Lawyers speak out on Muskrat Falls process

James McLeod
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St. John’s lawyer Ches Crosbie said he doesn’t want to become a target for speaking on the Muskrat Falls project, but he’s doing it anyway.

“I don’t want to get pissed on by the government,” he said. “Like anyone, I don’t want to make myself a target.”

Crosbie was one of 10 lawyers who signed their names to a letter to The Telegram calling on the government to give the province’s Public Utilities Board (PUB) as much time as it needs to do a review of the Muskrat Falls project.

Speaking to The Telegram, Crosbie tried to make it crystal clear that he’s not against the hydroelectric project, and he’s not against the government.

“My position on this is really pretty simple: I’m not an expert on electrical power generation. I have no expertise on any of the issues surrounding this as a  lawyer. But as a lawyer, I do think that due process should be followed, and the project should get a fair and full hearing before the public utilities board,” he said. “I have no political agenda. I’m a government supporter. But as a lawyer, I can recognize when something deserves a full hearing.”

The Public Utilities Board is reviewing the Muskrat Falls project to determine whether it’s a cheaper source of power for Newfoundland than an isolated-island alternative.

The report was originally supposed to be filed by the end of 2011, however due to delays in getting the necessary project information from Nalcor, the board was given an extension.

PUB chairman Andy Wells has said to do the job properly, they need until the end of June — time enough to hold public hearings across the province, and a technical conference.

Natural Resource Minister Jerome Kennedy, however, has said that the final report absolutely needs to be completed by the end of March, so that it can be debated in the House of Assembly this spring.

Crosbie said that for the sake of a couple months, the government should respect the due process.

“I do feel, on this issue that there’s no need to plow ahead at breakneck speed, and that the PUB should be given the time it needs, should be given due process, and that there should be a full and fair hearing on the project,” he said. “It’s for the aid of making better decisions that you do that, it’s got nothing to do with whether there should be a Muskrat Falls project or there shouldn’t.”

The letter also has signatures from Gerald O’Brien, Cabot Martin, Edward Hearn, Richard Cashin, Richard Rogers, Dennis Browne, Philip Buckingham, Bernard Coffey and Stephen Fitzgerald.

Coffey said part of the reason he decided to make his objections public now was because the political opposition thus far hasn’t been very effective.

“At this juncture in our political history, we don’t have a strong and effective opposition, and therefore I think that it’s a situation where people who make command some measure of public respect are called upon to speak out,” he said. “The opposition in the case of the Liberals is in between leaders, and, well, they’re the Opposition Party. The NDP, they’re just not being effective on the issue.”

Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: Public Utilities Board, Opposition Party, NDP

Geographic location: Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • Muskrat Worker
    February 03, 2016 - 20:59

    You hear a lot of talk from people that have never set foot on site saying this is better than sliced bread. I work at the project site, and see first hand where the money has gone. Right from the Camp operator, East Coast Carering to the entire Nalcor Project Team. A drug test just to receive a band aid for a blister? How much can we afford to line the pockets of these crooks? I have tendered my resignation with Nalcor due to the fire storm they have created and will not be party to the continued theft of taxpayers funds. Nalcor has not even touched the Federal Money, but stole our tax dollars for this mess.

  • HarbourMaster
    February 04, 2012 - 09:58

    I do not understand why it is necessary to have Muskrat Falls discussed at the spring sitting of the house. As Ches Crosbie points out why not give the PUB the time necessary to complete their task and have the debate in the fall. We do not have to listen to Jerome Kednnedy's fear mongering about having to take a hot brick to bed to keep us warm. These type of statements are totally irresponsible coming from a cabinet minister. As per the Corner Brook economist article in the Telegram it unfortunately looks like the mill will close in Corner Brook. If that does happen we will have enough electricity to keep everyone warm, we can keep the bricks in the shed and we can save $7 billion by shelving the Muskrat Falls project. It is

  • James G. Learning
    February 03, 2012 - 21:06

    Well what does it matter if the PUB gets the extension it is asking for? The information they will get, will be from Nalcor's incomplete files. Circular and muddy. Time to give it up. That said, Labradoreans will meet you on the ground at Muskrat Falls to stop you. Remember we live here. With all due respect.

  • Cyril Rogers
    February 03, 2012 - 19:44

    I fully support the idea of attaching your real name to any comment you make. Many people are genuinely concerned about some form of negative reaction or possibly some form of retribution and I find this appalling in a supposedly free society. I believe we all have the right to freely express our opinion but it should be done respectfully and openly. After all, our forebears fought and died for this freedom. The mudslingers abuse their sacrifice! Unfortunately, those who would try to engage in mudslinging tend to hide behind fake names, specifically people like "John Smith". He seems to have a problem knowing fact from opinion and is so one-sided in all of his ramblings that he is clearly a Tory hack. As he likes to say: "Give me a break!" and man up or go away.

