Layton touts power plans in Atlantic Canada

NDP Leader Jack Layton touted an energy plan on Friday that includes backing for Newfoundland and Labrador's power transmission grid plans, but didn't promise money for the estimated $1 billion of cost overruns for the refit of New Brunswick's Point Lepreau nuclear plant.
NDP Leader Jack Layton speaks about his energy plan in P.E.I.

NDP Leader Jack Layton touted an energy plan in Atlantic Canada on Friday that includes backing for Newfoundland and Labrador's power transmission grid plans, but didn't promise money for the estimated $1 billion of cost overruns for the refit of New Brunswick's Point Lepreau nuclear plant.

Layton, campaigning in Prince Edward Island Friday, vowed to invest in the construction of a third electric cable to  Prince Edward Island.

Residents on P.E.I. don't have access to reliable power, and energy bills on the Island have more than doubled in the past 13 years, said Layton in announcing his Green Atlantic Energy Plan in Charlottetown on Friday.

"And just last month rolling blackouts meant that 23,000 households on the Island were without electricity," said Layton.

"These blackouts were preventable. They didn't have to happen. They're the result of five years of neglect by [Conservative Party Leader] Stephen Harper."

The NDP plan

Invest $45 million (spread over some years) from the federal/provincial Green Infrastructure Fund to help construct the P.E.I. third cable and better transmit electricity between the Island and the North American power grid.

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).

Layton also backed N.S. Premier Darrell Dexter's renewable energy target of 40 per cent, "a plan also being promoted by the premier of Newfoundland and Labrador," said Layton.

"And I will work with Newfoundland and Labrador to build the 180-kilometre Maritime Transmission Link connecting Newfoundland to North America's power grid with key investments from my proposed Green Energy Fund," he said.

But when pressed by CBC's New Brunswick at 5:30 host Harry Forestell about money to cover some of the estimated $1 billion in cost overruns on the Point Lepreau refurbishment project, Layton did not offer his support.

"These are large amounts of money and of course we don't support the subsidization of nuclear power. We will take a close look at the safety issues, however, that's an absolute responsibility there," Layton responded. "Health and safety matters, particularly given what we're seeing unfold globally … so there will be aspects there that could involve some federal support focused on health and safety."

Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff said this week that New Brunswick should receive some compensation for the cost overruns associated with refurbishing Atlantic Canada's only nuclear reactor.

Harper has repeatedly said that Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd., which is overseeing the refurbishment project, would honour its contractual obligations, but it would not pay any additional costs.

Forestell pointed out that AECL was a Crown corporation and New Brunswickers are afraid they will be stuck with the bill.

Layton said he would have to look at the documentation and "how the costs came to be."

"They're not public and available right now. If you were in my position, you wouldn't want to say whatever it is, if somebody screwed up the books, or made some serious mistakes or a contractor is at fault, 'Don't worry, we'll cover the cheque because it's an election.' That's not how we do things. We manage things very, very carefully.

"What we're focused on is the green energy of the future and that's certainly what we're promoting today."

The NDP leader told Forestell the underwater cable that will come from Newfoundland and Labrador down to Nova Scotia, "ultimately, creating a grid that will tie the Atlantic Provinces in together.

"So that we can then link in with markets throughout North America with the clean and green energy that is being developed."