CAN THE TORY SHIP-WRECK BE SALVAGED? (PART II)

After two
years of non-stop acrimony, the arrogance and incompetence
of a seriously battered Government is exposed following Premier
Dunderdale’s banishment.

The concern,
now, is that her departure has deflected blame that should be accorded her
uninspired cabinet, particularly the two most senior cabinet ministers, Tom
Marshall (now Premier) and the recently retired Jerome Kennedy. 

The truth is
that not just the leader, but the whole Government, suffered a malady whose
symptoms span spinelessness and unbridled pigheadedness. 

An isolated electorate,
mad as hell, understands it has the last laugh.  They will have their say in a year’s time; but
if this Government wishes to survive the ignominy of history’s dustbin, it will
acknowledge that it is ship-wrecked.  It
ought to claim salvage while there is still something to save.

The
electorate is not laughing, at least not now. 
It knows that the Dunderdale Government has unleashed an agenda whose
worst parts may be irreversible. 

Admittedly,
many do not recognize the Muskrat Falls Project as containing huge risk.
  But many of these same people claim it was a
just problem of perception that brought the Premier down.
 

At 20% in
the Polls, it might occur to some Ministers that the other 80% of voters were
turned off well before Nalcor’s BlackOut 2014.   Some are appalled by the huge budgetary
deficits in a time of prosperity, many by Bill 29, still others by the failure
to deal with the mounting pension crises, the politicisation of Nalcor and the
Government’s endeavour to hold its own ‘independent’ inquiry into the power
fiasco.
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Every member
of Cabinet supported these policies.   

The new
Leader will have a year to restore public confidence; the work needs to begin
now.

A
beleaguered public will not be an easy sell.

Some
recognition of the current state of affairs was elicited from Cabinet Ministers
Susan Sullivan and Kevin O’Brien on CBC last Friday.  Yet, their admission that the Government’s communications
has been poor, hardly registers on the spectral analysis of entrenched public
opinion. 
The public demands far more
revealing confessions of public policy failures.  It seeks an acknowledgement of guilt; it wants
immediate change.

Unfortunately
the new temporary Premier, Tom Marshall, exemplifies the Government’s state of
denial.  What does he say after taking
the Oath of Office: “If we’re doing something wrong and need to do better tell
us.”   We have been telling you for
more than two years, Sir.  You have not
been listening.

Let’s be jack-blunt.                             

How is it
possible that an entire Cabinet and most of the backbench, for a period of 27
months, could outwardly support or quietly play along as the Premier pursued a
ruinous agenda?

Though Finance
Minister Jerome Kennedy quit, even he feigned support for the Premier and the
Muskrat Falls initiative as he went through the door. 

None were
prepared to put their Cabinet positions on the line or go public as a warning
signal that parts of the Government’s program had not passed scrutiny, needed
further assessment or should not proceed at all.

In a Cabinet
of 15 Ministers, not a single person raised a hand to publicly signify a need
for more sober judgment. 

Now, as a
shallow media engages in the prattle of speculation, we too, are expected to
play along. We are asked to consider
which of that diminished group might become the new Premier!

Little
wonder some see politics as facile and temporary as a magazine cover. 

How can one muster
respect for an elected Government that succumbed to arbitrariness; that mistook
overbearing arrogance for a concept of leadership; that saw pillorying
legitimate critics an acceptable tactic to suffocate citizen involvement? 

I am
sceptical that a group entrusted with the mantle of leadership, one that saw excessive
public spending, speculation and unbridled risk as portals for progressive policy,
can ever be reformed.

I am dubious
that Nalcor can be reined in after it has been handed public policy roles that
ought to be the purview of the Department of Natural Resources.

But, we are
compelled to be optimists.

Premier
Marshall stated his will not be just a caretaker government.  

If he is as
good as his word he can begin, immediately, with this short list of changes:

The Premier can
call the House of Assembly together tomorrow
and repeal Bill 29 as a signal the Government is listening and is ready to
respond.

He can declare
that Muskrat Falls is put “ON HOLD”
pending a thorough public review; one that gives special emphasis to current
information as to its cost and the prospect of huge cost overruns. 

He can ask
the Legislature to Repeal Bill 61, which provided a monopoly for Nalcor, contrary
to the path taken by jurisdictions in the US and the rest of Canada. 

He can
set up a financial and technical committee inside the Department of Finance,
answering to a Cabinet committee, to monitor Nalcor’s expenditures on Muskrat
Falls and other investments, particularly offshore investments, should the
Project proceed.

He must insist
that the Auditor General audit the books of Nalcor.

The new
premier must let the Public Utilities Board (PUB) proceed with its enquiry into
the recent blackouts and do nothing to impede this investigation.  If the PUB enquiry finds that poor management at
Nalcor was the cause of the problem, heads should roll.

The
Government should scrap its own ‘independent’ inquiry, which would not be independent at all, unless it is prepared to
ask a Justice of the Supreme Court to head it up.

It should be
prepared to compensate individuals and businesses that lost considerable money
during the blackouts of 2014.

The
Government may be a ship wreck but the forthcoming Budget should not look like
it has been prepared by drunken sailors.

There are a
plethora of additional issues which deserve attention but let’s not be too
hopeful that Marshall will act on even one.

Though
Dunderdale’s departure will lower our collective blood pressure, no one should feel
safe that the arteriosclerosis of this Administration is at an end.

