Find answers to some of your questions below. We will update our FAQ from time to time, so please check back regularly. Also, if you have suggestions for questions to be answered on this page, please Contact Us.
What is the Commission of Inquiry respecting the Muskrat Falls Project?
The Commission of Inquiry Respecting the Muskrat Falls Project was established by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador on November 20, 2017, in accordance with Part I of the Public Inquiries Act, 2006.
Justice Richard LeBlanc of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador was appointed Commissioner.
What is the Commission of Inquiry respecting the Muskrat Falls Project looking into?
The Muskrat Falls Inquiry will inquire into:
- Nalcor’s consideration of options to address the electricity needs of Newfoundland and Labrador’s island interconnected system customers that informed Nalcor’s decision to recommend that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador sanction the Muskrat Falls Project;
- Why there are significant differences between the estimated costs of the Muskrat Falls Project at the time of sanction (December 17, 2012) and the costs incurred by Nalcor during project execution;
- Whether the determination that the Muskrat Falls Project should be exempt from oversight by the Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities (the “PUB”) was justified and reasonable and what was the effect of this exemption, if any, on the development, costs and operation of the Muskrat Falls Project; and
- Whether the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador was fully informed and was made aware of any risks or problems anticipated with the Muskrat Falls Project, so that it had sufficient and accurate information upon which to appropriately decide to sanction the project and whether it employed appropriate measures to oversee the project.
The full mandate of the Muskrat Falls Inquiry may be found in its Terms of Reference.
What is a Commission of Inquiry?
A Commission of Inquiry is a body created by a government under legislation (in this province, the Public Inquiries Act, 2006) to investigate and report to the government on matters of substantial public interest to a community.
The subject of the Commission’s investigation and report is established by the government and described in its Terms of Reference. A Commission of Inquiry has powers to carry out its investigations by requiring people to testify before it and to produce any relevant documents.
A Commission of Inquiry can only report and recommend. It cannot adjudicate disputes or determine rights as a court may do at a trial.
How was the Commissioner selected?
The Commissioner was selected by the Lieutenant Governor-in-Council (the Cabinet) to conduct the Inquiry. A judge does not have to be named as the Commissioner for a public inquiry but often a judge is selected.
When the Cabinet decides to select a judge to act as a Commissioner for a public inquiry, it must first obtain the consent of the Chief Justice of the Court in which the judge is sitting. Once that consent is provided, the judge proposed must also agree to accept the role as Commissioner.
For this Inquiry, Chief Justice Raymond Whalen gave permission for Justice LeBlanc to act as the Commissioner for the Inquiry respecting the Muskrat Falls Project. Justice LeBlanc agreed to do so.
During the term of the Inquiry, Justice LeBlanc remains a judge with the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador, but his duties are directed to conduct the Inquiry on the basis of the Terms of Reference set out by Government.
How are Commission Co-counsel and staff selected?
The Commissioner is solely responsible for selecting and hiring of Commission Counsel and staff necessary to conduct the Inquiry. Counsel for the Inquiry performs an extremely important role in any Inquiry. Commission Counsel provide assistance and guidance to the Commissioner, assist the Commissioner in conducting the investigation and hearings, and liaise with and communicate with parties and others involved in the Inquiry. Counsel were selected by the Commissioner based upon their experience and abilities. For this Inquiry, as for most inquiries, more than one Counsel has been selected based upon the complexity and the extent of the Commission’s mandate.
Staff for the Inquiry are selected by the Commissioner. Again, the needs of the Commission, as well as the experience and the ability of candidates, are considered by the Commissioner prior to their selection. Staff engaged include a Chief Administrative Officer, Operations Manager, information management/Information technology personnel and other support staff.
Remuneration for Commission Co-counsel and staff is determined by the Government.
Where and when will hearings be held?
Hearings of the Muskrat Falls Inquiry in St. John’s will be held in its hearing room on the 3rd floor of the Beothuck Building at 20 Crosbie Place. The hearing room is wheelchair accessible. There is public parking available around the building, as well as ready accessibility to public transit.Hearings of the Muskrat Falls Inquiry in Happy Valley – Goose Bay will be held but a venue has not yet been selected. Please check back as we will update our website regularly.
To ensure the safety and security of all those attending the hearings in person, there will be security screening for the hearing room.
Hearings will also be webcast live over the internet so that the public can view them on their computers and similar devices. An archive of the hearings will be kept on the Commission website so that the public can view hearing sessions at any time.
The hearing schedule has not yet been determined. Once the schedule is determined, it will be posted on the Commission website and updated regularly.
More information about Commission hearings can be found in the Commission’s Rules of Procedure.
Are hearings open to the public?
All hearings are open to the public; however, the Commissioner may exclude the public from a hearing, or from part of it, where he decides that the public interest in holding the hearing, or a part of it, in public is outweighed by another consideration, including the consequences of possible disclosure of personal matters, public security or the right of a person to a fair trial.Hearing sessions that are not open to the public are sometimes referred to as “in camera” sessions.
