Nfld. & Labrador

Marathon Muskrat Falls filibuster winds down

Bleary-eyed members of the house of assembly were heading home Saturday after the Muskrat Falls filibuster ended.
A filibuster on two bills connected to Muskrat Falls has ended after 86 hours of almost non-stop debate. (CBC )

Bleary-eyed members of Newfoundland and Labrador's house of assembly were heading home Saturday after a filibuster that delayed passage of two Muskrat Falls bills was forced to an end.

Although all sides said they were prepared to take the marathon debate on Bill 60 and Bill 61 into Christmas if necessary, that didn't prove necessary, with the Tory majority closing debate on both.

The bills, among other things, give Crown energy corporation Nalcor a monopoly on wholesale power, and force the Public Utilities Board to accept costs related to Muskrat Falls in energy rates that are then passed on to consumers.

In a statement early Saturday morning, NDP Leader Lorraine Michael said the party had "no regrets about spending 86 hours in the pre-Christmas period delaying the passage of two of the most dangerous bills ever presented in the provincial legislature."

The filibuster started Tuesday afternoon, and had carried into the wee hours each morning, pausing only intermittently for brief recesses.

During the debate, the NDP and the Liberals denounced the governing Tories for denying a full public review of the project, which has an official revised budget of $7.4 billion - although that figure does not count expected overruns of at least $300 million that minority partner Emera Inc. expects to pay for its contribution to the subsea link between Newfoundland and Cape Breton.

Opposition members said they expect the final costs of Muskrat Falls, which will generate 824 megawatts of power on Labrador's Churchill River, to be much higher.

The filibuster was marked by some frayed nerves, with Natural Resources Minister Jerome Kennedy coming close to being ejected after he called an Opposition member "a fool" and delayed making an unequivocal apology. On Thursday, Tory backbencher Keith Russell was ruled in contempt after calling Liberal MHA Yvonne Jones "honey" and a "washed-up actress," and saying that she had given him "a big sloppy wet kiss" at a public event.

Liberal opposition leader comments

Following the end of the filibuster, Liberal opposition leader Dwight Ball said there was a sense of accomplishment.

"We started the week, and started the filibuster, with our objective to get the issues raised about the particular two pieces of legislation — Bill 60 and 61," he said.

Liberal leader Dwight Ball says the opposition raised their concerns this week during the Muskrat Falls filibuster. CBC

Ball said that when the filibuster ended early Saturday morning, the main issues the Liberal party wanted to raise had been brought up and put on record.

"It was a tight piece of legislation. Amendments, of course, are difficult to get through," Ball said. 

"Government, at the end of the day, will determine the outcome of the legislation, and they did last night. They got their two bills they were looking for."

Ball said that the Liberals knew that the Tories would eventually get the legislation through, but the point of the filibuster was to raise their issues on behalf of the people of the province.

"We were hoping to see some changes in it, but they have the final say and they made that decision last night."

He said that the success of the Muskrat Falls project is too important for the future of Newfoundland and Labrador to celebrate in its failure.

"It has too big an impact on the future of this province," Ball said. "We need this project to work, so there's no celebration in failure. We just wanted to make sure all our issues were raised, and we did that this week."