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Ball, Legault talk mining, fixed link and Gull Island

Premier Dwight Ball speaks with reporters about his Halloween meeting with Quebec Premier Francois Legault.
Premier Dwight Ball speaks with reporters about his Halloween meeting with Quebec Premier Francois Legault. - David Maher

Premier Dwight Ball and Quebec Premier Francois Legault had an unannounced meeting on Halloween, which Ball says helped work on areas of mutual interest between the provinces.

Ball says no new agreements were signed as a part of his meeting with Legault, but rather the meetings were about advancing conversations about mining in the Labrador Trough, on transportation routes that would ultimately support a fixed link from the island to Labrador, on renewable energy, and on federal engagement in upcoming projects.

Specifically, Ball says the two provinces are doing preliminary work on making a fixed link possible. Route 138 in Quebec is currently an unfinished road, according to Ball, and would need to be improved by Quebec, should the fixed link project come to pass. 

"Transportation, as you know, this is really about the fixed link for Newfoundland and Labrador,” said Ball.

“It ties within Route 138 on the North Shore of Quebec. Without both coming together and seeing that investment, it doesn’t work one without the other for us.”

A feasibility study released in April 2018 noted a cost of $2.7 billion for such a link, but Ball said that’s not the guaranteed price tag for the project.

Ultimately, Ball says there are responsibilities on the Quebec side in Route 138, on the Newfoundland and Labrador side in potential upgrades for Route 430 on the Northern Peninsula, and the federal government would ideally come to the table to support the project through the federal infrastructure bank. Ball says the private sector would likely play a role in the final project, as well.

Such a project is likely a decade away from shovels breaking the ground, according to the April 2018 study.

The federal Liberals said they would support a fixed link during the election campaign.

Also up for discussion between Ball and Legault: Gull Island.

The Gull Island project has been mused about for decades, with the first formal proposal coming in 1972 under premier Frank Moores. The biggest road block for the project, which would generate 2,250 megawatts compared with the Muskrat Falls project’s 824 megawatts, has been getting electricity through Quebec.

Ball says discussions are still very early, but he believes Quebec will begin to work with Newfoundland and Labrador towards making the project feasible.

“The discussions that we’ve had at the Atlantic Premiers' table is how do we reduce greenhouse gas emissions as a region and look for other sources of power? It could be wind, or it could be hydro, for example,” said Ball.

“What’s important here is for us to speak with Quebec and how collectively we can work together — not just as four provinces, but as five provinces — to be a solution to some of the greenhouse gas emissions that we’re seeing in other provinces.”

Ball says excess power being purchased by the rest of Atlantic Canada from Muskrat Falls is part of the short-term plan, but Gull Island remains in the long-term vision of the province.

“It’s too early to tell. No matter what the project is, you must have a customer, you must have a customer that can afford the power,” he said.

“The difference between Muskrat Falls and Gull Island … is Muskrat Falls had a forced customer – it was the rate payer of Newfoundland and Labrador. That is not something we would ever want to see another province exposed to.”

david.maher@thetelegram.com


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