In camera hearing sessions will not be webcast.
More information about Commission hearings can be found in the Commission’s Rules of Procedure.
How can I get information to the Commission?
To get information to the Commission, please see our Contact Us or “Share Your Comments” page. You will note that information can be submitted to the Commission anonymously, if desired, using our Share Your Comments Form or by sending an anonymous letter.All information received by the Commission will be reviewed and considered.
What is a “Party with Standing”?
Section 5(2) of the Public Inquiries Act, 2006 states that a person, company or group may be given the opportunity to participate in the Inquiry by the Commissioner, after considering:
- whether the person’s interest may be adversely affected by the findings of the Commission;
- whether the person’s participation would further the conduct of the Inquiry; or
- whether the person’s participation would contribute to the openness and fairness of the Inquiry.
People, companies or organizations that have been granted this opportunity to participate by the Commissioner in accordance with section 5(2) are sometimes referred to as “Parties with Standing”. Parties with Standing have the right to participate in the Inquiry hearings, either directly or through their legal counsel, as specified by the Commissioner. Parties may be granted “full standing” or “limited standing”. Parties with full standing have the opportunity to question witnesses and in some cases, with the Commissioner’s permission, to call witnesses or enter exhibits into evidence at Commission hearings. Parties with limited standing have the right to participate as specified by the Commissioner.
More information about Parties with Standing and the application process to become a Party with Standing can be found in the Commission’s Rules of Procedure.
Applications for Parties with Standing will be public. More information about these applications will be published on the Commission’s website when available.
Do Parties with Standing get public funding?
Section 5(5) of the Public Inquiries Act, 2006 gives the Commissioner authority to recommend that the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador provide funding for counsel and other expenses of a Parties with Standing.
More information about how Parties with Standing can apply to the Commissioner for a recommendation on funding can be found in the Commission’s Rules of Procedure.The Commissioner only makes a recommendation to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador with respect to funding. He does not determine the amount of funding or whether funding is granted.
How are witnesses at the Inquiry determined?
Usually, Commission co-counsel will determine the people to be called as witnesses. Witnesses will be people who have information or documents which have bearing upon the subject matter of the Inquiry and would be helpful in fulfilling the Commission’s mandate.Sometimes, with the Commissioner’s permission, Parties with Standing may also call witnesses.
What legal protections are granted to witnesses?
Section 25 of the Public Inquiries Act, 2006 prohibits an employer from taking discriminatory action against an employee by dismissing the employee, by deducting wages, salary or other benefits or by taking other disciplinary action against him or her because the employee has in good faith made representations as a party or has disclosed information, in oral testimony or otherwise, to the Commission.In certain cases, the Commissioner may order that a witness’s testimony be given at an “in camera” hearing, which is a hearing of the Commission that is not open to the public.
In appropriate circumstances, the Commissioner can also order publication bans on the names of witnesses.
Can the Commission retain experts or advisors?
Yes, the Commission can engage the services of other people who have special, technical or other expertise or knowledge to assist the Commissioner in fulfilling his mandate. These experts and advisors may also be witnesses at the Inquiry and may provide reports that become exhibits at the Inquiry.
What will be the result of this Inquiry?
After he has heard all the evidence, the Commissioner will write a report which will include his findings and recommendations. He will give his report to the Minister of Natural Resources. It will be up to the Minister of Natural Resources when the report will be made public and it will be up to the executive of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador to act on the Commissioner’s recommendations.The Commissioner’s report is due on or before December 31, 2019.
Will the Commissioner assign blame?
Section 7 of the Terms of Reference states that the Commission shall not express any conclusions or make recommendations regarding the civil or criminal responsibility of any person or organization.A public inquiry is neither a civil nor a criminal trial. There are no legal consequences from the Commissioner’s findings – they are not enforceable and do not bind courts considering the same subject matter.
The findings of the Commissioner may affect public opinion and the reputation of a person or organization. Section 5(4) of the Public Inquiries Act, 2006 states that the Commission shall not make a report against a person until the Commission has given reasonable notice to the person of the charge of misconduct alleged against him or her and the person has been allowed full opportunity to be heard in person or by counsel.
More information about notices regarding alleged misconduct can be found in the Commission’s Rules of Procedure.
Can the Commissioner amend the Terms of Reference?
No, the Terms of Reference can only be amended by the executive of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.
How much will this Inquiry cost?
The Commissioner is concerned about the cost of the Inquiry and knows the Province’s need for financial prudence. As such, the Commission will be controlling costs and watching its budget carefully, while not compromising its ability to do a thorough investigation.While it is difficult to budget for a public inquiry at the outset when the number of documents to be reviewed or witnesses to be heard from is unknown, the Commission is committed to providing regular financial updates to help keep the public informed as to its costs.