The Liberal government is keeping an oversight report on Muskrat Falls secret until they’re ready to “open the books” on the $9-billion megaproject, and it’s tough to say when that will happen.
Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady was not available to answer questions on the issue, and a statement sent to The Telegram on her behalf offered no reason for withholding the Muskrat Falls oversight report from the public.
This comes at a time when there are new concerns that the massive Labrador hydroelectric project could be further over budget and behind schedule.
Nalcor Energy CEO Ed Martin wouldn’t say at the Crown-owned company’s annual general meeting last week.
Under public pressure in 2014, the government of the day announced it would institute a Muskrat Falls oversight committee that would review all facets of the project and provide quarterly updates on costs, schedules and other particulars.
It’s been six months since the last oversight committee report was released on Sept. 29.
In an emailed statement sent by a spokeswoman on behalf of Coady, the government said the report — which should have been released in December — won’t come out until after the government is ready to release a larger report by consulting firm EY.
The larger EY report is part of the Liberals’ centrepiece election campaign promise to “open the books on Muskrat Falls,” but when that will happen is anybody’s guess.
“The December 2015 report of the oversight committee will be posted once the work of EY is complete,” the email from Coady’s spokeswoman said. “Regarding your questions on the EY report, the provincial government continues to work with EY. As was said on December 21, once EY has completed their work, the report will be provided to the oversight committee for review, then it will be released to the public.”
No explanation was given for why the government is choosing to withhold the December oversight report until the EY report is released.
While the original announcement about the EY report said it would be reviewed by the oversight committee for public release, the same news release in December said, “The process will be completed in March 2016.”
NDP Leader Earle McCurdy said that despite the Liberals campaigning to run a more transparent, responsive government, the results on the Muskrat Falls project so far have been “woeful.”
McCurdy said the fact the government has not released the most recent update from the oversight committee is cause for concern.
“The people who are expected to foot the entire bill here are not getting anything like disclosure or transparency,” he said.
“They appear to be simply taking the Conservatives’ position lock, stock and barrel and carrying on as if there hadn’t been a change in government.”
Tory MHA Keith Hutchings had a different view, saying the government he was a part of built some adequate oversight mechanisms, but the Liberals are letting it fall apart.
“That’s somewhat surprising, based on some of the things this government said when they were in opposition, with regards to making information available, being open and transparent,” Hutchings said.
“It would be nice to see some leadership on the issue, from the minister herself.”