Muskrat Falls money spent before project sanctioned

The Newfoundland and Labrador government is already using money for the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project that officials had said would not be touched until the development was sanctioned.
Liberal Leader Dwight Ball on Yvonne Jones's support for Muskrat falls and the government's transfer of funds for the hydroelectric project 7:16

The Newfoundland and Labrador government is already using money for the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project that officials had said would not be touched until the development was sanctioned.

Natural resources Minister Jerome Kennedy says the government expected the Muskrat Falls project to be sanctioned by October. CBC

On Oct. 1, the government transferred $45 million to Nalcor for road work at the Muskrat Falls site. The money came from the $664 million reserved in the 2012 budget for work that was supposed to happen after final approval.  

Liberal leader Dwight Ball said Tuesday the transfer implied that government is proceeding as if the project is a go. 

"The actions of the government certainly suggest that it's a done deal, when you see money being transferred like this at a request from Nalcor," Ball said.  "It's unfortunate, though, that we find ourselves in this situation."

Government trying to meet target dates

Natural Resources Minister Jerome Kennedy said there were good reasons for government to release the money to Nalcor.

"So while the concern is certainly valid, we also have to follow the advice given to us by experts," he said. "And Mr. Martin and the Nalcor officials indicated to us that we need to build this road or we'll lose a year."

Kennedy admitted on Tuesday that in June, the government assumed the project would be sanctioned by October.

He added that target dates had to be set and met in order to keep costs of the project under control.

Not the 'right thing', says Ball

But Ball said the payment to Nalcor made made a mockery of the sanctioning process and debate.  

 "So is it a done deal?" queried Ball. "You know, like I said, the actions of the government, the actions of Nalcor suggest that, but that don't necessarily mean because you can do it, it don't necessarily mean it's the right thing to do."

The Muskrat Falls project has been scheduled to be debated in the house of assembly on Dec. 5.