Remarks on clean energy to strengthen the economy and communities in Newfoundland and Labrador
HON. DOMINIC LEBLANC (President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs):
This morning it's my pleasure to join Prime Minister Trudeau, Premier Furey, and my colleague Minister Seamus O'Regan. Unfortunately, we can't be all together this morning. I know Prime Minister, you are in Ottawa, and Premier and Seamus, you're in St-John's Newfoundland and Labrador.
Welcome to everyone watching. I know you're anxious to hear the Prime Minister, so with that, Prime Minister, allow me to virtually pass the microphone to you. Prime Minister.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU (Prime Minister of Canada):
Thank you very much Dominic. Hello everyone.
Thank you to Minister O’Regan and Premier Furey for joining us virtually.
Last week, our government presented a new, strengthened climate plan, accelerating our work to build a sustainable future.
This plan includes concrete measures – like making clean power available across the country – that will help Canada exceed its 2030 target.
In October, the Canada Infrastructure Bank earmarked $2.5 billion for clean power.
They’re working with provincial and regional partners to connect Canadians to clean electricity, including through the Atlantic Loop.
In our Fall Economic Statement, we also committed $25 million to support clean power, through local work like community engagement and engineering studies.
Our government promised to exceed the targets announced in Paris 5 years ago, and to move toward that goal, we are determined to gradually transitioning from coal and replacing it with clean energy sources, like hydroelectricity.
To do that, we continue to work with the provinces and territories, including of course Newfoundland and Labrador.
That’s why, last February, we announced negotiations on the financial restructuring of Muskrat Falls.
We still believe in its importance, and today, we have another announcement to make that shows that we are moving forward on this file.
Our government is committed to working with Newfoundland and Labrador to ensure that the ongoing Muskrat Falls project remains on stable financial footing.
Advancing clean electrification is the smart thing to do not just for people in the Atlantic, but for all Canadians who will benefit from a cleaner environment.
Today, I can announce that we’ve appointed Serge Dupont to oversee federal work on the financial restructuring of Muskrat Falls and to advise on the next steps to support the Atlantic Loop.
As Federal Representative and Senior Executive Advisor, Mr. Dupont will be responsible for coordinating efforts across government to create a lasting solution that’s in the best interests of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, and all Canadians.
Federal and provincial officials have now completed the first phase of the restructuring process.
The federal government has agreed to provide temporary debt relief to reduce immediate financial pressure on Newfoundland and Labrador.
This is important progress, but there’s more to be done.
We need to keep working to ensure a sustainable long-term solution for Muskrat Falls, and support both the Atlantic Loop and the broader electrification objectives in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Mr. Dupont’s appointment today, building on his strong leadership and proven record, is another step towards reaching those goals.
As we said in our Fall Economic Statement, we must continue to invest in clean energy and infrastructure in order to build strong communities and a more resilient economy for all Canadians.
Muskrat Falls will provide clean, reliable electricity for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Atlantic region.
To all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, I know it’s been a tough year.
But I also know that you’ve come together to help each other through these difficult times, as you always do.
You remind us that even if things are hard, we’re never in this alone.
Our government will continue to do our part to support families and workers as we rebuild our economy.
Clean energy initiatives not only fight climate change, they create good jobs and build a competitive economy that works for the middle class.
Together, we will build a healthier and cleaner future for everyone.
Thank you all so much. And I'm happy to pass it back to Minister Leblanc.
HON. DOMINIC LEBLANC:
Well, thank you Prime Minister, and thank you for that exciting announcement. It's important to Canada, but as you noted, it's important to Newfoundland and Labrador, and that's why it's for me a privilege to turn the microphone now to Dr. Andrew Furey, the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador.
HON. ANDREW FUREY (Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador):
I thank you all for joining us here today.
I know that the last nine months have been strange and full of doubt for all of us. And while the pandemic and the COVID-19 vaccine have absolutely been top of mind, I've also been working hard on realizing a commitment that I made; it's a commitment that I've spoken of throughout the province because I know it's been on the minds of all Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans. Well, my friends, today I'm proud to say that we take a bold first step. Today we enter into negotiations with the federal government to help us right the direction of Muskrat Falls to the Lower Churchill, the Atlantic Loop, and the financial uncertainty that has been like an anchor on all of us. That weight is in addition to what we've all been through in 2020.
Starting today, that changes. I want to thank my friend, a friend of Newfoundland and Labrador and our Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, for joining us and for taking the time to help further these negotiations, all with a vision for a clean, green Atlantic region. It's a strong testament of his commitment to the East Coast, and what we know is his love for the people of our province. This is an example of how collaboration, and how a federation, of how Canada should work.
Thank you, Prime Minister.
Thank you to my friend Minister LeBlanc for your tireless efforts and recognizing the importance of this complex issue for the province, and indeed the region. Your continued efforts will allow for growing a green, clean, and stable economy in the Atlantic region.
And of course, thank you Minister O'Regan. We are so grateful for your strong voice and advocacy for the people of this province at the national table. I'm personally thankful for your guidance and support, along with your fellow MPs.
