What is the public to make of the Premier’s ‘scrum’ in Corner Brook, on the Maritime Link? When the Premier states that Emera sanctioned the Link months ago, how is a typical person to recognize danger signals when a political leader engages in an economy of the truth?

One would have to ask: Who can you believe? What is the truth?

The Premier is supported, in her position, by a Nalcor V-P, who is a signatory to the Sanction Agreement with Emera. “The project has already received sanction…” said Gil Bennett, but confirmed, in the same breath, that Emera  “was asked to come up with more energy…we continue to have dialogue with Emera on that point….but the obligation is Emera’s…..”  Gil did his best to avoid the trap, but came pretty close to putting the words “conditional sanction” in the same sentence. 
While the Premier detests having to share information, knowing as she does that the Government knows what is best for us, shouldn’t she be challenged on specific details?  A good question might be: can Emera be “in” and “not in” at the same time?    If the answer is “no”, that ‘scrum’ in Corner Brook is a perfect example of why the public are in the dark over the risks of Muskrat Falls.

In addition, the Premier’s reassuring utterance that Mr. Wangersky is no friend of the Tory Government should have elicited a response that reminded her of the supposed independence, not just of Mr. Wangersky, but of all the media.    


Suggested reading for reporters: Who Shall Guard The Guardians


That said, when the Premier said EMERA had ‘sanctioned’ the Muskrat Falls Project, “months ago”, she implied that BMO Capital Markets was completely out of line in its assessment that the Maritime Link had only a 50/50 chance of being sanctioned.

The public must surely have wondered how it is that the Bank of Montreal, with all its high priced talent, could possibly have gotten it so wrong.  Perhaps, I am overstating the Premier’s credibility. Do you think that the BMO analysts had failed to read the Emera Sanction Agreement? I would doubt that.

When you know something to be true and someone like the Premier says ‘no, you are wrong’, it does cause a bit of whiplash.  You are forced to ring people up and enquire if you had misunderstood certain details, to ask questions, answers to which are boringly obvious.  It gets you told: ”read the bloody legal agreement.”

Was the Premier truthful? Or, did she impose certain efficiencies on that virtue?

Let’s put this matter of “sanction” in perspective.

Individuals who have purchased or sold a house, or know someone who has, understand the difficulties involved.

Just like a person who agrees that the sale is subject to the purchaser obtaining confirmation that the roof doesn’t leak, the Vendor has signed what? He has accepted a “Conditional Sale Agreement”.  If the roof leaks, the Purchaser can walk away from the deal, unless he chooses to waive the condition or the Vendor gives him a new roof.

There is nothing unusual about such an agreement except, if you try and convince yourself your house is sold, even if the “conditions” aren’t satisfied.

Was the Agreement that Nalcor signed on December 17, 2012 “unconditional” or, like the agreement of sale on our typical home, did it contain “conditions”, which if unfulfilled, would permit the other Party, in this case EMERA, to “walk”?    The answer is YES; the agreement contained such “conditions”. 

Is it a fact that the conditions have not been satisfied as of this date and that the agreement remains “conditional”? Yes. What else? Emera has chosen not to waive those conditions.  

Can I show you further proof that the Sanction Agreement is “conditional”?  Yes, I can.

Let me first remind you that the NS UARB placed “conditions” on Maritime Link construction. The probability that UARB approval might be “conditional” inspired Emera to hedge its bets and to make the Sanction Agreement “conditional”, too.  

Am I saying that the Sanction Agreement actually reflected the possibility that the UARB might not give Emera “unconditional sanction”? Yes, it did. Can I show you the “smoking gun”?

How about I provide you with an excerpt from Part 4 of the Sanction Agreement?

What does it say? 

It says that Emera shall proceed to construct and commission the Maritime Link in accordance with the UARB decision and the ML-JDA (Maritime Link-Joint Development Agreement) if the NS Regulatory Application is “approved as filed…”  (See the excerpt from part 4 of the Emera Sanction Agreement below.)
Did the Agreement use the word “IF”? Yes. What is peculiar about that word? Your English teacher would tell you “if” is a subordinating conjunction introducing a dependent clause.  For example: if your paycheck arrives I shall deliver it to you.  Another example might be: if the UARB agrees to Emera’s Application the Company will proceed with sanction.

Was the Application to the UARB “approved as filed”?  No.  Has Emera “waived” those conditions, which is its right?   No.  And, to this day, the conditions contained in the “Sanction Agreement” have not been met? That is correct. 

Are there other conditions in the “Sanction Agreement”?  Lots of them.
Everyone recognizes that Emera’s investors demand that their investment is paid back along with a rate of return.  That is why the “unconditional” approval of the UARB is essential.

Since receipt of the UARB Decision, has Emera been in discussions/negotiations in an attempt to satisfy the conditions of the UARB? Yes.  Are these discussions/negotiations still on-going? Yes. So, BMO Capital Markets is correct; Emera can still walk?  Yes.

Once again, did Emera “sanction” the Maritime Link “months ago” as the Premier stated? NO.

Did Emera, in fact, sign a “Conditional Sanction Agreement”? Well, the word “sanction” wasn’t used on the cover page of the agreement.  Is that important? Don’t be a smart ass.  

Is the Premier being deceitful?  Did she lie?  That is not parliamentary language.

Then did the Premier use “an economy of the truth”?  Now, that phrase is acceptable.

Will we be hearing more on this issue? Much more. Stay tuned.

Nalcor Energy and Emera Inc. Sanction Agreement

A Primer on the UARB Decision:
The End Of The Beginning For Muskrat Falls

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. What’s in a name? That Which We Call a Rose
    By any other name would smell as sweet.
    So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call'd,
    Retain that dear perfection which he owes
    Without that title. Romeo, doff thy name,
    And for that name which is no part of thee
    Take all myself. (An exerpt from Romeo and Juliet)

    Des… It is amazing how many times Shakespear's work can be related to Muskrat Falls. From ambition, deceit and betrayal there are so many themes which are universal. Now as Juliet argues that it is not a name that matters, but rather what 'it is' which is truly important.

    The Sanction by emera was in name only. The committments which usually accompany the milestone of sanction were not there. In fact right now Nalcor are on the hook for 50% of the contracts which Emera have let, in the event the Maritime Link does not proceed. A precarious position at best.

    Also as Cathy Bennett publically challenges the management of Nalcor, Ed Martin can be heard through the halls calling "Et-tu Cathy". But it is not the loss of Caesar which should be lamented. It is the risk to the billions of dollars of taxpayer money which is at risk.

  2. Is there any way within the court system to stop this madness? I have heard that the site is operating 24-7 which I find incredible. The spending must be proportional, not to say anything of the engineering, procurement, and construction management fees that are being paid to SNC. Here's hoping that lawyers can accomplish that which our politicians cannot.

  3. As to untruths, lets go back to see that to justify the demand forecast for power on the island the Nalcor and their consultant said "we are approaching saturation as to efficiency saving for housing" Was this true? Consider the recent report from the USA that the North east States are holding demand growth to zero yet allowing the economy to increase by investments into energy efficiency. Here energy efficiency is not practised as elsewhere. Some 45 percent of our hydro electricity here is wasted from inefficient heating. Most of this is very economic to save, to reduce customer costs. The untruth told by Nalcor as to efficiency saturation has gone unchallenged by the media. Why?