05/14/2012 03:01 EDT | Updated 07/14/2012 05:12 EDT

Mulcair Says NDP's Quebec Caucus Fully Behind Muskrat Falls


Federal NDP Leader Tom Mulcair says he has taken political stings in his home province of Quebec for supporting Newfoundland and Labrador's bid to tap hydroelectric power at Muskrat Falls, but his support remains strong.

"I was the only federal politician in the province of Quebec to come out in favour of loan guarantees for Muskrat Falls [and] the Lower Churchill during the last election campaign," Mulcair told CBC News.

"In fact, I took a lot of heat for that position. But as I said during the campaign, look, you can't preach in favour of green renewable energy and then come out against it just because it's in a neighbour's backyard."

Mulcair said he not only was still fully behind a federal loan guarantee for Muskrat — which the federal Conservatives announced before the 2011 election — but that the measure had the full support of the NDP's 58-member Quebec caucus.

"Some of the arguments in Quebec [included the thought], 'Well, nobody else has ever had these loan guarantees.' My answer was apply for them, rather than try to take them away from someone else."

While Mulcair has continued the support for Muskrat Falls that former leader Jack Layton had announced in 2011, he said there is no great difference of opinion between the federal party and provincial New Democrats, who have been hammering the proposal at the house of assembly.

"I think [provincial leader] Lorraine Michael is doing her job of calling the government to account," Mulcair said.

Calls Penashue a marionette

Meanwhile, Mulcair, who spoke during a provincial party gathering in St. John's on Saturday, brushed aside criticism from Intergovernmental Affairs Minister Peter Penashue, who is Newfoundland and Labrador's federal cabinet representative.

A statement issued from Penashue's office attacked Mulcair for pursuing "his party’s dangerous economic experiments and high tax agenda," and that he "wants to shut down the responsible development of our resources and kill jobs." Penashue's statement chided Mulcair for criticizing how Alberta's oilsands are being developed.

"It's very disappointing to hear someone who was once relatively progressive like Peter Penashue parroting the lines fed to him by Stephen Harper's prime minister's office," said Mulcair, who also described Penashue as a "marionette" of the prime minister.