Nfld. & Labrador

More people in N.L. now oppose Muskrat Falls than support it: poll

A poll released Wednesday has found declining support for the Muskrat Falls megaproject.
Muskrat Falls continues to lose support of many people in Newfoundland and Labrador. (Nalcor Energy)

A poll released Wednesday has found declining support for Muskrat Falls, with more people in Newfoundland and Labrador now opposing the hydroelectic megaproject than favouring it. 

Corporate Research Associates reported that 45 per cent of people surveyed either completely or mostly support the project. 

For the first time, more people now say they oppose the costly project, with 48 per cent saying they are completely or mostly against Muskrat Falls, an 824-megawatt project still under construction in central Labrador. 

"This is the first time since tracking began in 2013 that the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project development is not supported by a majority of residents," CRA said in a statement. 

In February 2013, about 63 per cent of those surveyed said they supported the megaproject, which will generate power at Muskrat Falls on Labrador's Churchill River. 

Halifax-based CRA conducted interviews with 401 adults between Nov. 8 and Dec. 1. 

The poll has a margin of error of 4.9 per cent, 19 times out of 20. 

Results 'hardly surprising': pollster

Don Mills, chairman and CEO of CRA, noted the results come on the heels of a series of announcements about Muskrat's cost overruns and other problems. 

"Given the continuing escalation in the cost of Muskrat Falls, and negative public statements from Nalcor's CEO, it is hardly surprising that support for this project would be declining," Mills said in a statement. 

Soon after taking the reins of Nalcor Energy last year, new CEO Stan Marshall agreed with a suggestion that Muskrat Falls had turned into a "boondoggle." 

Last August, Marshall put the pricetag of Muskrat Falls at $11.4 billion, including interest. 

But just last month, another $270 million of additional costs were tacked on when Nalcor reached an agreement with Italian contractor Astaldi to complete work on the project's powerhouse, near Happy Valley-Goose Bay. 

When then-premier Danny Williams announced Muskrat Falls with Nalcor and Halifax-based Emera Inc. officials in 2010, costs for the project were pegged at $6.2 billion.

Muskrat Falls is expected to start generating power in 2019, with full power coming onstream in the second quarter of 2020 — nearly two years behind schedule.