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Editorial: Straight talk on Muskrat Falls, please

A downstream view of the spillway at Muskrat Falls, February 2017.
A downstream view of the spillway at Muskrat Falls, February 2017.

It’s about time for some straight answers on Muskrat Falls. Well, it’s actually well past time — we’re long overdue for the truth — but the situation this week shows that there’s probably only one way to get it.  

And that’s when questions on the project are put to all the people involved under oath.

The project moved deeply into the ridiculous after Nalcor boss Ed Martin resigned/was let go/rode into the sunset with millions of dollars, and the current government couldn’t get its story straight about who was to blame

Insult moved into multiple injuries every time we were told the latest billion-dollar budget increase for the project — to the point that, this time around, when annual operating costs for the project tripled from $36 million a year to $109 million a year, the public reaction was barely beyond a muted “whatever, we’re all finished, anyway.” Think about it: the increase in annual operating costs alone is equivalent to an additional $200 a year in bills for every man, woman and child in the entire province, on top of everything else the benighted project will deliver. But hardly a hiccup of public reaction.

But if you want to see the real reason why it’s time to drag the whole sorry lot involved with this venture into a public inquiry, look no further than the comedy over SNC-Lavalin’s 2013 report saying the project was heading towards financial crisis — at a time when stopping the venture was still possible.

Then-Nalcor boss Martin has said he had never seen the report, telling The Telegram, “I hadn’t seen it. I hadn’t received it. It hadn’t been transmitted to me. So, you know, I have no recollection of anything like that.”

Premier Dwight Ball and Natural Resources Minster Siobhan Coady said they didn’t get a copy until the end of last week — but Ball maintains Nalcor, including Martin, knew about it, saying, “We asked SNC Lavalin about that, and we were told with this report, there was a meeting, and the CEO was in the room when this report was discussed.”

Current Nalcor boss Stan Marshall apparently could find no record of the report at the energy firm, and had to request a copy from SNC.

Then, consider SNC’s bizarre response to whether the report went to Nalcor and Martin, from media relations representative Louis-Antoine Paquin; “I can confirm that we produced a report, in 2013, and that we’ve attempted to hand it over to Nalcor.”

What the heck does that mean? Did they accidentally mail it to the wrong address and have it come back “return to sender”? Did they try to tell Nalcor executives about the concerns, only to be told “We don’t want to hear this” while the executives ran from the room with their hands firmly pressed over their ears?

The time for simply accepting this wide variety of answers is over.

It’s time for witnesses to be subpoenaed.

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