Nfld. & Labrador

Astaldi woes no surprise, says Muskrat Falls critic

Former PUB chairman David Vardy says it’s no surprise Nalcor is facing off with Astaldi, the main contractor on the Muskrat Falls megaproject.
"It's not surprising, given the fact that they haven't worked in Canada before," Muskrat Falls critic David Vardy said about Astaldi on Wednesday. (CBC)

Former PUB chairman and Muskrat Falls critic David Vardy said it's no surprise Nalcor is facing off with Astaldi, the main contractor on the Muskrat Falls megaproject.

Following Nalcor CEO Stan Marshall's revelation that the contractor is looking for hundreds of millions more to finish the project, Vardy said the company did not have the credentials to start the build in the first place.

"It's not surprising, given the fact that they haven't worked in Canada before," Vardy said on Wednesday. "They're an Italian company and it's the first time they've worked in the north."

I'm thinking it may well go more closely towards $15 billion.- David Vardy

Astaldi and Nalcor have reached an impasse in negotiations, Marshall revealed this week, as the company wants even more money — potentially hundreds of millions — to finish the construction project.

The hydroelectric project is behind schedule, and costs have risen substantially.

Vardy claims Astaldi submitted the cheapest bid for their $1.1-billion contract, but said it's only the tip of the iceberg of the overall project costs.

"We're looking at a commitment which is going to be well in excess of $10-billion. I'm thinking it may well go more closely towards $15 billion."

The construction site of the hydroelectric facility at Muskrat Falls is seen on July 14, 2015. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

Local hires, says Astaldi

A spokesperson for Astaldi said Wednesday that the company was prepared to work in Labrador. He said about 90 per cent of the company's workforce was hired from Newfoundland and Labrador.

The spokesperson also said that some of the project managers and leaders have experience working in the north.

The contractor said the 2015 and 2016 construction seasons have been going well, but it suffered setbacks with a series of weather-related delays early in the project — and the recent concrete failure in a powerhouse unit.

Marshall said Wednesday that he didn't want to give more money to the contractor — and he was weighing the possibility that Astaldi would be replaced.

Still time to cancel?

Nalcor shuffled the deck this week with the announcement that the Muskrat Falls project would be split in two.

But Vardy said every option should be on the table, including possibly cancelling the project.

"It seems to be a foregone conclusion that [Marshall] is going ahead with the project," Vardy said.

"He may well have come to that conclusion in his mind, but I think that's important that that be shared, whatever evidence there is with regard to the analysis."

With files from Terry Roberts and Katie Breen

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