Lieutenant Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador Frank Fagan opened the third session of the province’s forty-eighth general assembly with his throne speech, which included remarks on energy, transportation, and infrastructure issues in the province.
With regards to the Muskrat Falls power project, Fagan addressed the positive accomplishments that the project reached over the past year, but also the need to learn from the issues that have arisen:
“Our Government has worked hard with Nalcor to get the Muskrat Falls project on a better path. This hard work has paid off, as we witnessed the achievement of unprecedented progress, with several important milestones reached over the past year.
Construction of the project is now almost 90 per cent complete and most recently, the transmission link with Nova Scotia was finished, marking the first time in Newfoundland and Labrador’s history that we are connected to the North American power grid. This allows us to import electricity at a cheaper rate than it costs to produce at the Holyrood Generation Station.
While the past cannot be changed, our Government took action to ensure that the Muskrat Falls Project is better managed. It is important that we examine why this project received sanction in the first place and ensure that the circumstances that led to that sanctioning never occur again. That is why our Government launched a public inquiry into the Muskrat Falls project led by Justice Richard D. LeBlanc.
That inquiry, which began its work in January, will examine whether all options were considered at the time of sanctioning the project. It will look at why there are significant differences between the actual cost of the project and the estimated cost at the time of sanction. The inquiry will also explore whether it was justified and reasonable for the project to be excluded from oversight by the Public Utilities Board.
We expect the final report from the inquiry by December 2019.”
In regards to infrastructure, Fagan commented on the steps taken by the government to introduce five-year plans for all aspects of infrastructure development and maintenance, and the benefits that it will provide for both the province and those who work in the industry:
“Infrastructure is a long-term investment that requires a long-term outlook. Planning one year at a time is not sufficient. This is why our Government has taken a five-year approach to infrastructure planning.
Last March, we released The Way Forward: A Multi-Year Plan for Infrastructure Investments that outlines infrastructure projects across all sectors of government, such as education, health, justice and transportation. Similarly, we introduced five-year plans for the development and maintenance of road and marine infrastructure.
Long-term planning provides certainty and predictability for the construction industry. Enabling contractors to see projects that are on the horizon allows them to make investments in their own companies, plan their expenditures and business opportunities and position themselves to be competitive in public infrastructure procurement.”
Fagan also noted the challenges facing the transportation industry, especially in regards to asphalt mixes used on provincial highways. Highways in the province are experiencing higher volumes, and the asphalt mixes previously used may not be the same solution that is needed moving forward:
“Our province’s physical environment presents unique challenges for transportation infrastructure. Deteriorating asphalt on our roads is a hazard to travellers and costly to replace. Our Government is working with industry to test different asphalt mixes to determine the best types of asphalt for our traffic volumes and environment. In 2017, we paved five sections on the Trans-Canada Highway with different types of asphalt. Beginning this spring, we will analyze the wear of this pavement annually and use this information to improve roads for the future.”
Issues involving infrastructure were prominent in Fagan’s remarks as, in addition to comments on energy, transportation, and long-term infrastructure planning, comments were also included regarding new private sector partnerships in addressing health care infrastructure, as well as the continued work on the Trans-Labrador Highway.
To read a full copy of the Lieutenant Governor’s speaking notes, click here.
*Please note that the speaking notes may not exactly match the speech as it was delivered in the House of Assembly.