Nfld. & Labrador

Muskrat Falls sanction party called wasteful

Lorraine Michael criticizes Kathy Dunderdale for spending $16,000 on an event that celebrated the sanctioning of the Muskrat Falls hydro project.

NDP questions spending on Dec. 17 event that cost taxpayers $16,000

Premier Kathy Dunderdale hosted a celebration on Dec. 17 while announcing the sanctioning of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project. (Graham Kennedy/The Canadian Press)

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael says Premier Kathy Dunderdale showed poor judgment by spending $16,000 on an event in December that celebrated the formal sanctioning of the Muskrat Falls hydro project.

"When the premier threw her $16,000 party for herself, did she already know she was going to fire hundreds of people in a few months?" Michael told the house of assembly Wednesday, revealing what the NDP learned through access to information legislation.

Dunderdale was in Corner Brook on Wednesday, having announced new spending on a health care facility for western Newfoundland.

Finance Minister Jerome Kennedy defended the spending at the Dec. 17 event, and threw a dart at the NDP for not supporting a project that will be a boost to the working class.

"We know where the NDP stand on Muskrat Falls. They do not support it, despite, Mr. Speaker, the number of high-paying jobs that will be created for union members in Muskrat Falls," Kennedy told the legislature.

"Despite that, we had a situation where there was a sanction event. The sanction event was to celebrate what will be and will go down in history as one of the most significant events in Newfoundland and Labrador history."

The NDP learned that about 25 per cent of the money spent on the celebration was incurred because of delaying the event from its original time.

The Dec. 17 celebration was held in the lobby of Confederation Building. It included a speech — timed to coincide with evening newscasts — in which Dunderdale praised her government for showing vision and helping to "write the next chapter in our province's future."

Michael said the price tag was a bit high, given the austerity measures that the governing Tories are now introducing.

"I hope the minister of finance is ready to say that $16,000 was worth the party when he's looking at people who've lost their jobs from this government," she said.