Liberal Leader Dwight Ball is criticizing Natural Resources Minister Jerome Kennedy for a perceived flip-flop on debate rules for Muskrat Falls.
In 2002, Kennedy — then a defence lawyer in private practice — criticized the rules for the special legislative debate on the Voisey’s Bay project.
This week, Premier Kathy Dunderdale said the pending Muskrat Falls debate will follow that Voisey’s Bay template.
“Now [Kennedy] and the premier are insisting those same rules apply for the special debate on Muskrat Falls,” Ball said in a press release.
“This is blatantly hypocritical of Kennedy.”
In 2002, Kennedy told the St. John's Telegram that there was not enough information in the public domain for the legislature to consider on Voisey’s Bay.
“Essentially, what the house of assembly is being asked to do is being asked to vote on a document that says nothing,” he said at the time.
He also raised trust issues related to the Liberal government of the day — issues similar to those now floated by critics of the Tories and their plans for Muskrat Falls.
“What’s causing concern here is the process being utilized by the Newfoundland government where they are essentially saying to the average person, ‘Trust us, we’re going to do what’s right,’” Kennedy said in 2002.
Ball jumped on those remarks, noting that the province has yet to provide final cost estimates for Muskrat Falls, along with studies on other energy options like wind and natural gas.
However, the province has indicated it will do so before the Muskrat Falls debate is held. And unlike Voisey’s Bay, there are reams of legal documents available on Nalcor’s website about the deal signed with Nova Scotia’s Emera.
The Muskrat Falls debate is expected to take place sometime this fall.
Earlier this week, the premier rejected Liberal suggestions to allow expert testimony and the appearance of witnesses during the debate.
“Listen, the Liberals laid down the template for these kinds of debates, on Voisey’s Bay,” Dunderdale told reporters Wednesday.
“And that’s the template that we are going to use.”
That precedent would see MHAs debate MHAs for a week.
Ball said that’s not good enough.
“How can the premier declare there is an acceptable set of debate rules for Muskrat Falls when her own natural resources minister questioned them a decade earlier?” said Ball.
“They want the public to just trust them, without backing up their claims, and now they want to limit the scope of the special debate on Muskrat Falls. Their arrogance is unbelievable.”
Kennedy was in his district Friday and not immediately available for comment.