  • The Lawyers Spoke, It Must Be So
    February 03, 2012 - 17:35

    Politics does indeed make strange bedfellows. To trot out a bunch of Lawyers with their QC and LLb designations does nothing to enlighten this process. While Mr. Crosbie's concerns appear to be legit, one can question the ulterior motives of some of the other "usual suspects" that have chosen to bless us with their "prominent" signatures. As Mr. Crosbie stated " I am not an expert on electrical power generation". The days of the public accepting lawyers as self proclaimed experts on everything have passed. So why is it that the expertise of the Gilbert Bennett's and Ed Martin's are summarily dismissed by some members of this list? The process is one thing but I suspect many that have signed here have their minds made up and no amount of expertise will suffice. If this is about lining up prominent lawyers, I can think of a few on the other side, Danny Williams, Jerome Kennedy, Tom Marshall......shall I continue? Its time to move the discussion forward and its time for the other two political parties to formulate a position of their own on MF. You can't sit and watch the tennis game forever, you eventually have to show up to play. The NDP were retweeting this story today ignorant to the fact they were being labeled ineffective. Ironically, many of the old establishment that have shackled us with a huge debt are suddenly concerned about what this might mean for our children. As much as we resent Quebec for the Upper Churchill, I doubt their citizens maligned HQ leadership fifty years ago because it was prepared to implement its vision. NL's shouldn't either.

  • Brett
    February 03, 2012 - 12:54

    Breakneck speed? Who's kidding who? This project is progressing at a snails pace. No I'm not harping on the PUB, or on Nalcor. But the idea that this project is travelling at a blistering pace is ridiculous. That being said, just because one part of the project is slower doesn't mean that we should be putting the pressure on other areas of the project to meet an artificial deadline. *BUT* there does need to be some accountability to push each of the segments through or re-baseline the whole project.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    February 03, 2012 - 11:21

    While it is fine and necessary for the PUB to be given more time to review Muskrat Falls, it is not sufficient. ++++++ You will note (from the PUB's website) that the PUB consultation process requires presentations to be within the scope of the "fix is in", highly restrictive, 2-option, Nalcor pre-determined, Reference Question (also, any public questions not within the scope of the "fix is in" Reference Question will also be given short shrift). +++++ So, I would ask, what is the point, what is the benefit, of even extending the PUB's time --- since the fix will remain in by way of the Reference Question? +++++ Extended time alone (without an unrestricted Reference Question), will only serve to give the 'appearance' of a thorough and reliable review. ++++ We need a PUB review that does not have its hands tied by a government/Nalcor-led, pre-determined strategy that will hoodwink ratepayers (their children and grand children) and tie them to an unneeded, unaffordable, multi-billion dollar corporate make-work project --- one that has been by designed and set up to ensure that NO MATTER WHAT -- Muskrat Falls comes out being shown as the 'least cost option'--- one that will destroy our potential (come 2041) of benefiting from our existing zero cost, fully paid for Upper Churchill asset (and ensure Quebec continues to reap those benefits post- 2041) and enslave NL ratepayers generation after generation many decades into the future. +++++ Unbelievable.

  • W.F. Coaker
    February 03, 2012 - 10:30

    A.K.A John Smith makes the best case I've seen so far for requiring people who post in this newspaper to use their real names. Is there anyone who doubts that government is using the anonymity of these boards to impugn the integrity of people, like Crosbie, who dare speak out against it. I think these people deserve a lot of credit for having the guts and sense of duty to call on the government to respect its own public accountability process. Our short history as a province, and indeed the era before it became a province, is strewn with examples of social and economic carnage that resulted from bad decision making - disastrous decisions that were imposed by autocratic governments without public scrutiny. By hiding behind fictitious characters, government has a new weopon to quash public opposition without having to take responsibility for its comments. Smith exhorts Crosbie to "crawl back under your rock". How sleazy, disgusting and contemptible can you get. When this despicable character runs out of facts or logic to support his government pals, he resorts to slinging mud. Did I hear somewhere that Dunderdale bemoaned the lack of decorum or non-partisanship in this debate? She and Kennedy need to take a long look in the mirror.

  • Jimmy O'Neill
    February 03, 2012 - 09:39

    Whassamatter, John? Still bitter about your law school application being rejected? FYI, Shakespear's point was that the lawyers maintained law and order, and the character who uttered the phrase you reference was an anarchist. By getting rid of the lawyers, his goal of anarchy would be attained. You might want to bone up on your Shakespear...

  • John Smith
    February 03, 2012 - 07:18

    ..."command respect"??? Lawyers??? Politically motivated lawyers with axes to burn??? Lawyers who ran in the last election??? Lawyers who were involved in the political machine before most of us were born??? Give me a break, and go crawl back under your rock.Remeber what William Shakespare said in Henry VI part II about lawyers??? He was a smart man.

    • Anonymous Lawyer
      February 03, 2012 - 12:34

      "The first thing we do," said the character in Shakespeare's Henry VI, is "kill all the lawyers." Contrary to popular belief, the proposal was not designed to restore sanity to commercial life. Rather, it was intended to eliminate those who might stand in the way of a contemplated revolution -- thus underscoring the important role that lawyers can play in society.