On the importance of debate (I)
What ever became of that nice Mr. Ottenheimer, anyway?
ST. JOHN'S, February 18, 2000 — Opposition Mines and Energy critic John Ottenheimer says if the province is close to a deal with Québec on developing the Lower Churchill River's hydro potential, then it's time many questions were addressed.
Ottenheimer said it is of the utmost importance the public see what's in any agreement with Québec before the deal is signed. "Let's not repeat the Upper Churchill fiasco where our people were left in the dark only to discover the agreement was to the detriment of this province," he said. "Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have been promised updates since the premiers of this province and Québec announced a framework for negotiations to develop the Lower Churchill in March 1998."
"It's almost two years later and we're still hearing a memorandum of understanding to proceed with the Lower Churchill development is close, possibly within weeks. It's time the premier stopped the charade and made some concrete statements and answered the many unanswered questions that rest in the minds of people in this province."
Ottenheimer said before any deal is signed, the province's people need to know about: the status of river diversion; development at Gull Island; potential development of Muskrat Falls; and if the development of a transmission line between Labrador and the Island portion of the province is a part of the deal.
"The province's chief negotiator and the premier have made it clear that the transmission line is an important component - an essential condition - in signing a memorandum of understanding with Québec to develop the Lower Churchill," Ottenheimer said. "The premier appears, however, to be softening on the transmission line commitment by trying to switch the public's attention over to a pipeline dream, specifically the construction of a natural gas pipeline to our province from offshore oil fields."
Ottenheimer said if the province has a moral conscience and is sincere about not repeating the Upper Churchill contract, then it will take any potential deal with Québec before the House of Assembly for debate to ensure full transparency. "It would also be wise for the province to hold public hearings and update the people on any deal before it's signed," he said.
For more information:
John Ottenheimer, MHA St. John's East