Nfld. & Labrador

No need for closer look at new laws, premier says

Premier Kathy Dunderdale is rejecting NDP calls for committees to pore over new laws making their way through the house of assembly.

Dunderdale says legislation gets sufficient level of scrutiny now

Premier Kathy Dunderdale is rejecting NDP calls for more examination of provincial legislation. (CBC)

Premier Kathy Dunderdale is rejecting NDP calls for a closer look at laws making their way through the house of assembly.

"Legislation in this province undergoes a great deal of scrutiny now," Dunderdale told reporters Friday.

NDP justice critic Gerry Rogers recently called on the provinical government to establish and use all-party standing committees to pour over new laws before they are passed.

"Consultation is a basic component of democracy in every other legislature in Canada," Rogers said. "The people of Newfoundland and Labrador deserve this opportunity to have their voices heard."

Last week, NDP Leader Lorraine Michael blamed a lack of research support and the swift passage of legislation for her reversal of opinion on special-balloting rules. Michael supported changes to election law in 2007 that her party now says are unconstitutional.

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael. (CBC)

Dunderdale took a shot at Michael for what the Tories have derided as a policy flip flop.

"The leader of the NDP is backing away from a position she had in the house, in terms of legislation, for example, on special ballots because her staff didn't do the research or didn't do it properly and so on," Dunderdale said.

She added: "There's ample opportunity in the house for the debate and I'm satisfied with the system in terms of the way it's currently working."

The governing Tories have had some issues in the past related to the swift passage of laws.

In 2008, the provincial government accidentally expropriated AbitibiBowater's paper mill in Grand Falls-Windsor when it passed a bill seizing the company's resource rights and other assets. Bill 75 whooshed through the legislature in one day, and nobody picked up on the error until it was too late. The province is now on the hook for environmental clean-up costs.

Government estimates put the cost of cleaning up the mill, along with four other former Abitibi sites, at more than $100 million. The province is arguing its case before the Supreme Court of Canada, saying that Abitibi should foot the bill.

Dunderdale has been criticized for shuttering the legislature for nine months. The next sitting is scheduled to begin in March.

The house of assembly has been in session for just 37 days this year. Only Prince Edward Island's legislature has been less active.