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EDITORIAL: Dunderdale in the spotlight

Former premier Kathy Dunderdale gives testimony at the Muskrat Falls Inquiry, Dec. 17, 2018. —
Former premier Kathy Dunderdale gives testimony at the Muskrat Falls Inquiry, Dec. 17, 2018. — Screenshot

On Dec. 17, with former premier Kathy Dunderdale about to take the stand at the Muskrat Falls Inquiry — six years to the day after the project was sanctioned — we wrote in this space, “hopefully her testimony will answer many of the questions still hovering about what exactly unfolded behind the scenes with her government in the days leading up to the sanctioning of the Muskrat Falls project. The more light shed, the better.”

Well, there’s plenty of light being shed, but not much of it is flattering.

As Dunderdale moves into Day 3 of her testimony, what we’ve heard so far is that she trusted the information she was given about the megaproject by Nalcor Energy, without pursuing any kind of further due diligence at the government level.

Dunderdale’s recall of the behind-the-scenes machinations seems spotty, and her frequent response to inquiry co-counsel Barry Learmonth is, “I can’t speak to that level of detail.”

She contradicts herself from time to time.

On Monday, she told Learmonth she was reassured by the fact that the federal government and the banks would have made sure all the ducks of the multi-billion-dollar hydroelectric project were in a row before issuing the loan guarantee, while at the same time acknowledging her own government had not seen fit to do its own independent analysis.

Dunderdale’s recall of the behind-the-scenes machinations seems spotty, and her frequent response to inquiry co-counsel Barry Learmonth is, “I can’t speak to that level of detail.”

On Tuesday, Dunderdale said she made the appointments to Nalcor’s board of directors, but then said the government ran on consensus, with no one “at the top of the pyramid.”

When she was told that Manitoba Hydro International (MHI) was directed not to bother with a risk analysis as part of its review of Decision Gate 3 numbers, Dunderdale said she had not been aware of that fact until recently, but said she was confident in the numbers Nalcor had given her.

“I wish MHI had done a risk analysis…,” she said. “But I was still satisfied with the information I was given.”

Others have testified the risk analysis process was skipped because there was pressure from the premier’s office to get the project to sanction and further review would have delayed debate in the House of Assembly.

Now, the project is expected to cost more than $6 billion above the figure originally given to the public.

Dunderdale acknowledged project risk was widely discussed, among other issues. “It wasn’t the overarching discussion,” she said.

And yet, revisiting her speaking notes on the day Muskrat Falls was sanctioned, you’d think there wasn’t a cloud in the sky.

“Today we stand tall and proud on the shoulders of those who’ve come before us, knowing that we have not squandered their gifts, but invested them to give our children a brighter, more secure and prosperous future,” she said. “Generations to come will look back on this decision as the dividing line between short-lived riches and sustainable, renewable wealth.”

Or perhaps, the dividing line between potential and project fail.

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