Originally published by THE TELEGRAM
By David Maher
David Vardy, Des Sullivan, and Ron Penney heading up coalition
A group of concerned residents are banding together to ensure the public voice is heard at the upcoming Muskrat Falls Inquiry.
The Muskrat Falls Concerned Citizens Coalition is currently accepting applications for citizens who want to join its group to have standing at the upcoming Inquiry, headed by Justice Richard LeBlanc.
The coalition is headed by long-time critics of the project: former PUB chair David Vardy, former chief of staff to Brian Peckford, Des Sullivan (otherwise known as Uncle Gnarly), and former deputy minister Ron Penney.
As of Sunday afternoon, Vardy says around 130 people have come forward expressing their interest in being part of the group. While there’s no set number required for a citizen’s group to get standing at the inquiry, Vardy hopes between 200 and 300 people will sign up.
Vardy says his group wants to make sure the public voice is heard when the hearings begin, which is expected sometime in the Fall.
“We feel that there is an absolute necessity for there to be a group of knowledgeable people to question Nalcor,” said Vardy.
“Nalcor is going to come to the table with all the evidence, all the professional resources in the world. We need to be able to challenge them on some of the decisions that have been taken. The commission is going to need to have a group like us there.”
Deadline March 28
The deadline for groups to apply for standing and funding is March 28, at 5pm.
“Standing” allows groups or organizations the ability to ask questions of witnesses at inquiries. Such groups can also apply for funding from the inquiry itself, to allow groups to hire lawyers to work on their behalf.
“We’ll probably put down a short list, and interview three or four lawyers. The biggest concern we have is that just about every lawyer in this town is looking for business from government and Nalcor. So, our concern is will they be free and independent and aggressive as we require them to be,” said Vardy.
Vardy says the group has yet to reach out to a lawyer to work on their behalf, but did muse that former clerk of the executive council Bern Coffey – another long-time critic of the Muskrat Falls project – may be a good fit for the group.
At the Don Dunphy Inquiry, lawyer Cletus Flaherty of Rogers Rogers Moyse represented a group of citizens called the Don Dunphy Community Coalition.
The Commission of Inquiry Respecting the Muskrat Falls Project is due to file its report on or before December 31, 2019.