It's not my intention to sit here and review or criticize the decisions that were made in the past -- that's been done... and done again. I want to focus on this first push, I want to focus on the many hands on the stone before us, and the momentum we can build as we move it forward together. Working with our partners in Ottawa, we will begin the push to set us on sound financial ground when it comes to Muskrat Falls rate mitigation and advancing our goals for the Atlantic Loop.
Demonstrating Ottawa's commitment, they have again appointed Serge DuPont as the new federal special representative and lead negotiator as a counterpart to Brendan Paddick who leads our own provincial great mitigation team. Together, they will continue to advance this work through both levels of government. We are pleased to announce today that the focus has been directly on our biggest hurdles: reducing the immediate fiscal pressures on the province from the project; federal and provincial governments have been completing work to provide significant interim support to Newfoundland and Labrador; reducing our cash requirements related to servicing the lower Churchill's debt, and other financial obligations.
This means the province doesn't have to borrow 844 million in payments, almost all of which would have been required this month and added to our debt. This measure provides financial flexibility to complete this project and reduces the immediate requirement for significant funds and associated borrowing costs. It also demonstrates the restructuring process has begun in earnest and sets the stage for the next exciting phase of negotiations.
This important next phase speaks to the future of the province and includes an agreement on the scope of financial restructuring and commitment to advance interests associated with the Atlantic Loop. We will start by redefining the financial structure this project to ensure a financially stable long-term solution. We will complete and implement a restructuring agreement by the time of commissioning. This may include federal participation in the capital structure, equity, and debt profile on the projects and the potential monetization of assets, such as expected income from the Labrador-Island Link.
Second, we will together assess opportunities to support the Atlantic Loop and broader electrification objectives in Newfoundland and Labrador. And finally, we have agreed on a critical path forward, including key milestones and a robust government structure. We will develop a draft term sheet by the spring, and complete restructuring agreement by the project's commissioning.
Today, with this first bold step, we start the new momentum. For all of us who have been worried about the issues surrounding Muskrat Falls, and what it could bring to bear on the people of this province, I want you to know that we have heard you. We understand, and we have actively taken action here today to make a difference. Yes, there is much more work to be done, but working together with our partners in Ottawa, joint oversight will be the mandate, putting Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans at ease is the true goal through creating a stable, clean environment for families to grow, work, and play. But rest assured, there are many hands on this stone. It will move. It moved today and it will keep moving. Thank you.
I now welcome my friend, Minister O'Regan.
HON. SEAMUS O'REGAN (Minister of Natural Resources):
Thank you, Premier. And thank you, Prime Minister for being here. It's important for people to know that the federal government recognizes the scale of the problem of Muskrat Falls, and the impact it will have on our province. As MPs we know it because our families, our friends, our neighbours remind us about this all the time. We watch the news every night, we're rate payers too, and we're keenly aware of what is coming down the wire. That's why we're meeting those challenges head-on. These negotiations will look at various options that are in the joint interests of both governments, and what is in the joint interests of both governments is a long-term, permanent solution. We said that we would be there to help, and we are, because when we stay focused on common objectives, our governments are capable of getting the hard stuff done. We saw that last year in the renewed Atlantic Accord, which is an additional $2 billion over the next ten years to the people of the province. We saw that this year in the $395 million invested to create jobs and lower emissions and make it more competitive on our offshore. We're seeing that today.
We have to keep working together to deliver clarity, certainty, and predictability to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, because delivering certainty is how we will secure prosperity for our province. Today is a good day, a good date for rate-payers, a good day for Newfoundland and Labrador.
Minister LeBlanc, back to you.
HON. DOMINIC LEBLANC:
Well, thank you Seamus, and it's also a good day for Canada. Canadians, as the Prime Minister noted, are very attached to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, and today's announcement shows what the Prime Minister has said over and over again, that our partnership with the government of Premier Furey is real, and we look forward to the work in the months ahead.
So, Prime Minister, thank you for joining us this morning, Andrew and Seamus as well. I'm happy to be a small part of this very important day for Newfoundland and Labrador, and Canada.
Thank you very much.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU:
Thank you Dominic. Thank you, Andrew, it's so good to see you. Thank you, Seamus for all your hard work on this. All of you have a wonderful Christmas and pass on all my very, very best, especially for a happy new year, which I think is everyone's priority, to all Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans. Thanks Andrew.
HON. ANDREW FUREY:
Thanks, Prime Minister, and thanks for your leadership on this COVID crisis. We're very lucky to have you at the helm.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU:
Now, vaccines are good news for all of us, and we've all worked together. Thank you so much for everything you've done around the council of federation as well, Andrew, to make sure we're ready for this moment. Having an MD around the table has been a nice bonus for us all.
HON. ANDREW FUREY:
Thanks very much.
Merry Christmas guys. Merry Christmas Dom.
HON. SEAMUS O'REGAN:
Merry Christmas all.
HON. DOMINIC LEBLANC:
Merry Christmas colleagues. Thanks again.
RT HON. JUSTIN TRUDEAU: