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Executive Council
March 21, 2011

The following is the response by the Honourable Kathy Dunderdale, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, to the Speech from the Throne at the Opening Session of the Forty-Sixth General Assembly of the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador on Monday, March 21, 2011:

Premier’s Response to Speech from the Throne

I thank His Honour for delivering the fourth Throne Speech of his term, and for doing so with characteristic grace and eloquence.

Let me congratulate the mover and seconder (of the motion to draft an address in reply to the speech from the throne), the newest Members of this House and the newest Members of our Caucus. The Member for Conception Bay East – Bell Island was elected on December 2, and sworn in on December 20. The Member for Humber West was elected on February 15, and sworn in on March 16.

This has been the first occasion for either to speak in the House as Members representing their respective districts, and they have both done a remarkable job. They represent the spirit, determination and work ethic required of all members as they work to serve the people of our great province.

I thank the Leader of the New Democratic Party and the Leader of the Official Opposition for their comments today.

I am so pleased to see that the Opposition leader has returned to join us here on the floor of the House of Assembly. She has come through a tough battle but looking at her here today in fine form, I have no doubt she is prepared to take on the full scope of her important role here in the House and no doubt she is ready to engage in vigorous debate. As we discuss the issues of importance to the people of our province in the months ahead, I am sure the exchanges will be spirited and feisty, and I look forward to it.

I acknowledge the many in the Gallery above us and the Speaker’s Gallery today, and also those who are tuning in by television and the web. I thank you for your interest and the longevity of your focus and patience, especially as I begin my remarks now following those of several others!

Today’s Speech from the Throne opens the fourth session since the 2007 election, and the last before the next election this fall. It is also the first of my tenure as Premier. The speech is an important statement of our government’s vision and plans moving forward.

What has been outlined here today is not the full picture by any means, but it certainly gives a clear indication of our approach as we continue our work to secure a prosperous and bright future for Newfoundland and Labrador.

And the good news is; we have never been in a stronger position.

As the Throne Speech makes clear, laying the foundation over the past eight years was just phase one. Like any foundation, it is an invitation to build something even greater.

We are progressing on the path to a new, self-reliant society that is economically sustainable, socially progressive, attractive to young people, supportive of families, attentive to seniors and rich with opportunities to grow strong, thriving enterprises harnessing our vast pool of talent and resources.

As we continue to progress, we will take into account the things we have learned, the ground we have covered, the new opportunities that have emerged and the changing needs of our people.

To be effective, a government must be tuned in and fully responsive to the needs and aspirations of the people it serves.

It must not only listen but really pay attention, and its actions must demonstrate that it has heard what has been said.

We are seeing, quite dramatically, in other parts of the world how people are willing to put their lives on the line to ensure they have a government that cares about them and shares their aspirations. The importance of having a government that connects with the people it serves cannot be underestimated.

All my life, I’ve been building connections and partnerships.

All my life, I’ve taken full advantage of opportunities to stand up boldly to make a difference.

The freedom to participate is not something many people had the luxury of taking for granted. As I stated when I was sworn in, it wasn’t so many years ago when my grandmother and many of her generation could not fully participate, simply because they were women.

I believe in inclusiveness – in drawing people together, regardless of their differences, to build a better and stronger community that includes everyone – a province that everyone can feel is truly theirs.

An effective government is both an expression and an instrument of the will of the people. It is imperative to ensure the government’s approach and the people’s aspirations are aligned.

I am determined to ensure that the government I lead is a true partnership, uniting the people with those they elect to serve their best interests.

Partnership building and team building can make the difference in a great many areas of public policy. The Throne Speech emphasizes the importance of regional approaches to governance, community-building and economic development.

Why? Because we stand stronger when we work together as neighbours toward common goals, than when we work at cross-purposes to the detriment of one another.

Since 2003, we have made huge gains by working together. Those achievements have been simply amazing: from equity stakes and super-royalties from our offshore to billions of dollars in infrastructure investments; from poverty reduction to education and health care advances; from the new Atlantic Accord to “have status”; and on and on the list goes.

But as exciting as our past accomplishments have been, my focus is squarely on what’s ahead. My optimism is grounded, not on how far we’ve come, but on what I see before us. The prospects for new growth throughout Newfoundland and Labrador are enormous, and our people are better prepared than ever to seize them.

