Just as I was
beginning to think that, during my 27 year absence from politics, the Feds had become
tabby cats, lovingly lavishing a $6 billion guarantee upon a Newfoundland and
Labrador sponsored project, I was jolted back into reality. Absolutely nothing about Ottawa has changed!
The hoopla, over the PM’s visit to Goose Bay, won’t last until Monday’s Question Period.
until the wheels of the PM’s plane had left the tarmac and Tweeted a few words over
Muskrat, to an old Tory and skilful Ottawa man, Tim Powers; then, I settled in
to examine the entrails of what Harper had dropped on Dunderdale. Soon, I started to laugh; I laughed some
more, then I felt sad! I was sad for
Dunderdale, for getting herself into such a fix, but sad, mostly for this
The Deal was
exactly what I was warned to expect.
CBC’s Cochrane and NTV’s Mike Connors had been Tweeting all over themselves, Thursday
night, trying to confirm the rumour. Was
the Press Conference going ahead or not? Dunderdale didn’t know, her staff
didn’t know; but, strangely, Ottawa knew.
I know that if,
at 9:30 PM the night before the Event, the Premier is unaware that the Prime
Minister is joining her in Goose Bay, she is
either fibbing or she has been handed an ultimatum she abhors. It’s take it or
leave it time. She has been cornered. The deal is bad.
Of course, she has done it to herself and she knows it!
different league than being embarrassed by missing the “shale gas revolution”. Having
to watch the PM confirm for her, and none too subtly, in front of the whole
Province and the whole Country, the importance of independent review (Nova Scotia’s),
must have hurt.
Cochrane noted, what the Premier’s body language suggested; she was truly
unaware that the Event was already planned. Dunderdale, having failed to deliver a single
seat for Harper in the last General Election (a certain flying outfit in Goose Bay
is taking credit for Penashue’s seat), and having waited two years for a
multi-billion dollar guarantee to drop out of Ottawa, at the eleventh hour to
meet Nalcor’s sanction schedule, she is offered an unpalatable choice. With the PM’s ultimatum in hand and with only
minutes before he is about to retire for the night, she makes another, in a
long list, of bad decisions. She accepts.
a lot about a person and not just your weight.
If I saw anything on the 6:00 o’clock news on Friday evening, I saw an
unhappy Kathy Dunderdale; she wasn’t into the Press Conference. The body
language that Cochrane spoke of, suggested a Premier, who felt shafted.
Now, you will
remember the original Term Sheet of the Federal Loan Guarantee. It held certain
requirements about data, a letter from a bond rating Agency, etc. Questioned, the PM noted that the Feds had
looked at it and dropped the requirement. Did they look for, but could not get,
such a letter of endorsement?
critical condition that the Feds would not overlook — the transmission link to
Nova Scotia. The Loan Guarantee was
conditional on Muskrat Falls having a ‘regional’ context. The UARB, the equivalent of our PUB in NS, announced
earlier this year, that hearings would not be scheduled for the Muskrat Falls
Project until 2013!
insistence that, without a signed up Nova Scotia Link, there would be no Loan
Guarantee was a tough blow. Dunderdale and everyone else knew it.
signing ceremony between Nalcor and Emera, last July, the Premier of Nova
Scotia, Darrell Dexter, was heard to say Nova Scotia was now “in the driver’s
seat” when it came to energy; he would be able to play one source off against the
other, (including NL vs Hydro Quebec).
announcement, in Goose Bay, affirmed Premier Dexter’s view and what other
watchers knew. Not just the Nova Scotia ratepayer but, Emera too, are now “in
the driver’s seat”. Let me spell it out.
sanctions Muskrat, now, she proceeds completely at Newfoundland and Labrador’s
a fully effective and operating federal loan guarantee, NL cannot borrow
billions for the project.
the Dunderdale Administration tries to use their depleted $2.0 to 1.7 billion
Slush fund and/or raid the current account for Muskrat, rather than wait for
the NS UARB and Emera , the rating agencies will be all over them. The Feds will have a way out even if Emera
wants to come in. WHERE is the letter
from the rating agency? It is a question
that demands an answer. It is not a side issue. The agency is the first non-governmental
financial analysis of the Project.
NL proceeds, the Province will be into the Project by several billion dollars before NS
makes any decision.
Head of Emera, Chris Huskilson, informed the NS Legislature’s Committee on
Resources, that “he won’t accept paying 14, 15, or 16 cents a kilowatt hour for
Muskrat Falls hydroelectricity”. He added: “Well, that won’t make it. That kind
of number won’t make it.” If Muskrat power via Emera, at 14 cents per KWh, was
too high in 2011, it may be time to note that DG-3 numbers increased the MF
Project by 24%; it is safe to assume that the NS Link increased by a similar
amount. Likely, the NS ratepayer is looking at the higher figure of 16
Hydro Quebec! My friends in Nova Scotia,
we have a deal for you.
was witting or not, the PM delivered to Ms. Dunderdale, much less a Loan
Guarantee, than a clear and unmistakable message. It is this: you, Ms. Dunderdale may choose to flaunt the democratic process, but I, will
respect the longer history of democratic practice, in the Province of Nova
Scotia and in the rest of Canada.
But, that is
not all. The PM’s message displayed the
skilful hand of Nova Scotia’s powerful Federal Minister, Peter McKay. Always beware, the Puppeteer!
year, Ottawa, and especially McKay, has watched the Muskrat saga play out in
this Province and the Premier paint herself into a corner. With half a billion
dollars already into the Project and possibly many millions more committed,
Premier Dunderdale has hardly kept her cards close to her vest. Smart and wily, the Nova Scotia Minister knew
when to make his move. He has unmistakably put Dexter in the “driver’s seat”.
A tough spot,
indeed. For NL, for Dunderdale, not for Nova Scotia.
fond of a NL Premier going, cap in hand, to anyone. We have seen this script before. Given Premier Dunderdale’s decision to go to
Goose Bay, at all, is a confirmation that the bankruptcy Trustee will have long
arrived before this woman knows she is broke.
All eyes on
the Nova Scotia PUB.