By now you
have received your Muskrat Falls Brochure.
It was aptly titled “the power is in our hands”. I have to assume that the “our” referred to, is Nalcor.
deals less with the justification for the Muskrat Falls Project than with
making sure Nalcor is credited with the Project, that Nalcor has the
professionalism, Nalcor has the experience, Nalcor has the strategic vision to
carry out a $7.4 billion megaproject.
has been told that the marketing campaign to ‘sell’ the Project, of which the
glossy Brochure is but one piece, will provide transparency and factual information
to the people of the province.
does not achieve that purpose.
barely notes the role of the Government. Even Muskrat Falls is
secondary here. Nalcor is on display.
The Brochure boasts: “MHI has
found Nalcor’s work to be skilled, well-founded, and in accordance with
industry practices…..”. “MHI supports
Nalcor’s finding….”. “In MHI’s opinion,
Nalcor has undertaken a diligent and appropriate approach…”. Like the child that is the perennial
underperformer, whose need for reassurance cannot be sated, Nalcor needs to be the center of attention.
In a democratic
society, there is a time when the unelected ones step back
and defer to the elected. Either Nalcor
does not know its place or certain Ministers do not know theirs.
Government has received Nalcor’s recommendation. Now, the Government should report to the people of the province.
agree with their conclusion or not, the Government – having balanced all of the
options, weighed the risks and the costs and having come to a conclusion – must
defend its decision against all comers.
Falls is a project, not a principle; it is an investment, not an ideology. Its approval, especially given its cost and
risk, demands that the process of governance is undertaken transparently,
honestly and with a completeness that is unassailable. That is what comes with the territory of
other problems with the Brochure. For example, it fails to note that Muskrat Falls did not
receive approval from the Federal-Provincial Joint Panel which spent two years
studying the socio-economic and environmental impacts of the Project.
It does not state
that the Public Utilities Board, the province’s independent review agency failed to come to a conclusion on the Project because
the information, on which it was asked to base a decision, was inadequate (remember, it was given only DG-2 numbers).
did not state the true cost of the power from Muskrat Falls. Nor did it say that Muskrat power will be the
most expensive hydro power under development in North America.
failed to inform the public that construction estimates did not include
interest costs contrary to basic accounting rules. It was silent on the risks to the tax payer
of cost overruns.
This was not
a Brochure to inform. It was an
advertisement to introduce the folks at Nalcor as professional and experienced. Cleverly, it avoided the issue of Nalcor’s achievements. Likely, because, for many years, there have
been little to report. Bay D’espoir was constructed 50 years ago, Cat Arm 30 years ago. The “professionals” engaged in these projects have all retired.
that the senior officers of Nalcor are performing the public
relations of politicians, permits only one
Government has been captured by its own utility. It is not in control. It is being controlled. It is acceding to Nalcor’s ambitions.
The Project, having progressed as far as it has, the Government is now cornered; it
feels it cannot turn back no matter what the consequences.
Nalcor’s hubris is embedded even in the glossy brochures. They feel omnipotent,
immune to risk and above the electorate. Certainly, they need not worry about the trivialities
Weak politicians, even if they notice that they have been supplanted, can’t acknowledge that due process has
less to do now with democratic government than with the need for an affirmation of what
the unelected have already decided.
the mailman coming. A second Brochure,
from Nalcor, lands in my mailbox. Perhaps, it contains some of the answers the first one ommitted. But, I’m not betting on it.