Top News

That Dam Project: Dunderdale formally sanctions Muskrat Falls

Then premier Kathy Dunderdale (centre) officially announces the sanctioning of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric development in the lobby of the Confederation Building in St. John’s, December 2012. Then Nalcor Energy president and chief executive officer Ed Martin (left) and Natural Resources Minister Jerome Kennedy (right) applaud following the announcement.
Then premier Kathy Dunderdale (centre) officially announces the sanctioning of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric development in the lobby of the Confederation Building in St. John’s, Dec. 17, 2012. Then-Nalcor Energy president and chief executive officer Ed Martin (left) and Jerome Kennedy (right) Natural Resources minister at the time, applaud following the announcement. - Joe Gibbons

Originally published Dec. 18, 2012

Premier Kathy Dunderdale formally sanctioned the $7.7-billion Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project Monday evening (Dec. 17, 2012), calling it a pivotal moment in the history of Newfoundland and Labrador.

With all the pomp and ceremony the government could muster, Dunderdale held a formal announcement in the lobby of Confederation Building with current and former politicians, business leaders and members of the public in attendance.

She framed the announcement as a matter of deep pride for the people of the province, and a move that cut to the heart of the Newfoundland and Labrador identity.

“The most important benefit of this development is that it allows us as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians to stand tall and proud on the national stage,” Dunderdale said. “Today represents a significant change in our relationship with the federal government. We are now a full partner in the federation of Canada.”

In practical terms, the formal sanctioning decision means Crown corporation Nalcor will charge ahead with the development of the hydroelectric dam at Muskrat Falls on the Churchill River.

"We are now a full partner in the federation of Canada." — Kathy Dunderdale

Nalcor CEO Ed Martin said trucks would roll at the site immediately, and within days major contracts will be inked for the construction of the dam.

“We are poised and ready with several significant contracts that will be finalized, signed off within the coming days, and we have contractors ready to move in to start work to keep the schedule we set out initially,” Martin said.

Nova Scotia partner Emera sanctioned its portion of the deal to build a subsea cable from Newfoundland to the mainland in conjunction with the announcement in St. John’s Monday evening.

“This is a go,” Dunderdale said.

The sanctioning decision in many ways will mark the end of two years of intense political debate. Muskrat Falls has been the dominant political issue since then-premier Danny Williams announced the deal to develop the project in November 2010. While it may not win over the critics, the decision to sanction means it’s a done deal. There’s no going back.

Liberal Leader Dwight Ball said he still has a lot of misgivings about the project, and despite Emera formally sanctioning its part of the deal, he’s still worried it may back out and leave the province holding the bag.

“Really, I don’t have the confidence that Emera is into this totally yet,” Ball said. “It’ll take a year before that’s determined.”

Read the entire series here

New Democratic Party Leader Lorraine Michael said the hoopla and pageantry of the sanctioning announcement left a bad taste in her mouth.

The government had a choir on hand singing Christmas songs and the “Ode to Newfoundland”; there were finger foods and desserts for the guests following the announcement.

“This is all about the government, this is all about trying to get Newfoundlanders and Labradorians on their side, and I actually found it rather disgusting, to tell you the truth,” Michael said.

Williams was in the front row Monday evening. He said he was “elated” to see it all said and done.

“There’s always a risk. Projects like this are extremely complex and there’s a lot of pieces that have to come together,” he said. “But I knew when we put that project together in the beginning and we signed off on it a couple years ago, it had all the right components.”

Peter Penashue, the province’s representative in the federal cabinet, was also on hand for the announcement, and he said as a former Innu leader, he was particularly proud of the fact that members of the Innu Nation are very much involved in the development, and members of the aboriginal government were on hand for the announcement.

“It’s a huge accomplishment for those of us that watch the hydro development in Labrador. We obviously didn’t benefit from the Upper Churchill, and this is our time,” Penashue said. “As you can see from the guest list today, you had representatives from the government, but also you had representatives from the Innu Nation, which is not something you would have seen in the 1960s.”

The political fight is not over completely for Muskrat Falls, though. Following the ceremony, MHAs went back into the House of Assembly and, as of press time, it looked like they would be debating late into the night.

Several pieces of critical Muskrat Falls legislation are on the order paper, and MHAs from all three parties are talking about the possibility that they’ll be in the House right through until Christmas Eve or even later.

Opposition parties are already in the early stages of a filibuster.

Read the entire series here

Recent Stories