Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 52, I am requesting an emergency debate on the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric generating facility.
The project is an absolute fiasco, and the government has to make some big decisions about it very quickly. Parliament should participate in making the decision, but the usual rules do not provide for that.
The Inuit are worried about mercury pollution, which could contaminate fish. The site has been evacuated because of demonstrations, and an Inuit leader is on a hunger strike to shut down the project.
The government, which has a fiduciary obligation toward indigenous peoples and is responsible for the Fisheries Act, granted the necessary permits. The Inuit are now asking the government to suspend those permits to delay flooding of the area, which is scheduled to begin very soon.
There is more. The government is financially committed to the tune of $6.4 billion in the form of a loan guarantee, but Muskrat Falls is a fiasco. It is years behind schedule, and costs have spiralled out of control.
There is every indication that the federal loan guarantee will convert to direct participation, leaving taxpayers on the hook. Despite the initial estimate of $6.4 billion, costs have mushroomed and may reach or even exceed $15 billion. To date, Newfoundland and Labrador has spent all of the money Ottawa committed, but the project is far from complete.
The province is asking the federal government to increase its $6.4-billion contribution through a new loan guarantee, one that is much larger, if not unlimited. Once again, the government must respond very quickly, because Newfoundland and Labrador is running out of money.
A loan guarantee is not an expenditure, and Parliament does not have to vote on it as an appropriation.
The government could be exposing taxpayers to financial risk worth about $10 billion in the very near future, without the House having any say in the matter. There is no normal procedure under which I can submit this issue to the House.
The only avenue open to us is that of an emergency debate, which is the reason for my request, and I hope you respond positively, Mr. Speaker.