Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh first to respond to Premier Dwight Ball

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh sent a letter to Premier Dwight Ball, in response to the premier's request to all federal party leaders, requesting information on where they stand on issues in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Promises of rate mitigation, a fixed link and more

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh was the first federal party leader to respond to Premier Dwight Ball's request. (Nathan Denette / Canadian Press)

Federal NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh sent a letter to Premier Dwight Ball, in response to the premier's request to all federal party leaders, requesting information on where they stand on issues in Newfoundland and Labrador.

As of Thursday, Singh is the first leader to respond to Ball.

"Since joining Confederation, governments in Ottawa have not delivered for the province's people," Singh wrote in the letter to Ball.

The first topic addressed is the proverbial elephant in the room: Muskrat Falls.

"We believe that Newfoundland and Labrador's ratepayers should not be left facing doubled bills," Singh wrote, adding that the New Democrats have committed to a national program for residential energy efficiency retrofits.

In addition, Singh said other fixes the party would consider include federal financial support, including the transfer of federally held Hibernia shares back to the province.

Back in April, the Liberals signed on to a renewed Atlantic Accord that outlined a front-loaded deal on equity interest in Hibernia, with $1.9 billion — about 60 per cent — of the total money coming to the province by 2030.

St. John's East NDP candidate Jack Harris met with reporters Thursday afternoon to talk about the topics Singh raised in his letter, such as the Hibernia shares.

"We think that these shares are highly valued. We also see in the recent Atlantic Accord that there's a back-end payment to be made by our children and grandchildren, $800 million a year for eight years," he said. "This is not all free money, I think that has to be investigated,"

St. John's East NDP MP candidate Jack Harris met with reporters on Thursday to discuss Singh's letter to Ball. (CBC)

Singh outlined a commitment on reconciliation around the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project that would include working with the province and the Nunatsiavut government "to ensure that any possible efforts are pursued that may prevent or mitigate methylmercury contamination."

Flooding of the Muskrat Falls reservoir has been a long-contested step in the controversial hydroelectric megaproject, with people who harvest food from Lake Melville concerned about the resulting increase in amounts of methylmercury in country food.

"We've got a very unfortunate, shocking circumstance from a trust point of view where the Nunatsiavut government has stated that it's their belief that this was done on purpose by the government of Newfoundland and Labrador," Harris said.

"That's a shocking situation for us as a country to be in when we have that kind of accusation and that kind of conclusion being drawn when we place at the top of the priorities as a country reconciliation with Indigenous people."

Singh also discussed equalization in his letter, stating that Newfoundland and Labrador faces "unique challenges in delivering the services that people need," citing the aging population and large land mass, which he said are not taken into account by the equalization program.

"The purpose of equalization is to ensure that provinces can deliver reasonably comparable services and to promote greater equality across Canada," Singh wrote.

"New Democrats will make bold new investments that recognize Newfoundland and Labrador's unique circumstances and work with your government to strengthen services like health care and employment insurance, and to make life more affordable."

How he expects to accomplish that isn't specified in the letter.

The province's strength in natural resources is a "source of great prosperity and pride," Singh wrote, adding that the NDP believes in strong protections for the province's lands and oceans "to ensure that future generations can continue to enjoy a beautiful province and healthy natural ecosystems."

St. John's East Green Party MP candidate David Peters says the NDP could have made more promises to fight climate change. (Katie Breen/CBC)

"Our commitment is to protections that will ensure the future of both Newfoundland and Labrador's environment and its economy and people," Singh wrote.

"We would create an environmental bill of rights, take meaningful action on climate change, and ensure that no working people or communities are left behind in a low-carbon economy."

Singh also wrote about his support for a fixed link between Newfoundland and Labrador, saying it's a long-standing proposal that "deserves a fulsome study," something he said the NDP will partially commit funding to look into.

Harris said the partial funding promise is due to not knowing the exact price of what the project will cost right now, but added the NDP will support a feasibility study. 

Other parties

St. John's East Green Party candidate David Peters said Singh's letter made good points on social policy issues, but missed on climate change issues.

"Their plan is not adequate to meet our obligations under the Paris Accord, and that's not good for St. John's East," Peters said.

As for paying for their promises, Peter's said the Green Party and the NDP share the view of further taxing the wealthiest Canadians and corporations. 

In statement to CBC News, Liberal candidate Nick Whalen said the federal Liberals will be responding to Ball soon and that the party is dedicated to rate mitigation with Muskrat Falls. 

St. John's East Conservative candidate Joedy Wall was unavailable for comment.

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