Muskrat Falls gets brief, symbolic debate

James McLeod
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Vote on project split down party lines

Premier Kathy Dunderdale speaks to reporters about the Muskrat Falls debate in the House of Assembly Wednesday. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram

In the end, basically everyone acknowledged the Muskrat Falls debate was a disappointment — and blamed someone else for the failure.

The debate in the House of Assembly lasted a total of two hours. Only six of the 48 MHAs got a chance to speak, and NDP Leader Lorraine Michael got less than eight minutes to state her position on the $7.5-billion megaproject.

Plans for a weeklong debate on the project broke down over a demand by the Liberals to be able to question expert witnesses on the floor of the legislature.

Question period in the House of Assembly Wednesday started off with Premier Kathy Dunderdale and Liberal Leader Dwight Ball blaming each other for the fact that Muskrat Falls wouldn’t get a more lengthy discussion.

“I will always ask for a debate that means something, that is not a charade,” Ball said. “We asked for witnesses. You were afraid to give us access to the witnesses. That is exactly what happened.”

Dunderdale fired back, “We have looked for every creative way that we could find to actually get the members opposite to come to the House of Assembly prepared to debate this important issue, Mr. Speaker. They have weaseled their way out of it, Mr. Speaker, at every, every opportunity. They do not want to talk policy with regard to Muskrat Falls.”

When the final vote came at

5 p.m., MHAs stood along party lines, with the Liberals and the NDP opposing the current plan to develop Muskrat Falls, and the Tory caucus voting en masse in favour.


“We’re opposed to the current plan because we still have not received the kind of information we need to have with regard to the economics,” Michael said. “This government and Nalcor have not been forthcoming with the detailed information that people need to have around the economics of the project.”

While the provincial cabinet still needs to take the formal step of sanctioning the project, Dunderdale told reporters Wednesday that’s effectively a foregone conclusion.

“There is not one reason in the world why we wouldn’t sanction,” she said.


More scrutiny

A small cluster of protesters outside Confederation Building be­moaned the “death of democracy” ahead of the public debate in the legislature, saying Muskrat Falls should have been given more scrutiny, and should have been given full regulatory approval by the Public Utilities Board before going ahead.

The one small surprise Wednesday was independent MHA Tom Osborne, who voted with the government in favour of the current plan to develop Muskrat Falls.

Osborne said he did so because it seems like the best option available, but he still has serious misgivings.


Burden for ratepayers

He said the current cost estimates represent a massive burden for ratepayers in the province — a burden that will only increase if there are future cost overruns.

“(It’s) $14,000 for every man, woman and child in this province. A family of four — $56,000 that they’ve got to pay back on their utility bills. So I’ve got a very real concern about the cost overruns,” he said. “What I’d like to see government do is guarantee … the rate projections that Nalcor is making.”

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: NDP, Tory, Public Utilities Board

Geographic location: Muskrat Falls

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Recent comments

  • Albert Webber
    December 06, 2012 - 13:01

    WOW!!! Sound's like back in 1930's in Germany...? Can't protest, Get's shut's out on all debate's, My way or the train for you all...Labradorian's :( sad day for Labrador...!

  • Winston Adams
    December 06, 2012 - 11:55

    In the House they talked about Holyrood using 18,000 bls of oil a day and supplying 25 percent of our total energy and that MF was the only way to cut that. Here are the figures just reciived from the government Energy suppleid by Holyrood: 2003-2006 averaged 18.5 percent of our total, and from 2007 -2011 averaged 13 percent , down 30 percent. They forecast it will go up to a average of 21.6 over the next 5 years, and that allows for Vale Inco to 2016. As to the cost of oil, over the last 5 years the price jumped from 52.51 to 91.92, a jjump of 75 percent. But the actual cost of oil has gone up just 26 percent over the 5 years, from 107.4 million to 135.1 million. The reason is that the oil used is down 25 percent from 2.0 million barrels in 2007 to 1.5 million barrels in 2011. So where is all the new consumption from all those big house etc? It is evident that the recent wind added is offsetting Holyrodd oil, and much more could be done. And even if their forecast to 2016 is correct , it is little changed from the 2003- 2007 period. And oil price increases are rather uncertain. These realities of the contribution of Holyrood is in contrast to what the HONORABLE Members stated in the house yesterday. How can anyone be assured that the demand on the island will as they forecast, and enough to pay the bills for MF. personally, my confidence is less than 50 percent. And that isn't high enough to justify it. But its a good reason to bypass the PUB . That wouldn't pass the smell test. And the average consumption per day for the last 3 years is 3,926 barrels per day not 18,000 as the MHAs stated-- just keeping them honest-- and obviously there is more in the winte, like 8 or 9 thousand, and almost none in the summer. Still a problem , but wind and efficiency can handle it.

