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Opposition leaders criticize Houston's plan to miss week at Province House

Opposition leaders are criticizing Premier Tim Houston's plan to attend a conference in Germany during the spring sitting of the legislature. (Jean Laroche/CBC - image credit)
Opposition leaders are criticizing Premier Tim Houston's plan to attend a conference in Germany during the spring sitting of the legislature. (Jean Laroche/CBC - image credit)

Premier Tim Houston will miss a week of the spring session of the legislature that will include the second half of debate on his government's budget.

Houston told reporters on Friday that when MLAs return to Province House after March, he'll be attending a hydrogen conference in Hamburg, Germany, at the invitation of federal Energy Minister Jonathan Wilkinson.

"I think it's important that we represent Nova Scotia at the hydrogen conference, for sure," he said at Province House.

"Minister Wilkinson also thinks that's important."

Houston's press secretary said the conference begins March 18 and the itinerary is still being finalized. Houston is scheduled to speak at the event and also meet with industry representatives while in Germany.

The energy potential of hydrogen developments could "change our entire economy in this province," said Houston. There are two proposals in the province for hydrogen production facilities.

'Team Canada' to promote sector

Houston said Wilkinson has also invited Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey to attend the conference as part of a "Team Canada" to promote the sector's potential.

Liberal Leader Zach Churchill said the premier is "running away to Germany" because he doesn't like being in the legislature.

The premier could send public servants and Natural Resources Minister Tory Rushton to the conference if he thinks it's important for the province to have a presence in Germany, Churchill told reporters.

"He does not have to go himself. He's doing it to get out of the legislature because he doesn't like answering questions."

NDP Leader Claudia Chender said she wasn't surprised to learn on Thursday night that Houston would not be at Province House when MLAs return from March Break.

"The premier doesn't like to be in this House because he is forced to answer questions and he answers them badly," she told reporters.

Being away while the House is in session is "a real abdication of responsibility," said Chender.

Before returning to Nova Scotia when the conference wraps up, Houston will attend the funeral for former prime minister Brian Mulroney in Montreal on March 23.

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