Nfld. & Labrador

NDP supports Lower Churchill

Jack Layton says an NDP government would back a loan guarantee for Newfoundland and Labrador's multi-billion dollar Lower Churchill hydroelectric project, adding the project will help every part of Atlantic Canada.
NDP Leader Jack Layton plays the accordion alongside local candidates Ryan Cleary, left, and Jack Harris while visiting a music shop on Saturday, April 16, in St. John's, N.L. (Jacques Boissinot/Canadian Press)

NDP Leader Jack Layton says a New Democratic government would back a loan guarantee for Newfoundland and Labrador's multi-billion dollar Lower Churchill hydroelectric project, adding the project will help every part of Atlantic Canada.

Layton made the announcement during a campaign stop in St. John's, where the party is hoping to hold one seat and gain another in the upcoming federal election.

The province's Crown-owned Nalcor Energy and Nova Scotia's Emera Inc. have partnered on the $6.2-billion project, which will generate 824 megawatts of power at Muskrat Falls on Labrador's Churchill River. Underwater cables will relay power first to Newfoundland, then to Nova Scotia.

The NDP would also invest $375 million in the Maritime Transmission Link through the PPP Canada fund ($300 million) and New Democrats’ federal/provincial Green Infrastructure Program ($75 million).

Both Conservative Leader Stephen Harper and Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff made commitments to loan guarantees for the project, although the NDP has been keen to point out the party has long supported federal involvement in the project.

The New Democrat leader applauded the province for "giving Harper the boot" in the 2008 election, which saw the Conservatives shut out of every riding.

Layton also took aim at Ignatieff, telling the crowd that he rubber-stamped a Conservative budget that cut equalization payments to the province in his first vote as Opposition leader.

"Are we going to believe him now when he says he'll do things differently? I don't think so," Layton told a crowd of supporters.

Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale has endorsed Harper's position on Lower Churchill, igniting a controversy in the wake of the "Anything But Conservative" campaign that former premier Danny Williams waged against Harper in 2008.

The NDP is eying gains in the province, particularly in St. John's South-Mount Pearl, a riding won by Liberal Siobhan Coady in 2008. NDP candidate and journalist Ryan Cleary, who lost to Coady in 2008 by fewer than 1,000 votes, introduced Layton at the St. John's rally.

Layton was joined at the rally by NDP incumbent Jack Harris, who also was elected in 2008 in the riding of St. John's East.

With files from The Canadian Press