sector unions need to shut down Muskrat Falls; they ought to have opposed the
Project from the very beginning.
constitute the only organized group that possess the ability to put this
Project on hold before it hurts everyone.
It is in their self-interest take such a decision.
Why? Because, when governments correct for high
deficits, public servants are the first to be affected. The process starts with
attrition, then claims positions held by those transitioning. If that combined
figure is inadequate, Government determines how many additional bureaucrats
have to go, no matter how important they may be; then the pink slips go
out. I watched it happen when I was
employed on the ‘Hill” and since.
public servants feel those bad years are behind us; that it’s all downhill from
here. That’s because a lot of people,
including the public sector unions are talking that way. They have ignored the potential fall-out from
Muskrat Falls including the problem of cost overruns and the effect of
declining oil prices. They cannot imagine the harm one of those problems can cause or the
consequences of “the perfect storm”, where all three converge to impact
lives and careers.
has imperiled not just the current round of labour negotiations, it threatens the
Treasury, the status of social programs and it has placed the pensions of
current and future retired public sector workers in jeopardy.
imagine Muskrat Falls has not been a subject of intense discussion inside union
offices. Are these organizations not
well funded? Are they dedicated only to
collective bargaining and to settling grievances? Do they not attempt to identify, before it is
too late, public policies that are too risk laden? Isn’t the decision to try and kill a public
policy a better approach than another series of radio ads? Isn’t this the job of
groups attempt to influence public policies.
The public sector unions can be credited with having ignored the most
dangerous public policy ever advanced in the history of this Province!
sector unions truly demand a halt to the Muskrat Falls Project, immediately? Yes.
They should insist
that no further expenditures are made before Nova Scotia’s UARB has ruled on
the Maritime Link (ML), Emera has confirmed construction of the ML and the ‘Independent
Engineer’ has determined that all of the ‘pre-conditions’, to the Federal Loan
Guarantee, have been met. (Likely, you
are unfamiliar with those issues, in which case, some of my earlier articles
may help). Yes, that is only the first
step. Then, they need to review the whole Project.
John’s Board of Trade urged sanction. It
gave no quarter to warnings of either cost or risk. Any nod to scrutiny and democratic practice
or even concern for social or fiscal policy impacts were never in evidence. The Board, though, was very public about its
position while public servants, far more exposed, were silent.
It is rare
that business people and union leaders are on the same side of an issue,
especially when their self-interests frequently conflict. Members of the Board of Trade, though, do not
depend on that organization, as do public servants, who rely on their unions to
negotiate job security and wage issues.
and CUPE did not want to be at odds with the Federation of Labour whose
articulate leader has been vocally supportive.
they did not want to be offside with the Building Trades Council; though, why
that group (at the very least) did not insist that it follow Hebron, rather
than ‘piggy back’ that Project, is baffling.
did not want to be contrary to the position of the Federal NDP or to the NDP
Government of Nova Scotia.
bought the suggestion that Muskrat Falls is an ‘investment’, as the head of
NAPE noted on radio, last Tuesday morning, with CBC’s Debbie Cooper, I fear
they have been drinking the Premier’s wine.
if any one answer is correct or if they all are. However, I am confident there will be a big
price to be paid by everyone; public servants will pay a disproportionate
Let’s have a
sober look at some facts.
the period 2006-2010 show that the number of NL Government employees increased
by 2,396 or 26%. Population growth, by
comparison for the same period, was inconsequential!
this matter? Because, it makes public servants an even bigger target!
servants any less vulnerable following those ‘fat’ years? I’m talking deficit, the deficit in the
pension fund and public debt.
Government get a handle on the public service pension deficit? No. It
is forecast to be $3.09 billion and it is growing fast.
public debt addressed during this period of high revenues? Only modestly.
The net debt is still
forecast at around $8.5 billion.
What about the deficit? In the current fiscal year, it tripled
to $725 million. Next year’s numbers may
wage negotiations? Only partially!
What about oil prices? They currently have a downward
trajectory. The Government should release any
recent oil forecasts. I read a highly
credible forecast, recently, which projected $85 oil before Muskrat is completed! That’s serious, isn’t it? It is a long way
from this year’s $127.00/barrel ‘budget plug’.
Lower oil prices will undermine Muskrat
Falls and starve the Treasury of royalties and taxes.
So, on what
basis did the public service unions feel they could give de facto support to that
know. But, it is the elephant (I prefer
albatross) in the room; it will divide the two sides at the bargaining
table. It will be there this year, next
year and for many years to come.
The Government needs $ 2 billion equity for the Project. Immediately, it has to fund Muskrat
contractors, from its cash, in the hope and anticipation that Emera and the Federal
Loan Guarantee will materialize. In addition, it will need a billion dollars,
and possibly more, to fund its share of equity of offshore projects.
year alone; but, bear in mind that, in 2006, Nalcor was told, by the Williams
Government, to keep the other revenues it receives, revenues that are normally
earmarked for program expenditures.
The Government cannot
afford all these expenditures, run huge deficits and face the likelihood of big
cost overruns on the Muskrat Project, too.
Not without slaying the livelihoods of an awful lot of people. It simply
can’t be done and most certainly not in a declining oil price environment!
activities and put their foot down on Muskrat Falls, last year?
I think so.
Blog is not about offering advice. It is
about opinion. Mine. Anyone or no one need share it. So, I will add this view. Aside from all the admirable goals for which unionism
stands, it will contribute nothing to its charter if it claims its share of the
economic ‘prize’ even when it is a witting party to the collapse of the ‘whole deck of cards’.
where the generating station will be located. Soon, this Project will be beyond
stopping. NAPE Radio ads will not cure
the fallout or sate the needs of its membership.
Halting the Project will require a lot of leadership. Union leaders will need to make a big
decision; little ones won’t do!
Piled on top of the many reasons to kill Muskrat Falls, is Emera’s
tenuous commitment. The Halifax Herald, noted
as recently as January 10, 2013 the comments of Emera’s CEO, Chris Huskilson, the
guy on whom Nalcor is counting to build the Maritime Link and secure the
Federal Loan Guarantee. The CEO stated his commitment this way:
Nova Scotia customers to take this energy. All we’ve done was sign something
that creates that opportunity.”
Is that the only irony? Alas, no!
table from the public sector negotiators.
Do I hear ‘naysayer’?