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Final phase of Muskrat Falls inquiry starts with money talk

Muskrat Falls Inquiry Commissioner Richard LeBlanc.
Muskrat Falls Inquiry Commissioner Richard LeBlanc. - File photo

Panel scheduled to include Newfoundland Power president Peter Alteen

The Muskrat Falls Inquiry has picked through the decisions leading to the approval of the power project, then looked at the details behind cost increases and schedule delays during construction. Over the next two weeks, the inquiry will broadly cover several different topics. 

It begins Tuesday with a “financial effects panel,” a day with eight witnesses scheduled, to talk about the consequences of the megaproject when it comes to paying the estimated $12.7-billion bill. 

Scheduled witnesses are: Newfoundland Power president Peter Alteen; Consumer Advocate Dennis Browne; Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE) president Jerry Earle; Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro’s manager of rates and regulation Kevin Fagan; community sector leader Bernice Hancock; deputy minister Finance Denise Hanrahan; former NDP leader Lorraine Michael and professor Brandon Schaufele.  

 

Beginning on Wednesday, the inquiry will hear from Pelino Colaiacovo of Morrison Park Advisors. He will be covering what the province can do to prepare for the expiry of the Churchill Falls power contract in 2041, and has been asked for an analysis of the “cumulative present worth” (CPW) comparison used to support the final decision to sanction the Muskrat Falls Project over a specific, “isolated island” alternative.

Colaiacovo will be followed by AJ Goulding. Goulding is president of London Economics International LLC and authored a report released earlier this year by the C.D. Howe Institute — comparing the Muskrat Falls Project, the Keeyask Hydroelectric Project in Manitoba and the Site C hydro project in British Columbia. He has been asked to appear as a witness to the Muskrat Falls Inquiry to speak to energy regulation in Newfoundland and Labrador.

The Commissioner indicated he wanted to hear more related to the role and duties of the public service, including record keeping. Several witnesses have been scheduled on this topic, including: Newfoundland and Labrador’s former information and privacy commission Donovan Molloy (now working as a judge in the Northwest Territories), Memorial University of Newfoundland associate professor of political science Kelly Blidook, and Mel Cappe, a professor at the Munk School of Global Affairs and Public Policy at the University of Toronto and former president of the Institute for Research on Public Policy (2006-2011).

On July 23, there will be a one-day, closed-door hearing on water management for power production on the Churchill River. There was a closed session on the same subject earlier in the inquiry, but a decision out of the Quebec Court of Appeal led LeBlanc to demand a second day, to hear more on what the decision means to the province and Muskrat Falls. 

On Wednesday, July 24, the scheduled witness is Ole Jonny Klakegg, a professor in project management at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. He has been asked to speak about managing large-scale and publicly funded projects.

Before the close of the inquiry hearings, there are two, public consultation sessions scheduled. The first is on July 30, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., at Memorial University of Newfoundland’s Signal Hill Campus in St. John’s. The second is scheduled for August 8, also from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., at the Lawrence O’Brien Arts Centre in Happy Valley-Goose Bay.

The inquiry will end with final summations from parties with standing and written filings. Final summations are scheduled for August 12 to August 16 in Happy Valley-Goose Bay. 
Exact dates are subject to change.

Twitter: @TeleFitz


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