Nfld. & Labrador

Paul Davis says Labrador spending announcements not linked to election

Premier Paul Davis stopped in Happy Valley-Goose Bay Monday to make a series of announcements concerning the Lower Churchill's impact on upcoming town projects.

Premier's visit marks two days of announcements for the town

Premier Paul Davis sat with Happy Valley-Goose Bay Mayor Jamie Snook (left) as well as Labrador and Aboriginal Affairs Minister Keith Russell Monday. (Bailey White/CBC)

Premier Paul Davis stopped in Happy Valley-Goose Bay Monday to make a series of announcements concerning the Lower Churchill's impact on upcoming town projects. 

In an interview with CBC News, Davis said the so-called "capacity agreement" between the province and Happy Valley-Goose Bay will ensure the town has the administrative ability to deal with new development. 

The town will be given $250,000 per year for the next three years to help with costs associated with Muskrat Falls.

The premier also presented the town with $500,000 to help support the 2016 Labrador Winter Games. In addition to this, the town will also receive a new pumper truck. 

"This funding agreement with them will better position the town to be able to have the right people on staff to plan the future of the town, and also deal with an increase in applications, increase in business, increase in growth in the community," Davis said. 

 

Davis met with Mayor Jamie Snook to discuss the importance of consulting with a community before a large-scale project gets underway — something Davis said the province will consider should the Gull Island hydroelectric project get the green light. 

"If [the] Gull Island project gets underway, before we do that, we need to meet with the town to talk about what are the impacts of a project the size of Gull Island," Davis said.

"How will that impact the community and how we're going to work together to make sure the town [doesn't] have a negative impact, but also receives benefits from such a project," he said.  

Don't call it a campaign

While Davis had further announcements planned for his two-day visit, he said the stop in Happy Valley-Goose is not an unofficial start to an election campaign. Voters in Newfoundland and Labrador go to the polls on Nov. 30. 

"If you don't do announcements, they'll question, 'Well, what are you doing for the people of the province?' And if you do announcements, then the critics or the opposition or the people that want our jobs will criticise us for making those announcements so you can't win with them," said Davis. 

Mayor Jamie Snook told the premier that his town's top priority is securing a new wellness centre. (CBC)

It's easier for ministers to meet with town councils, Davis said, during the summer months. 

Davis said the province acknowledges the town's need for a new wellness centre, and said that the clock has run out on the current facility. 

"[We're] very pleased that we have this capacity agreement finalized with the town and we can turn our attention to what the mayor has described this morning as the most important for him and his council," he said.

Five-year plan 

Davis said the province's five-year plan means government won't impose massive layoffs to cope with an impending financial crisis, much like the Liberal government did in the early 1990s. 
 
As a result, he said this year's budget allows for a greater deficit and government plans to "rachet down" spending. 

"All the predictors are that eventually oil is going to start to climb, it's going to increase, but in the short term, we've got some painful times to go through."

In the meantime, Davis said it's important the province keeps investing in communities and not-for-profit organizations to keep the economy alive. 

No IOC negotiations 

When asked about the Iron Ore Company of Canada's mine in Labrador City, Davis said he won't negotiate with IOC to lower the company's power rates. 

The Gull Island hydroelectric project in central Labrador would be larger than the Muskrat Falls power project now under construction outside Happy Valley-Goose Bay. (Jacques Boissinot/The Canadian Press)

While IOC has enjoyed cheap rates for decades, the province announced in December that new competitive rates for the mine will be set once its existing agreement expires in 2015. 

Davis agrees that a closure would mean a significant loss for the province, and estimates the company has about a year to turn things around. 

However, he said if the province were to lower IOC's power rate, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians would be forced to pay the balance. 

"They've got the best rate in the country," he said of IOC. "They're paying about half the price of what they pay in Quebec."

Davis is expected to make more announcements on Tuesday. 

With files from Bailey White

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