For Newfoundland and Labrador, the best is indeed yet to come.

And we heard this reflected in the Throne Speech – I would like to highlight a couple of things in the Speech that will be very significant for our province in the year ahead.

His Honour began with a discussion of Phase I of the Lower Churchill Project at Muskrat Falls, which is one of the most exciting developments on the horizon for all of eastern Canada – indeed for all of Canada, given its scope and its reach.

The most powerful sign that things have changed for us as a province is the leadership role we are now taking in energy development.

Our story is resonating far beyond our borders, and people across Canada and the U.S. and beyond are sitting up and taking notice of the opportunities for development right here in Newfoundland and Labrador. We are an energy super-warehouse!

There is so much on the horizon – with work ramping up on Hebron, Long Harbour, mining in Labrador west. We are seizing opportunities; as we are with the Lower Churchill.

At the meeting of the Combined Councils of Labrador in February, where I appreciated the tremendous warmth and enthusiasm of the reception I received, my address included points on what Churchill development means for industrial and economic development prospects in Labrador – something that’s been talked about for a long time, but is now at last within reach.

As I said then and I reiterate now: the development of Muskrat Falls will be a great enabler for future opportunities in Labrador and will greatly improve Labrador’s ability to attract industrial development in the region.

It will also bring 5,400 direct person years of employment to Labrador, along with generating approximately $450 million in labour earnings and business income for Labrador residents and enterprises.

That doesn’t sound to me like a development with no benefits for Labrador, as some have incorrectly stated. It is clear that Muskrat Falls is a very good deal for Labrador and for our entire province.

It is the most cost-effective, sensible approach to meeting our own energy needs and in addition we now have the opportunity to export surplus power over lines that were simply not accessible to us before.

I cannot emphasize strongly enough how significant this is for Newfoundland and Labrador.

And with Gull Island on the horizon and the Upper Churchill Contract winding down, it is just going to get better.

And related to the development of the Lower Churchill, a historic and exciting announcement was made today by the Government of Canada and the Innu Nation – a financial agreement has been reached on the Innu land claim.

My Minister of Aboriginal Affairs, the Honourable Member for Torngat Mountains, proudly represented our government at this announcement. I congratulate the Government of Canada and the Innu Nation on this achievement. What an amazing day for the Innu people, for Labrador, for our entire province, and for our country!

Another of the many initiatives we referenced today is that, in this year’s Budget, we will take a step forward in expanding access to child care in our communities.

Access to child care is critical, not just to the families who need it, but also to our economy – and therefore to all of us.

Many parents are putting their careers on hold, taking their skills and expertise out of the labour force at the very time we need them when we are working to continue our economic growth.

Mothers in particular are putting their careers on hold for lack of child care, and when they return to the workforce, they have sometimes lost years of experience. They may find that others have leaped ahead of them in terms of seniority and promotions.

They may have a tough time making up for the years they’ve missed and, as a consequence, may not be able to achieve their earning potential. We lose some of our most capable professionals because of this.

Our budget will contain an initiative related to child care spaces that I am sure you will agree is an exciting one.

We need young families, raising their children here, filling our schools, growing our communities, pursuing their professional goals and helping secure our future.

As highlighted in the Throne Speech, we are taking action now “to swing wide the doors to opportunity for many.”

Child care, early childhood learning, education, career access, inclusion for persons with disabilities, poverty reduction, affordable housing – our investments in these areas all contribute to placing self-reliance within reach of many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who might not achieve it otherwise.

Everything we are doing is focused on giving people opportunities to be engaged in the exciting things that are happening in our province, to reap the benefits and, in turn, to give all of us the benefit of what they bring to the mix. As they put down roots and raise families, all of us reap the rewards, and Newfoundland and Labrador rises to realize its true potential.

I am so excited and enthusiastic about the amazing potential for our people and our province as we move forward. Stay tuned for the provincial Budget in April, because we will have more to announce then. The Budget will have a range of progressive new initiatives to put into action the initiatives you have heard referenced today.

As was stated in the conclusion of the Throne Speech and I am compelled to reiterate:
“[Our] Government has provided the conditions on which good people can build…. This secure foundation is an invitation to individuals, businesses and communities throughout our province to join… in building a future of prosperity and self-reliance unprecedented in our history – a future truly befitting our incredible potential as people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

2011 03 21             5:20 p.m.

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