Nfld. & Labrador

Public weighs in with their worries at Muskrat Falls inquiry, before final report

About 70 people turned out to a consultation session in St. John's Tuesday evening to give their thoughts on the handling of the hydroelectric project.

Another public consultation session slated for Happy Valley-Goose Bay Aug. 8

About 70 people turned out for a public session to voice their concerns over Muskrat Falls. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

The Muskrat Falls inquiry has heard from politicians, executives and experts, and now it's listening to what the public has to say about the handling of the hydroelectric megaproject. 

About 70 people turned out for a consultation session Tuesday evening at Memorial University's Signal Hill campus to share their views with the inquiry commissioner Justice Richard LeBlanc as he prepares for his final report, due in December.

"I was surprised there wasn't more people and speakers here tonight," said Travis Inkpen, who was slated to be the seventh speaker on the delegates list, but ended up going third after several people didn't show up. 

Regardless, Inkpen, 29, said he was happy for the opportunity to share his opinion and concerns, especially as someone who will be impacted by the project for decades to come.

"There's a reason I'm not buying a house right now and I am not settling down here, because the next few years could be really problematic," he said.

 "Someone is going to have to pay for this project and that someone is going to be us, one way or another."

Travis Inkpen, a concerned citizen, is not confident he will stay in the province following Muskrat Falls completion. (Meg Roberts/CBC)

Inkpen said he has friends who also believe there isn't a future for them in Newfoundland and Labrador.

"I don't think it's ridiculous to fear the province might go bankrupt," he said, unconvinced anyone will be held responsible for the mistakes made, at least not as a direct result of the inquiry. 

A united crowd

Inkpen's thoughts were echoed by every other speaker at the consultation meeting.

 A number of similar concerns were mentioned including overspending, lack of accountability and a disregard for Indigenous people's rights.

Steven Wolinetz, a retired professor of political science who attended the meeting, said throughout the inquiry there were a lot of fingers pointed at a lot of different people, but he believes there are others who are at fault.

"There is another culprit and that is all of us, the public. Failure to engage the argument, the questions about this province were out there as long as the project was on the books," said Wolinetz. 

"We let this happen, all of us, by not insisting that our politicians don't call each other names but actually debate on the floor of the house of assembly."

Green Party Leader Elizabeth May was also in attendance at the meeting.

Irene Muzychka, co-counsel at the Muskrat Falls Inquiry believes the evening "went very well."

"I think a lot of what we heard was not unexpected. People have strong feelings about the project and how the impacts are going to be felt as time goes on," she said.

There will be another public consultation session in Happy Valley-Goose Bay on August 8.

Residents of the province can also submit an online form to provide comments and information to the inquiry.

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