  • Concerned
    December 06, 2012 - 10:26

    I was in the house yesterday, all Danny Williams was doing was texting and laughing his head off, he was disgusting. What a shameful day.

  • Tim Jamison
    December 06, 2012 - 10:11

    I suppose the non-stop deluge of debate we've had for the past 2 or 3 years doesn't count because it wasn't done by the big wigs in the House? All these people and Nalcor experts and "experts" and politicians talking non-stop, they don't mean anything because it wasn't done in the House. And that last provincial election we had where the main topic was Muskrat, that doesn't count. Wow. Keep stumping for the liberals, Telly. You'll get your friends back in their appointments someday

  • Maggy Carter
    December 06, 2012 - 10:07

    Yes, 'Businessman' our Charter of Rights guarantees that even arseholes like you get to speak their mind in public. And while our elected representatives can speak their minds in public, their right to do so within the people's chamber is assured neither by the Charter nor by the arcane rules under which the legislature functions. Within that supposed bastion of democracy the majority - as you say - gets to stifle any opposition or debate from the minority. It is clear, nevertheless, than even the most fulsome of debates regarding Muskrat would not have altered an outcome that was predetermined and inevitable. Irrespective whether voters are in favour of - or opposed to - Muskrat Falls, it should send chills down their spine that the single largest public expenditure in the history of the province can be vetted on the basis of a two hour debate in which six of the nine speakers were government members. Even Smallwood would have shrunk from such an overwhelming abuse of power.

  • a business man
    December 06, 2012 - 09:12

    Folks, this is why I voted for the Conservatives, donated to their party, and went door knocking for them: so that they would have a a commanding majority government that cannot be stopped by the opposition. It is a wonderful day for democracy. The majority is getting they way, and we don't have to listen to the fringe minority. Of course, if I did not support the government, I would be irate, but since I support the government, and MF, I am quite happy that the debate is done and gone.

  • crista
    December 06, 2012 - 08:57


  • Harry Coates
    December 06, 2012 - 08:12

    See, I do not get it!! NALCOR, as various governments -- Liberal and PC -- have repeated, is a Crown Corporation. Like the NLC, and the NLHC, NALCOR is owned by us, the people of Newfoundland & Labrdor. It is a generator of electricity, which it mostly sells to a retail distributor, NL Power. While I know neither the CEO of NALCOR nor the Premier nor many senior civil servants, I do know that few among them get up in the morning wondering "who will I screw today;" why would they? Like the rest of us, I know they are mostly hardworking stiffs.

  • Barry
    December 06, 2012 - 07:46

    The pool old thing is starting to look so weathered !!!

  • Scott Free
    December 06, 2012 - 07:35

    Democracy is dead in NL; the Dunderdale Dimwits delivered the deciding blow in following Little Man Dan's lead during the Danny Damage Era and under the direction of not-so-distant cousin Prorougie Steve and the Con Party of Canada.

  • roy
    December 06, 2012 - 07:29

    The liberals and NDP had a chance to a week of debate but because they didn't get their own way , walked away. This is a lost opportunity to have gotten information out to the public, which they were elected to do.With the aid of the news media, they could have gotten answers to the public. Because they walked away we are left with a lot of questions. They were elected to represent the people and didn't do it plain and simple and i believe the people see through it. Yes the elected govt held the cards as the LIB or NDP would have if elected, but that is no excuse for the opp neglecting their duty and now spending their time doing the spin doctor routine of opposing every study done without any legitimate study done on their own. Shame on you for neglecting your duty as opposition.