Wednesday, June 3, 2009 | 12:40 AM ET
The leader of the Nova Scotia Liberal party says he would consider passing a law to force Nova Scotia Power to reinvest in the province.
Stephen McNeil made the comments Tuesday evening during a leaders' debate in the campaign that will end with the June 9 provincial election.
The leaders of Nova Scotia's three main political parties squared off in Baddeck, in the second major debate of the election.
The CBC-Chronicle Herald debate, which was held at the Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site and televised on CBC, featured an hour's worth of questions from the public in front of a studio audience.
In response to a question about the service that Nova Scotia Power provides to its customers, McNeil went further than the Tory and NDP leaders, who said the utility should be doing more maintenance.
“The fact is they [Nova Scotia Power] take a half million dollars out of the province of Nova Scotia on an annual basis and invest in California, in Maine — in other hydro facilities,” McNeil said.
“But they don’t reinvest back here in the province of Nova Scotia. I made it very clear that they need to start investing in the infrastructure of this province. If need be, I’ll legislate it,” the Liberal leader said.
Tory leader Rodney MacDonald, the NDP’s Darrell Dexter and McNeil answered a total of 21 questions which were collected by email, video and through social networking internet sites, Twitter and YouTube.
The public asked the leaders questions on topics such as emergency room closures, university tuition costs, banning cosmetic pesticides, tax deductions for volunteers, the lobster fishery and financial assistance to seniors living on fixed incomes.
Debate was tame and polite
The debate remained a relatively tame and polite event during the one-hour broadcast, with only one minor interruption from McNeil when it was Dexter’s turn to answer a question on gas regulation.
One question asked all three leaders to say something nice about one another.
Both Dexter and McNeil gave credit to the other leaders for their integrity and dedication to public service.
However, MacDonald’s praise came with some tongue-in-cheek humour.
“One of the things, I think, they do a tremendous job at is being critics and I’d like to make sure that they have that opportunity for a very long time,” MacDonald said.
NDP union donation controversy not mentioned during debate
However, one topic that was not mentioned during the debate was the union contribution controversy involving the New Democratic Party.
On Monday, the NDP returned $45,000 in donations it received from nine construction union locals after it learned that the Mainland Nova Scotia Building and Construction Trades Council later reimbursed them.
The chief electoral officer with Elections Nova Scotia is currently reviewing the details of the arrangement to see if it breached a section of the Members and Public Employees Disclosure Act.
The act prohibits political parties, candidates and electoral district associations from accepting individual or organizational donations that total more than $5,000 in each calendar year.
After the debate, MacDonald said the issue is still a hot topic amongst voters even though it may not have come up.
“I don’t want to get into issues, obviously,” MacDonald told CBC News on Tuesday. “If this gets into police investigation or the courts, I would leave that to them. But I would say that the NDP were caught with their hand in the cookie jar,” he said.
McNeil said his Liberal party would like to know who in the NDP knew about the money, and when.
“I can tell you one thing, that if my campaign manager received a $50,000 donation, I would have known about it,” McNeil said.
Dexter brushed off the leaders’ remarks, saying that no one has mentioned the controversy to him while he has been out on the campaign trail.
“Mr. MacDonald thinks he has an issue. He’s going to go ahead and try to deal with that every single day from now to the campaign,” Dexter said. “But that’s not what the people of the province are concerned about,” he said.
A CBC producer said the issue didn’t surface during the live televised debate because no one from the public submitted a question about it.