Nfld. & Labrador

PC leader demands transparency on Quebec hydro talks

PC leader Paul Davis is demanding that Premier Dwight Ball bring any deal with Quebec on hydroelectricity to a vote in the House of Assembly.

Paul Davis says Quebec wanted court action dropped as pre-condition last year

Paul Davis says there is reason for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to be weary of Quebec. (CBC)

Opposition leader Paul Davis is demanding Premier Dwight Ball bring any deal with Quebec on hydroelectric projects to a vote in the House of Assembly.

Davis and Ball sparred in Question Period on Wednesday, following reports that Quebec's provincial government was looking to work with Newfoundland and Labrador on hydroelectricity and could consider revisiting the controversial Upper Churchill agreement.

After comments that Quebec's provincial government wanted to "bury the hatchet" with Newfoundland and Labrador, after a long, contentious relationship, Ball said Wednesday he was open to listening — but only if the deal is right.

"Be it Quebec, or Nova Scotia, or someone else, the responsible thing to do is to explore the options that we would have available to us," Ball said in Question Period. "Not to be slamming doors."

The PCs peppered Ball with questions Wednesday, asking who's leading talks with Quebec and how long they've been going on.

Davis said there are plenty of reasons to be wary of Quebec.

"For 40 years, Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have been at the short end of the stick, at the hands of Quebec," Davis said in Question Period. 

"After effort, after effort, after effort — by previous governments from all stripes — to try to and resolve the differences [with] Quebec, they held us at our knees."

Don't abandon court action: Davis

Davis urged the Liberals on Wednesday not to drop litigation against the Upper Churchill agreement as a precondition for discussions — as he claimed Quebec asked him to do in 2015.

Ball said that talks between the two governments on hydroelectric projects had yet to even begin, and he wouldn't take any option off the table.

"We're not taking any options off the table that we have for the future of our province," Ball said.

Dwight Ball says it is only responsible for him to listen to Quebec's government on possible hydroelectricity deals. (CBC)

On Tuesday, Quebec's minister of natural resources, Pierre Arcand, claimed the two sides had been in discussions on improving the intra-provincial relationship.

Ball said he hoped he could get productive deals in place, but said there had been no negotiations with Quebec yet — by him or Nalcor CEO Stan Marshall. He said meetings with Quebec representatives have happened, but have not touched on hydroelectric agreements.

He pledged his government would be "open" and "transparent" with a deal, if it happens — but did not commit to a vote in the House of Assembly.

Opposition scratching their heads

After Question Period, opposition leaders said they were still left with questions.

Davis said there were "two different versions" of events, one put forward by Arcand and another put foward by Ball.

"Why would a minister of the Crown in Quebec raise the issue, make a statement, if it wasn't true?" he asked.

"The Premier talks about discussions with Quebec not being there 'yet' while denying that discussions are happening at all," Davis added in a statement.

"He denies Quebec's claims that discussions have been underway for months while asking 'what's wrong with having discussions?' ... The Premier is clearly trying to hide something."

NDP leader Earle McCurdy said he found the Quebec minister's statement, claiming discussions had been underway, "pretty explicit."

"I hope we get to the bottom of it, because obviously this is very serious and the people of the province deserve to be leveled with," he said.