Nfld. & Labrador

Concerned and uncomfortable: Federal NDP sing a different tune on Muskrat Falls

Jagmeet Singh touched down in St. John's for his first visit to the province as leader of the federal NDP.

New leader of the federal NDP says lack of Indigeous support for Muskrat Falls raises big questions

Jagmeet Singh was in St. John's on Tuesday, his first visit to the province as the leader of the federal NDP. (CBC)

The newly-elected leader of the federal New Democrats said he's concerned and uncomfortable with the Muskrat Falls project.

Jagmeet Singh was in St. John's Tuesday, his first visit to the province as leader of the federal New Democratic Party.

"This is where I learned how to ride a bike and to swim," he said.

Singh spent the first seven years of his life in Newfoundland and Labrador; he lived in St. John's while his father attended medical school.

He said the visit was a bit of a homecoming for him.

This picture of seven-year-old Jagmeet Singh (middle) seen digging in a sandpit off Waterford Bridge Road appeared in the Evening Telegram. (Submitted)

He's hoping his connection with the province will translate into seats for his party in the House of Commons.

All seven of the seats from the province went to the Liberals after the last election, with NDP heavyweight Jack Harris narrowly losing his seat to Nick Whalen, and Seamus O'Regan defeating the NDP's Ryan Cleary.

"It was a unique election," he said. People were angry at the Harper government and at the "Harper era."

"We're in a new era now," he said. "People across the country and particularly in the Atlantic provinces are noticing a lack of opposition in the House to hold the government to account."

"Before we had some very strong voices from [Newfoundland and Labrador] and from the Atlantic region in general to hold the government to their promises, but now that voice is not there."

Muskrat a concern

Also entering a new era is the federal NDP's stance on Muskrat Falls.

Once vocally supported by Jack Harris and past NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, the over-budget and controversial hydroelectric project is not something Singh says he's prepared to endorse.

He said previous leadership felt there was support from Indigenous communities and a solid financial plan in place.

"That no longer seems to be the case," he said. "There's big questions, looming questions around the financial viability given a doubling of the cost. Secondly, now we know there is significant Indigenous community disapproval of this project, and there's been recent arrests of protesters."

But he didn't outright condemn the project.

"Right now I'm concerned … I'm concerned about those two pieces and I want to make sure that those are addressed. I'm not comfortable with a project that doesn't have those things addressed."