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Letter: At the Muskrat inquiry, for whom does this piper play?

The Muskrat Falls Inquiry is about to hold its first hearing. — Telegram file photo
The Muskrat Falls Inquiry - The Telegram

In my letter to The Telegram (Feb. 10 2018, “Public input has to have meaning”), I questioned the appropriateness of the Muskrat Falls inquiry commissioner awarding a contract for a forensic audit without waiting for members of the public to do what he had requested — make submissions outlining their interpretation of the inquiry terms of reference.
Accordingly, I found it passing strange that during recent hearings for individuals and groups applying for standing, that the commissioner seemed to want them to acknowledge that they would abide by his interpretation of the terms of reference.
Is it not inappropriate to effectively ask applicants requesting standing to agree to the commissioner's interpretation of the terms of reference, when that was not the purpose of the hearing?
Is it in accordance with any principle of judicial fairness to effectively corral potential applicants into submission and to thereby effectively deny applicants granted standing the opportunity to challenge and argue how and why the commissioner's interpretation of the terms of reference might be in error?
Furthermore, and subject to government issuing a special order in council expanding the existing government appointed consumer advocate (Dennis Browne's) authority, the commissioner not only all but agreed to grant standing for Browne to represent all consumers, but according to Mr. Browne's statement at the hearing, the commission called Browne in advance of the hearing to inquire if he would apply for standing.
Now while it is clear that citizens need independent inquiry representation, should the commission not have requested proposals from other firms, groups, lawyers, etc. before wholeheartedly soliciting/embracing an already existing government appointee, whose obligations to protect electricity consumers during PUB hearings could very well be in conflict with the broader and different needs all of citizens/taxpayers (e.g. the harder Mr. Browne works during PUB hearings to keep rates down/fair for electricity users, the more Muskrat Falls costs may have to be shifted to citizens/taxpayers/others that he is also supposed to represent during the inquiry)?
It's been said that “He who pays the piper plays the tune.”
However, in this case, government is not only paying the piper, but is directing the piper to play two potentially conflicting tunes. Whose best interest then is Browne to serve?
It's been said that justice must not only be done, but must be seen to be done.
If the principles of fairness, objectivity and independence comprise essential elements of justice, where are they here?

Maurice E. Adams

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