A shell-shocked
electorate seeks reassurance.  It demands
analysis and reflection.  It needs to
know not just what went wrong but more importantly, confirmation that the ship
of state is being righted, that it will not have to wait another full year to
see it sunk.

If there are
legitimate leadership contenders in the Cabinet, eager to win the mantle of
Premier, we will know soon if the cleansing has started. 

Who among
them is bold enough to push Tom Marshall along?

Can the Tory ship-wreck be salvaged?  Don’t get your hopes up.
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.

NALCOR (Masquerading as ‘Hydro’)LIVES IN AN UPSIDE DOWN WORLD

If a Big Mac costs McDonalds $10 to produce and it is sold for $1.50, McDonalds will go out of business. They would not declare a profit!

REMEMBERING BILL MARSHALL

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.

5 COMMENTS

  1. The litmus test for the new premier, and the recylced cabinet is for the immediate release of 2 essential pieces of information by Nalcor. The first is the Power Purchase Agreement between the Muskrat Falls Corporation and Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro. This agreement should spell out the energy and capacity which we will be garunteed over the 50 year life of the project. It should also document what we will pay. But it should also document what damages NLH can recover in the event of non delivery by either the generation, or the transmission.

    The second piece of critical information is what are the current cost estimates. Where the hell are they, and how can Nalcor justify 14 months of silence on what this project will cost. The city is amock with rumors of considerable cost over-runs, conversion of contracts to reimbursable, and other issues. Where is this information.

    The test for the PC party is how many of you have asked these questions of yourselves. How many have asked this question of the new premier.

    Remember… it is the role of governemnt to protect the taxpayer. This is your duty.

    It is a scandal that this information is not in the public domain. The energy act of 2007, and how it embedded Nalcor in secrecy, will be the PC's legacy in 20 years from now!

  2. Mr. Sullivan, you write about the most significant and important shortcomings of this administration and I applaud your frank assessment of the sorry state we find ourselves in. At a moment when we ought to be celebrating our status as a "have" province, this administration is quickly driving the bus toward "have not" status. Their inability to manage expenditures….. their short-sighted approach to the oil revenues they had at their disposal and mostly squandered in a bid to stay popular….. their usurping of the PUB's authority….. their creation of that two-headed monster(NALCOR)…… their monopolization of energy sales….all of this comes from the people who carried the cry of "no more giveaways" to victory, time and time again. One can't help but compare it to the great Five Year Plans of the old USSR…it was all fluff and no substance.

    I fervently hope that somebody…. anybody….on the government side will come forward and stand up for the province. Even that newly-minted Liberal, Paul Lane, continues to extol the virtues of Muskrat Falls….a situation I find disconcerting, as a sometimes Liberal myself. In my opinion, Mr. Ball is making a mistake to bring someone like that on board and it may cause a lot of people to reassess his judgement.

    The floundering ship that is the PC government is going down, of that there is no doubt, but if the Liberals don't want to simply be the ones changing the decks, they need to be bold, assertive, and as insistent as you and I that the first priority of the new Premier should be to put a complete halt to the Muskrat Falls project. Closing the barn door, by revoking Bill 29, after the next election, will not change or reverse the irrevocable damage to the economy the completion of this project is going to cause.

    Time for someone is the PC administration to stand up and also time for the Leader of the Opposition to devote all of his energy to getting the MF deal put on hold.

  3. You must be getting a thousand hits per day on this site. Someone is interested. Keep it up. Others take a smack at the sorrowful lot that run our affairs, but none says it like you. How I keep looking forward to your next piece.

  4. Yes, it seems like a blow to the powers that be, like the Bond Papers, but what is the end goal of this blogosphere, really? These online rum-diarys reaffirm that old feeling that gubberment is out to do us in, and we are powerless, add some maybe-facts/smart-talk, and perpetuate the info-barage that keeps everyone reading something and nobody doing anything. Like Penney and Vardy, they are all in the game for themselves. Des likes to come off like a renegade or something, but really him and rebel Ed Hollett should just pull the anti-muskrats together to stop the bleeding. NO, thats not showbiz, nor good agit-prop, so we don't go there. They are all barking about the slaughter in indignation, but ready to lap up the blood when it spills. Managing the fallout the liberals call it. These COMMON-HERO BLOGS are the only thing preserving the illusion of two parties (yes, the NDP is DEAD, and know one cares, like when God died in Time magazine in the 80's). These blogs serve no solutions. Instead of writing a book, challenging legislation, teaming up with ANYONE off the island with half a clue…why work in a vacuum….hmmm me thinks Des and Ed are just plain full of themselves. Not quite full of shit (yet), but so full of themselves, they can offer no solution, and are indeed a problem in fact, like Cabana was a problem. These meritless challengers go out alone to be slain, as distraction, as a psychological deterrant to true dissent. For those of you who read the blogs please understand that none of this translates into real dissent or patriotism or solutions. How long will these scribbling schmucks writhe and fume about our issues? As long as you listen – same as VOCM. Same thing, concepts to perpetuate the poverty mindset of our underpopulated nation. VOCM is welfare journalism – these blogs are like some dole from a religion you'd like to trust, but can't. Makes us happy for now, but what is the real deal? No doubt, the blogs serve a purpose, but do not directly serve anyones interests only the powers that be. They both know MUSKRAT OVERLOAD is the best way to totally sicken us of the debate by spring. So, why do it? A good article once a month, a nice piece, rather than this semi-daily masturbation would be more effective, but less EGO-BOOSTING. {Cashin Delaney – Professional Arsehole}