Premier Kathy Dunderdale won’t discuss how a $90 million allocation for "business opportunities" and to "promote industrial development" may be spent, and won’t commit to MHAs knowing before they vote on the provincial budget.
"At any time, as a government, we’re involved with negotiations with different groups around potential developments, investments, here in the province," Dunderdale told reporters Thursday.
"We don’t know at this point in time if those negotiations are going to be successful. But we have to put a block of funding in our budget that would speak to the success of those negotiations."
The line item is tagged to the Department of Finance, in a category that had an allocation of just $500,000 last year.
The $90-million allotment is about the same as the total amount of cash given to run the departments of Environment and Conservation, Fisheries and Aquaculture, and Service Newfoundland and Labrador combined.
'There will not be five cents of that money spent without the people of the province knowing where it is going.' —Premier Kathy Dunderdale
Dunderdale stopped short of saying yes when asked if MHAs will know what the cash is for before they vote to approve it as part of the budget process.
"We’re going to work hard to make that so, but we can’t jeopardize important pieces of work that are being done here in the province by doing a public negotiation," she said.
Dunderdale did say that the government will provide details once a decision has been made.
"There will not be five cents of that money spent without the people of the province knowing where it is going," she said.
If talks are unsuccessful, the money won’t be drawn down.
Asked if some of the cash could be destined for Kruger, owners of the troubled paper mill in Corner Brook, Dunderdale said: "I’m not going to speculate publicly on what the different pots contained in that $90 million are for. They’re for a number of things that we’re presently negotiating here in the province."