Nfld. & Labrador

Cathy Bennett has tough talk for Nalcor in budget speech

Finance Minister Cathy Bennett had some strong words for Nalcor Energy in Thursday’s budget speech, saying the Crown corporation will go under the microscope.

Finance minister stops short of endorsing Crown corporation's CEO when asked by reporters

Finance Minister Cathy Bennett delivers the budget speech in the Newfoundland and Labrador House of Assembly on April 14, 2016. (CBC)

Finance Minister Cathy Bennett had some strong words for Nalcor Energy in Thursday's budget speech, saying the Crown corporation will go under the microscope.

For all corporations and their shareholders, this would be unacceptable.- Finance Minister Cathy Bennett

"As the province's energy corporation, Nalcor belongs to every citizen of Newfoundland and Labrador," the finance minister said in the House of Assembly.

"And since its creation in 2007, taxpayers have invested over $2.25 billion yet have received no dividends. For all corporations and their shareholders, this would be unacceptable."

Bennett said compensation and benefits packages at Nalcor have grown beyond what taxpayers consider reasonable, given the province's current fiscal circumstances. She said the Crown corporation is being asked to look for operational savings.

The fledgling Liberal government expects to run a $1.83-billion deficit this year, despite jacking up an array of taxes and user fees.

Non-committal about confidence in CEO

Asked by a reporter whether she still has confidence in Nalcor CEO Ed Martin, Bennett was non-committal.

"I have confidence in our government to make sure that we make the right decisions, and certainly we've been working with Mr. Martin," the finance minister said.

"But I'm not going to have a conversation here about the executive management team at Nalcor. Our job as a government is to get this budget out today, and that's what we're going to do."

Nalcor is Newfoundland and Labrador's Crown-owned energy corporation. (CBC)

The province will provide Nalcor with more than $1.3 billion this fiscal year, to help pay for Muskrat Falls and the company's stake in offshore oil projects.

In her budget speech, Bennett noted that work at the Muskrat Falls powerhouse is well behind schedule.

She said the government will do everything possible to help get the project back on track.

"The financial risks of cancelling that project right now are so enormous that now we're stuck in a situation where we have to make strong decisions about how we're going to manage things, so we can ensure that we create a sustainable public service," Bennett told reporters.

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