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EDITORIAL: Kennedy on Muskrat Falls - then and now

Former natural resources minister Jerome Kennedy.
Former Natural Resources minister Jerome Kennedy. — Telegram file photo

It is in no way good enough.

Monday, former Natural Resources minister Jerome Kennedy was on the stand at the Muskrat Falls inquiry, clearly and directly telling inquiry counsel that he didn’t see crucial reports about the need to include money in the project’s budget to cover critical risks.

Sometimes, you can only wonder if the testimony can get any more gobsmacking.

That he didn’t know the project had virtually no chance of making an over-enthusiastic schedule that reviewers said had a one per cent chance of being met.

That he was “surprised” that no government department — including his own, which was responsible for government oversight of the project — did any sort of independent review of Nalcor Energy’s cost estimates for the now-massively over budget and behind schedule hydroelectric project.

That his comments trashing the province’s Public Utilities Board were inappropriate — comments about a board that had the temerity to say that, when they reviewed the project, they weren’t given enough time or material to come up with a legitimate answer as to whether Muskrat Falls was the right choice. (That attack by Kennedy, PUB staff have testified, left them packing their desks and preparing to be fired. It’s tragically comical that it’s now clear that Kennedy didn’t have enough information to say that Muskrat was the best choice either, and that his stridency at the time was nothing more than an all-too-common gust of political wind.)

This is the point when we have to start asking not only who knew what — and who clearly knew little, because Kennedy is the second former Natural Resources minister to testify that they knew little about the risks of the project — but also what is going to happen if it can be clearly shown that information was deliberately hidden by executives at Nalcor.

Despite all the bluster that came out of the House of Assembly at the time — the idea that the project was the best thing since sliced bread, driven by a cadre of the best technical staff to ever walk the planet — it’s absolutely clear that this was not so much a well-reasoned project overseen by a diligent and thorough government, but instead some kind of hopeful political vision-quest, driven by faith, naïve pride and the desire to put one over on a provincial neighbour.

Would buying power from Quebec have been a cheaper option to solve our short-term power woes? Well, Nalcor apparently didn’t even kick the tires on the prospect before dismissing it. One Nalcor executive told the inquiry that, basically, if Hydro-Québec had power to sell, he would have expected them to come knocking. And no, Nalcor didn’t make any overtures — while Kennedy testified that he was under the impression that the option had been fully explored.

Sometimes, you can only wonder if the testimony can get any more gobsmacking.

And then sadly, it does.

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