Danny Williams says he still believes Muskrat Falls will be good for Newfoundland and Labrador in the long run, days after an inquiry faulted his government for pushing through the “misguided” project.
A final report from the inquiry into the $12.7-billion hydro dam released this week faulted Mr. Williams’s government for deciding the project would proceed no matter what, and for failing to adequately oversee the Crown corporation running the project.
Commissioner Richard LeBlanc found that after Mr. Williams was first elected premier in 2003, his Progressive Conservative government “was determined to proceed with the development of the hydroelectric potential of the lower Churchill River and it initiated several activities to advance this development.”
The government “showed that it had predetermined that the project would proceed” and “failed in its duty to ensure that the best interests of the province’s residents were safeguarded,” Mr. LeBlanc wrote.
In a lengthy statement, the former premier criticized the inquiry report as biased against the project, calling some of the judge’s conclusions “blatantly incorrect.”
Mr. Williams bristled at Mr. LeBlanc’s assertion that government failed in its duty to protect residents.
“To insinuate elected officials or public servants ever wilfully jeopardized the well-being of our citizens is, from my perspective, deeply offensive,” Mr. Williams said.
He said government decisions were based on good advice and years of planning, and he defended former Nalcor Energy chief executive Ed Martin and other staff as working “honourably” and “in good faith.”
Mr. LeBlanc faulted Mr. Martin for misrepresenting the true cost of the project, which has nearly doubled since it was approved and now threatens to cause residents’ electricity bills to skyrocket.
Mr. Williams said while there are issues with the megaproject, the hydro development makes the province “the envy of the world,” and said people should stop using it for political purposes.
Mr. LeBlanc was to make recommendations and share findings, but not make judgments of criminal or civil liability.
Premier Dwight Ball said Tuesday that his government would refer the report to the police and the provincial justice department.
Mr. Martin issued his own statement Wednesday, defending his actions and standing by the project. He accused Mr. LeBlanc of making up his mind before hearing all the evidence and said in an interview he’s not concerned about the potential police investigation.
Mr. Williams echoed Mr. Martin’s tone in his statement, defending the project and saying his testimony “did not fit the narrative” of the inquiry. He said Mr. LeBlanc did not make findings of criminal activity, fraud or malfeasance because “it was not there to be found.”
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