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Trudeau sidesteps Muskrat Falls concerns

Primer Minister speaks in St. John’s Friday at the Core Science Building under construction on the Memorial University campus.
Primer Minister speaks in St. John’s Friday at the Core Science Building under construction on the Memorial University campus. Amy Fitzpatrick photo - Contributed

Prime Minister alludes to ongoing Atlantic Accord negotiations during St. John’s visit

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had nothing specific to say Friday about Muskrat Falls, rate mitigation or the ongoing Atlantic Accord negotiations at a news conference in St. John’s.
“We will continue to work with the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador on ways to ensure the cost of living is affordable for the people, like we do right across the country,” Trudeau told reporters Friday morning after a tour of the progress made on Memorial University’s Core Science Building.
“We’ve given significant loan guarantees for the Muskrat Falls project which has reduced the cost. We’re always looking to hear directly from the premier on ways we can make sure we’re working together to benefit Newfoundland and Labrador.”
Trudeau did not get any more specific regarding any of the discussions ongoing between the federal and provincial governments, offering no details on how the province and the federal government may come to any arrangement to address the economic effects of the Muskrat Falls project.

Prospects of a third federal loan guarantee between the federal government and Newfoundland and Labrador — raised by the Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities (PUB) interim report on rate mitigation — were left unaddressed in a brief discussion with reporters on Friday morning.
Trudeau visited the province for the first time since his apology to survivors of the residential school system, late in 2018.
Trudeau and Premier Dwight Ball met for approximately 30 minutes on Friday afternoon. While no questions were allowed from media at a brief photo op, Ball said the pair were working on a number of issues between the province and the federal government.

Ball says negotiations around the Atlantic Accord were the top priority in the meeting, along with discussions of the federal Bill C-69, which will change how environmental assessments are handled across the country, as well as pharmacare.
In his remarks, Trudeau said it’s important to work closely together on the Atlantic Accord.
Negotiations between the province and the federal government regarding the Atlantic Accord have been ongoing for almost a year, relating to the province’s share of revenues from the offshore oil and gas industry.
So far, both the federal and provincial governments have held details of the scale and scope of the negotiations close to their chest, only to say the negotiations will seek to reflect Newfoundland and Labrador as primary beneficiary of the province’s offshore oil and gas reserves. No details on any potential give and take resulting from those negotiations have been commented upon publicly to date.
Trudeau also made a brief visit with Liberal donors known as members of the “Laurier Club,” which is reserved for donors to the federal Liberals who contribute $1,500 or more to the party annually.
The deadline for an agreement on an update to the Atlantic Accord is March 31.

david.maher@thetelegram.com
Twitter: DavidMaherNL

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