I was surprised that delegates to the P.C. Convention, this
past weekend, were asked to vote on a resolution in support of the Muskrat
Falls project.   

Why be surprised?

Muskrat Falls is the largest construction project ever
undertaken by a provincial government; it is the legacy project of Danny
Williams and Kathy Dunderdale.  Surely,
party members should be asked to weigh in and give it two thumbs up? Well,
actually, no.

At the very least, the Premier ought to have given Party
Members the courtesy of the DG-3 numbers, the latest cost estimates generated
by SNC Lavalin; she should have informed them of the cost of Muskrat power on a
KWh basis and how many billions of dollars will be added to the public debt to
pay for the project.

Cartoon Credit: John Meaney, Rand and Roar

In a gesture of transparency, the Premier might have
insisted that Party Members be informed of the net cost to the consumer given
that NL needs only 40% of Muskrat power. 
The Premier’s number, per KWh, would have factored in the 20% of the 824
MWs to Emera, at no charge, and the balance to mining interests at the price of
less than 4 cents per KWh.  Such a
gesture would have constituted respect for the people who make the ‘Party’ function.  Then, perhaps, armed with that information,
Tory delegates would be ready to vote?  Alas, that is not the case.

Had a Muskrat Plenary Session dominated the entire weekend,
where seminars on Nalcor’s poor demand numbers had been discussed, the Water
Management Agreement or the alternatives to Muskrat Falls received the scrutiny
of a group still cloudy from the previous night’s festivities, it still would not
have been appropriate to invite the delegates to commit themselves on such a

You see, that the vote was on the agenda at all was
inappropriate; it was wrong.  Clearly, Dunderdale
and Kennedy will grasp at any support now that satire has taken hold of the ‘contract
coalition’ of business people.  Yes, I
too have wondered how the Premier’s liaison with that group is going down with
the ordinary working stiffs who comprise the largest group of delegates. 

Of course, someone ought to have told the Premier and the Party
executive to buzz off, but in the super fused atmosphere of partisan politics,
that’s easier said than done, unless you want to be sent packing. 

Let me be clear.  It
was entirely appropriate that Muskrat Falls be discussed at the Gander
Convention, provided that the delegates were disrespected by being asked to digest a diatribe of propaganda. 
Any Government would use an opportunity to ‘educate’ its supporters
about a project with such wide ranging ramifications.

But seek a vote in support of Muskrat Falls (via the
Premier’s District Assoc.)? No.  Wiser leadership
would have counselled and differentiated between a ‘principle’ and a

Pursuit of joint management of offshore resources is the
pursuit of a principle.  The concept of
‘adjacency’ in the fishery is based upon a principle.  A desire to mitigate green-house gases
involves a principle. If the delegates had been asked to support the principle
of funding ‘green’ energy or the principles found in energy conservation (I
wonder if delegates knew that NL is one of only two provinces that does not
fund an independent energy conservation group), that would have made sense. Afterall,
what political party has not tried to graft on to the universally popular goal
of reducing the global carbon footprint. 

Holyrood produces much fewer green house gases than does the
Come By Chance Oil Refinery.  Some
delegate, as kind of a trick question, might have enquired why the Government
has failed to deal with the most obvious and egregious problem first.  But, I digress.

Yes, political parties are about ideology, principles,
objectives and then good organization.  Muskrat
Falls is a project.  It is not a
principle.   It is an investment. It may
be a poor one, but it is still an investment, by definition.  Indeed, it is an investment that a great many
Newfoundlanders and Labradorians believe is so poorly conceived that it will
seriously impair the treasury of the Province.

Problem is, this P.C Government is afraid to commit the
final number and much additional information to the PUB for complete and final
examination.   It has obstructed the ‘Rule
of Law’ by evading the very Agency established to provide such rigorous review.

Most people, including myself, bear no malice to Premier
Dunderdale, personally.  Our views on
Muskrat Falls are not borne out of partisanship, either.   Some of us have made contributions to P.C.
Governments, over many years, of which we are still rightfully proud.   

But we would not be wrong in suggesting that this Premier
has little respect for principles.  And
what is a Party without principles. 
Afterall, P.C. Governments boast introduction of the Public Tendering
Act, the Public Service Commission, even the Freedom of Information Act and a
host of other reforms that constitute the underpinnings of modern democratic
government.  The ‘principles’ of the
Atlantic Accord are what gave its pursuit legitimacy and staying power.

Surely, one who believes in democratic principles would not
demand that the party faithful endorse a ‘project’ of such consequence as
Muskrat Falls while scandalizing the fundamental ‘principles’ of the Rule of
Law by openly debasing an important Agency like the PUB.    

Governments often lose their way.  Political parties can’t afford to; principles are what sustains them.

Des Sullivan
Des Sullivan
St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada Uncle Gnarley is hosted by Des Sullivan, of St. John's. He is a businessman engaged over three decades in real estate management and development companies and in retail. He is currently a Director of Dorset Investments Limited and Donovan Holdings Limited. During his early career he served as Executive Assistant to Premier's Frank D. Moores (1975-1979) and Brian Peckford (1979-1985). He also served as a Part-Time Board Member on the Canada-Newfoundland Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB). Uncle Gnarley appears on the masthead representing serious and unambiguous positions on NL politics and public policy. Uncle Gnarley is a fiscal conservative possessing distinctly liberal values and a non-partisan persusasion. Those values and opinions underlie this writer's views on NL's politics, economy and society. Uncle Gnarley publishes Monday mornings and more often when events warrant.


Bill left public life shortly after the signing of the Atlantic Accord and became a member of the Court of Appeal until his retirement in 2003. During his time on the court he was involved in a number of successful appeals which overturned wrongful convictions, for which he was recognized by Innocence Canada. Bill had a special place in his heart for the underdog.

Churchill Falls Explainer (Coles Notes version)

If CFLCo is required to maximize its profit, then CFLCo should sell its electricity to the highest bidder(s) on the most advantageous terms available.


This is the most important set of negotiations we have engaged in since the Atlantic Accord and Hibernia. Despite being a small jurisdiction we proved to be smart and nimble enough to negotiate good deals on both. They have stood the test of time and have resulted in billions of dollars in royalties and created an industry which represents over a quarter of our economy. Will we prove to be smart and nimble enough to do the same with the Upper Churchill?


  1. Good read. But when factoring in the carving up of the 824 MW, keep in mind an often disregarded item – 'transmission loss' That is the power lost along the way in getting it to market. Due to the long distance, 10 percent to St Johns. Overlooked by most unless an electrical engineer like myself of Gilbert Bennett. For low cost projects like the Upper churchill, 10 percent is not too bad to get 90 percent to market in New England. Low transmissin losses is one reason why holyrood plant is so close to the St. Johns load. But MF is now approaching 10 billion. So transmission losses at 10 percent suggests that up to 1 billion dollars is to cover this, in terms of only 90 percent of the power generated can be sold ( transmission loss always takes it's cut) And 1 billion dollars can convert 100,000 average houses to efficient heat, which reduces the power demand more than enough to offset practically ALL the generation of the Holyrood plant last year which was 855 GWH. Not much discussed – transmission loss, not sure the Premier could explain that to the delegates at Gander. Winston Adams