Nfld. & Labrador

End of January still target for agreement with feds on rate mitigation, says Premier Ball

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland visited Newfoundland and Labrador to meet with Atlantic Canadian premiers this week.

Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland attended a meeting of Atlantic Canadian premiers hosted in St. John's

Canadian Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland speaks at Confederation Building in St. John's on Tuesday. (Mark Quinn/ CBC )

Canada's deputy prime minister says the way Atlantic Canadian premiers work together is a model for the country.

Chrystia Freeland, in St. John's this week to meet with premiers from Atlantic Canada and Quebec, spoke briefly at a photo opportunity on Tuesday and commended premiers for working together at a meeting hosted Monday by Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball.

"The way the Atlantic premiers have figured out how to work together as a region, you know, set aside partisan differences — at least to some extent, you know, we're all politicians … and really think about how to make Atlantic Canada work together is fantastic for the whole country," she said. "A lot of the rest of us can learn a lot from you guys."

Freeland also said she will speak with Ball about issues that are important to Newfoundland and Labrador, such as interprovincial trade.

Ball and Freeland did not take questions from reporters in the morning, but Ball spoke with reporters in the afternoon to discuss the meeting.

"The big issue of course, topical, the priority for us as a province is electricity rates and mitigating against the cost impact of Muskrat Falls. We spent a lot of time talking about the role that, as a deputy prime minister, that she could play in all of this," Ball said. 

"This project that was at $6 billion, gone to $12.7 billion, [was] never meant to be a burden and the province and it is. I think my federal colleagues understand that."

Freeland and Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Dwight Ball held a photo op in the premier's office Tuesday morning but did not take questions from the media. (Mark Quinn/ CBC)

In November, Ball said he was confident that something would be in place by the end of January for Muskrat Falls rate mitigation after his meeting with Prime Minster Justin Trudeau in Ottawa.

On Tuesday, the premier said there is still an aggressive push for a date by the end of January to have an agreement in place with the federal government. Ball said 13.5 cents per kilowatt-hour is still the target.

"All the key people politically acutely understand the impact of electricity of rates of people in our province, and our officials, they've been working on this with a war plan now for quite some time," he said.

The premiers said Monday they are discussing the possibility of using hydroelectricity produced in Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador to meet the energy needs of other Atlantic Canadian provinces.

Fiscal stabilization also came up again on Tuesday. Ball said every premier in the country is on board with changing the formula for the program to reflect the modern needs of provinces.

"And it must be responsive. What's been there has been around for decades. It needs to be changed. So it's not really only about a target," said the premier.

"We'd love to take as much we can get, of course. But it's putting in place a formula that is responsive to provinces that find themselves in situations like Newfoundland and Labrador."

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

With files from Mark Quinn

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