“…if you are looking for some money, why don’t
you delay the monies you are paying out to Muskrat Falls…a significant amount
of money…”

These are
words of Carol Furlong, Head of the Province’s largest public sector union, NAPE,
giving advice to the Davis Government
 on NTV, Feb. 13th.

continued her expostulation: “We have a war chest
now…combined assets… of more than $40 million…I can assure Government, if they
believe they can just lay off workers …they will feel the brunt of NAPE to the
full capacity of our finances.”

These are
heavily laden statements. One would be foolish to think them merely drum
beating in advance of a contested leadership.

Furlong has done what the Head of no other Union, political party, or business
organization has considered.  T
o her membership and to NTV’s large listener audience, she has telegraphed a stark message, one slow in its evolution, perhaps, but powerful in
its timing and implication: ‘I no longer have faith in the Muskrat Falls

Her comments
strike like lightening, as if from a latter day Saul: ACTS 9:18 “And
immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he regained his
sight, and he got up and was baptized…” 

NAPE President Carol Furlong

Had Furlong
spoken early against Muskrat, her remarks might have constituted the familiar
ring of a naysayer. But, until now, her resolve to stay the course contained a strength of biblical proportion.

Readers will remember Furlong
stayed silent on Muskrat Falls, two years ago, when Jerome Kennedy laid-off
1200 public servants. He said he did it to reduce the
deficit from
$1.6 billion to $563.8 million, if no action was taken.
The painful jolt exhibited the
limitations of government finances and how they are inextricably linked to
financial security for NAPE and other public sector employees. 

It would
have been timely, then, for Ms. Furlong to reassess the Union’s position.  She could have demanded a stop work order
placed on the project. But NAPE did no such thing. Furlong had faith in Muskrat
Falls, a faith so solid that she kept silent for two more critical years…..until Feb. 13th,
2015. The refusal of ‘big labour’ to use their collective clout likely saw the project proceed
beyond the point of no return.

In this context, it is not
hard to see why Furlong’s timing is perplexing.  Her outburst surely cannot be motivated by the drop in the price of
oil, alone. She and other Union heads, in concert with the St. John’s Board of
Trade and Opposition Parties, all believed Muskrat Falls was a money maker;
a sure-fire bet. Those who castigated its wonky economics were thought
outliers, or worse; unpatriotic. 

Even when the critics seemed to be making
headway on the issue of cost overruns, the politicians chimed in: “It doesn’t
matter. It is ours”.

Still, the
Unions stayed silent; ostensibly taken in by the “great conjuror”.  But, that is a matter for analysis, later.

Presently, her
tune conveys an abiding horror; such was the stridency of her outburst. The
Union Leader was saying: ‘let’s put Muskrat on ice until we can figure out how
badly it will suck the government dry and threaten public sector workers’. ‘Shutting
it down’ is hardly a position consistent with any profit model advanced
by Nalcor.

What has, caused this sudden loss of faith? Why would she break with her sister Unions and
virtually everyone else, to dismiss the Muskrat Falls project?

What does she know to which the
public has not been made privy?

Are reports
coming back to Union Offices from Nalcor or from the Muskrat Falls construction
site confirming what others have reported: Nalcor’s productivity is extremely
low; there are delays in the schedule, the cost overruns are unbearable?

Is the
problem even worse than we suspect?

RNUNL, and NLTA confidence in Ed Martin and Kathy Dunderdale was always
befuddling. While Unions feign opposition to the self-serving decisions of
private business, they, too, understand the importance of survival. They are
sophisticated organizations. They have access to large amounts of money; a $25 million strike
fund, $40 million of assets confirms NAPE’s heft.

Unions are,
in fact, large businesses. They are in the media every other day assessing public policy issues, warning against
lay-offs and promoting better public services; all in the interest of job
security and expanding the membership. 
In the case of Muskrat Falls, too, they would have made
a calculation. 

Ironically, not NAPE, or CUPE or any of the public sector unions, but
the RDTC, IBEW, Labourers’ and Rock and Tunnel Unions are the major beneficiaries of those jobs.

The critics may
have used a different metric to arrive at a conclusion the project should be condemned. But public
sector unions knew that if Muskrat got in trouble the government would look to
their members; first, to their jobs, to their wages next, and, if things went seriously awry, to their pension
plans. No benefit would be sacred. 

Public employees represent the largest percentage of government expenditures. Alberta already has the
sector is in its cross hairs; Saskatchewan is expected to follow suit. 

To her
credit, Ms. Furlong is showing leadership; she is not in hiding, as are the
Opposition Parties, business organizations, and other public sector unions, too. Gone is any
ideological glue or deference to the partisan divide within her ranks. Rather
than an investment to which dividends are attached, she now believes Muskrat
Falls is a money pit. 

But having changed her mind, Ms. Furlong ought
to share with us what caused this Damascene moment; what caused the ‘scales to
fall from her eyes’ affording her such unexpectedly sudden enlightenment?

Carol Furlong
owes her membership and the rest of us that much.
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.


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!


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.


  1. It is time for all to realize that another plank of the conservative argument for Muskrat Falls is about to disappear. That being that the project will not contribute to the net debt of the province. Surely there will be an asset to offset the liability on paper. Yet this year we will undoubtably borrow nearly another 1 Billion to bankroll the project. We will be paying interest on nearly 2 billion in borrowing to fund this project. We will get the equity back, but the interest payments are never considered in the ROR which is quoted by Nalcor. It is accounting bullshit.

    The project is a clusterf$ck As delays start to happen we will quickly realize the impacts. Especially if Emera are ready to receive power in 2017, as their VP stated yet again today. What happens when the plant is not ready until late 2018. 1 year of giving RECALL to Emera… that is what is likely to happen.

    Oh how I long for Joey…

  2. too little too late for furlong…where was this attitude when 1500 got laid off? shes been as quiet as a mouse… also the contract that was signed was for academics by academics. Nothing done for red seal trades people. This government/province is going down a destructive path because of the PC gov, and most directly Danny Williams. 🙂

  3. I doubt there has been any great revelation. The difference is that the pension issue has been settled, which required maintaining the goodwill of the likes of Tom Marshall and Jerome Kennedy during the process. Now that the plan is under joint trusteeship she can afford to step on some government toes. Up to this point she may have been content to be a good union sister given the trade unions benefiting form the work at Muskrat but now that its NAPE members on the line while she's campaigning to hold her position the gloves will be off.