Nfld. & Labrador

On Point | Maritime link debate and Ottawa trade woes

The Muskrat Falls hydroelectric mega-project has the green light from Newfoundland and Labrador, but now the project is going through regulatory review in Nova Scotia, where the issue at hand is whether the link is a good deal for Nova Scotia customers.
Guests discuss the Maritime link debate and trade woes with Ottawa. 17:36

The Muskrat Falls hydroelectric mega-project has the green light from Newfoundland and Labrador, but now the project is going through regulatory review in Nova Scotia, where the issue at hand is whether the $1.5 billion Maritime link is a good deal for Nova Scotia customers.

Paul Withers covers Nova Scotia politics and the legislature for CBC in Halifax, and was a featured guest on this week's On Point with David Cochrane to discuss the political climate in N.S. surrounding the Muskrat Falls debate.

"There are some elements of the business community — consumer groups and opponents of Nova Scotia's NDP government — all had a forum to make their case this week, and Nova Scotians are hearing a lot about the downside of the Maritime link this week," Withers said.

"Right now, the project lives or dies with the decision of regulators, who, by law, have been asked to answer a simple question, is the Maritime link and Churchill Falls the lowest cost, long-term electricity option for rate payers, given environmental restrictions that are being put on carbon emissions," he added.

According to Withers, the opposition parties in N.S. are both opposed to the deal as it currently stands.

"The third place Progressive Conservatives this week said they would renegotiate the Churchill Falls deal," he said. "They say it's a good project, but it's a bad deal the way that it's structured right now. The Liberals who are in first place, and have been in the polls in Nova Scotia for months, are also attacking this deal."

Withers said the consumer advocate in N.S. has come out against the project.

Trade wars between N.L. and Ottawa

A speech from Premier Kathy Dunderdale was the first signal of a brewing fight with Ottawa over the details of a possible trade agreement with the European Union.

In her address to the St. John's Board of Trade, Dunderdale implied that Premier Stephen Harper was pressuring her to get rid of provincial fish processing regulations to help secure the deal.

Russell Wangersky and Shawn Skinner were guests on the On Point panel this week to discuss the tensions between the provincial and federal governments.

"I think she's just showing the people of the province that there's a lot going on behind the scenes that they aren't necessarily aware of, and she thought it was time to inform the people of some of the things the federal government is up to," Skinner said.

"I see this as the premier responding to the federal government by saying, 'You're not going to pull anything on us, you're not going to change the terms of the loan agreement, and the people of the province need to know that that's what you're trying to do,'" he added.

According to Skinner, the premier was providing an explanation for the lengthy wait time for the loan agreement to quell concern over progress of the Muskrat Falls project.

Wangersky said he found the timing of the revelation odd.

"I think it's in the nature of an insurance policy, almost," Wangersky said.

"I think that there are going to be changes coming to processing regulations — I think it is essentially inevitable given the World Trade Organization, for example, which, under their rules, this would be out the window."

Wangersky said he believes that the announcement is an insurance policy of sorts to show that the provincial government is fighting for the minimum processing requirements, but that they may eventually lose those requirements.