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Crosbie Asks Public Accounts Committee to Trigger Auditor General Investigation of Wetland Capping
Crosbie is urging all Committee members to do the right thing in the interest of public accountability and reconciliation by supporting the call for this independent investigation.
Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Office of the Official Opposition 

For Immediate Release

 

St. John’s, NL (August 20, 2019) – PC Opposition Leader Ches Crosbie has asked the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) to convene an urgent meeting to trigger an investigation by the Auditor General of the failure to proceed with wetland capping before flooding the Muskrat Falls reservoir.

In the final days of the public proceedings of the LeBlanc Commission of Inquiry, after all of the scheduled witnesses had been called, the Muskrat Falls reservoir was flooded in violation of an agreement with the Nunatsiavut Government and others that wetland capping would precede any such flooding. Some $30 million in public funds was set aside for wetland capping, and some of that funding has been disbursed for other purposes in lieu of capping.

Crosbie said a PAC resolution should require the Auditor General to examine the documents covering the period July 2018 to February 2019 when it is said that Cabinet realized it was too late to implement wetland capping; interview any necessary witnesses; and report her findings as to how the failure occurred.

Crosbie said, “Although the Commissioner has opened up this line of inquiry, he did not have the benefit of hearing from a principal witness, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Environment at the date of receipt of the permit request from Nalcor in July 2018, whose responsibility it was to issue the permit. The gap in evidence was indicated by the Commissioner during final submissions when he referred to the wetland capping failure as ‘confounding’.”

Even though the government caucus holds four of the seven positions on the Public Accounts Committee, Crosbie said the principal role of the Committee is to ensure public accountability, and partisan divisions should never affect the Committee’s work. Crosbie is urging all Committee members to do the right thing in the interest of public accountability and reconciliation by supporting the call for this independent investigation. The seven members of the Public Accounts Committee are:

  • Kevin Parsons – PC, Cape St. Francis
  • Derrick Bragg – Liberal, Fogo Island - Cape Freels
  • Pam Parsons – Liberal, Harbour Grace - Port de Grave
  • Scott Reid – Liberal, St. George's - Humber
  • Sarah Stoodley – Liberal, Mount Scio
  • Tony Wakeham – PC, Stephenville - Port au Port
  • Jim Dinn – NDP, St. John's Centre

 

Contacts:

Bradley Russell, Director of Policy and Research

(p) 1.709.729.3668

(c) 1.709.685.3161

BradleyRussell@gov.nl.ca

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Text of Letter to Committee Members

August 20, 2019

 

Public Accounts Committee Members

 

Dear Public Accounts Committee Members:

I am writing to urge you to debate and pass a resolution requiring the Auditor General to investigate and report on the breakdown of communication that resulted in the flooding of the Muskrat Falls reservoir in violation of an agreement between the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Innu Nation, the Nunatsiavut Government, and the NunatuKavut Community Council to abide by the recommendations of the Independent Expert Advisory Committee, which directed that wetland capping must precede any such flooding.

Commissioner LeBlanc of the Commission of Inquiry Respecting the Muskrat Falls Project stated, at the time of final submissions, that he found this gap in evidence to be “confounding”. However, he did not have the benefit of hearing from a principal witness, the Minister of Municipal Affairs and Environment at the date of receipt of the permit request from Nalcor in July 2018, Hon. Andrew Parsons, whose responsibility it was to issue the permit. Because the Commissioner did not have the opportunity to fully explore this matter, and since it is “a matter relating to the financial affairs of the province or to public property”, it is imperative that the Auditor General be required to exercise her authority to explore and report on this matter in a separate and supplementary process.

The taxpayers of the province have a right to know, and the Indigenous people who were party to the breached agreement with the province have a vested interest in knowing, exactly what happened.

So I urge all Public Accounts Committee members to do the right thing in the interest of public accountability and reconciliation by supporting this call for this independent investigation.

 

Yours sincerely,

 

CHES CROSBIE, QC, MHA Windsor Lake

Leader of the Official Opposition

Letter to Public Accounts Committee Members
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