Prime Minister Stephen Harper came to New Brunswick on Thursday bringing a good news announcement for the economically hard-hit region of Miramichi.

Harper announced 550 new jobs for the area to compensate for any jobs lost when the long-gun registry is scrapped. But the statement that could have a larger impact on the province is the prime minister's comments on Point Lepreau.

The first question that Harper was asked in the news conference was about whether Ottawa would ante up any extra funds to pay for the delayed Point Lepreau refurbishment project. Harper said he'd asked for more information from the provincial government. And that he reaffirmed that the federal government would respect all of Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.'s contractual obligations. That statement could mean Ottawa will not pay any new funds for the Point Lepreau cost overruns and NB Power and the New Brunswick government will be responsible for the mounting costs.

This stands in stark contrast to the tone that Graham tried to set a month ago in the letter he wrote to the prime minister and then distributed to the media. Graham left the impression that Ottawa was prepared to hand over extra money to help with the cost overruns associated with Point Lepreau delays.

That may still happen, but what Harper appears to have done is punted the decision past the Sept. 27 provincial election. This was Harper's opportunity to announce a deal before the provincial election. It's unlikely that he'll be seen in New Brunswick making any announcements during the campaign.

So the question remains, who does this hurt more: Liberal Leader Shawn Graham or PC Leader David Alward? Graham cannot claim victory in getting more money from Ottawa. But Graham may now use this as a way to attack Alward by raising federal cabinet minister Keith Ashfield's comments again.
-- Daniel McHardie

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