AG to investigate failure to cap wetland Muskrat Falls

PC Leader Ches Crosbie says he's pleased the auditor general will investigate how the government missed a deadline to cap vegetation around the Muskrat Falls reservoir to reduce the risk of methylmercury getting into the food chain. 

Crosbie wrote the public accounts committee — which represents all three parties and is chaired by Tory MHA Kevin Parsons — on Aug. 20 to ask it to pass a resolution requiring the auditor general to investigate the Liberal government's failure to proceed with wetland capping.

Crosbie said the committee did just that on Thursday. However, the discussions happened in camera and are covered by parliamentary privilege.

In an interview Friday, Crosbie said the auditor general will get the answers the public needs. 

"How did this terrible screw-up occur?" Crosbie asked. "Was it sheer incompetence or was there an agenda at work? A bad faith agenda?"

Jacob Barker/CBC

An independent expert advisory committee comprising representatives from Indigenous groups that live downstream of the project unanimously recommended wetland capping as a way to mitigate any risks posed by reservoir flooding, at a cost of $30 million. 

The risks are associated with country food like fish becoming contaminated as trees and other vegetation in the reservoir break down during flooding, releasing methylmercury into the ecosystem.

CBC News has previously reported that a decision to cap wetlands was made in January, though it was not made public at the time. 

The government said capping would have prevented just a two per cent rise in methylmercury, and said levels will be continuously monitored. 

In August Liberal cabinet minister Andrew Parsons dismissed Crosbie's call for an investigation as a purely political manoeuvre.

"I feel myself the system is working as it is supposed to work," Crosbie said.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador