Nfld. & Labrador

Liberals commit to Muskrat Falls audit, but say starting one now would be distraction

Newfoundland and Labrador Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady disagrees with PC Leader Paul Davis's call for an immediate investigation into Muskrat Falls spending.

SIobhan Coady says starting audit now would 'turn the attention of the whole organization toward the audit'

Minister of Natural Resources Minister Siobhán Coady says while her government would like to see an audit on Muskrat Falls, starting one now would be a distraction for the effort to get it finished. (CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady says her government wants an inquiry or audit on Muskrat Falls, but now is not the right time.

It's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when.- Siobhan Coady

Following Friday's announcement that the current cost estimate of the hydroelectric project has risen to $12.7 billion, former premier Paul Davis took issue with Nalcor CEO Stan Marshall's suggestion that, "intentionally or otherwise," the costs were significantly underestimated.

Davis has called for a investigation to start as soon as possible to get to the bottom of the ballooning costs, something that Coady said is ironic given it was the government Davis worked for that launched the project in th first place.

"Mr. Davis was a premier of this province, he was a cabinet minister at the time," she told the St. John's Morning Show on Monday. "If he didn't know what was happening he should have known what was happening, he could have made the adjustments then. And they also chair the public accounts committee."

'Nothing to hide', says Davis

Davis, the current provincial leader of the opposition, said PCs have "nothing to hide" on the sanctioning of Muskrat Falls, adding the Liberal government's decision not to audit the megaproject is playing politics.

"If there's evidence of wrongdoing," said Davis, "then [Marshall] and Premier Dwight Ball should be more forthcoming."

The PCs have "nothing to hide" when it comes to decisions made on the Muskrat Falls megaproject, says Leader Paul Davis. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

Premier Ball said Friday that a forensic audit would slow down the project and incur more costs, but Davis said that decision was politically motivated.

Coady backed up Ball, saying the Liberals are committed to an inquiry, adding "it's not a matter of if, it's a matter of when". But she said starting one right now would drive electricity rates up even higher and be a distraction as it turns the attention of the whole organization towards the audit.

"What Stan Marshall said last Friday was that the last thing he needs right now is more reports and more reporting," she said. "Because he needs to focus on getting this project completed as efficiently and effectively as possible so it won't further impact cost and schedule."

The estimated cost of the Muskrat Falls hydroecltric project has now risen to $12.7B, according to an update from Nalcor CEO Stan Marshall on Friday. (Nalcor)

Coady said they are preserving documentation as they go, so that everything is under control for when the time comes for an audit.

Meanwhile, on Friday Paul Davis said his party welcomes an audit as he others in the PCs did what they felt was in best interest of the province.

"I can tell you I have nothing to hide. We have nothing to hide from the decisions that we made," he said. 

"The decision we made based on the information we provided back in 2012, '13, is quite clear, and if they're going to make some kind of suggestions there's some numbers to the contrary, then they should produce those numbers."

With files from St. John's Morning