Gallant government silent on federal claims for cost overruns at Point Lepreau

Gallant government won't reveal whether it pushed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on New Brunswick's claim to compensation during his visit last week

Gallant government won't reveal if it pushed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on New Brunswick's claim

Premier Brian Gallant met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in New Brunswick last week. (Twitter)

The Gallant government says it cannot reveal whether it pushed Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on New Brunswick's claim to compensation for cost overruns at the Point Lepreau nuclear station refurbishment during his visit last week.

A lawsuit launched by NB Power against its insurers is still inching its way through the court system.

"Pending the conclusion of the insurance claim legal process, we are not able to comment," said Julie Robichaud, the premier's press secretary, in an email to CBC News.

Liberals promised to press for compensation

New Brunswick Liberals promised in the 2014 election campaign to press the federal government to compensate the province for $1 billion in extra costs incurred by NB Power during Lepreau's problem-plagued refurbishment.

But there was no hint during Trudeau's visit last week that that happened, despite a meeting between the two men.

The refurbishment project began in 2008 under the guidance of then-federal crown corporation Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd. (AECL). 

It took three years longer to complete than planned, a delay that cost NB Power $1 billion in extra energy and other expenses. Successive New Brunswick governments have claimed Ottawa should pay for that.

In February of 2012 — five years ago next month — NB Power and AECL filed joint lawsuits against a number of insurers who refused to pay claims related to construction delays. 

That legal action covers only part of the cost overruns and insurance companies are fighting it vigorously, saying delays were caused by errors and incompetence among refurbishment managers, not insured accidents.  

Although that legal proceeding is now cited by the premier's office as the reason for its silence regarding any discussions with Trudeau about Lepreau compensation last week, it did not deter Gallant while in opposition. 

Gallant had asked previous government to resolve matters

In the spring of 2014, two years into the lawsuit, Gallant regularly called on then-Premier David Alward to provide updates on the compensation issue and personally resolve matters with Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"I hope it would be the Premier himself, bringing it to the Prime Minister himself," Gallant told the legislature.

"What are their plans to ensure we get the cost overruns covered?"

A commitment to press Ottawa on Lepreau compensation was also included in the Liberal party's 2014 platform.

The lawsuit has moved so slowly, it's not clear when it might be resolved. 

According to court filings the matter is still in the pre-trial discovery phase and no trial date has been set. 

At four years and 11 months, the lawsuit has already dragged on three months longer than the refurbishment itself.