It is tough
to keep up with the craziness. 

A few weeks ago Danny Williams was in the media saying that the Muskrat Falls project is still a good deal for the province and that
we shouldn’t be concerned because all megaprojects experience overruns.  

He repeated an assertion that should bring howls of laughter (derision actually) that the project will
bring in hundreds of millions of dollars to the province. At $11.4 billion and
counting you have to be pretty brazen to make the claim, as did Williams, that your
biggest concern is that “someone is going to screw it up.”

Even the
recognition by Nalcor CEO Stan Marshall, that the current project represents a cost to rate payers of 21.4 cents per kWh and that revenue on
export sales will represent a reduction of less than a cent per kWh, seems not
to have blunted the ardour of the former Premier. (Note that Stan Marshall is referring not to the cost of MF power but to a “blended” price and he makes no reference to the fact that the rate applicable to MF power generation is not even the full price in the early years after commissioning – so even at 21.4 cents per KWh Marshall is quoting a price designed to avoid “rate shock”.)

Now, Williams wants the entire Province up in arms because Stan Marshall is said to be negotiating away Muskrat Falls, Gull Island, and the Upper Churchill (again) to Hydro Quebec

Based upon his recent outburst on NTV, Danny wants us to be mad – not at him – but at the Nalcor CEO.

In time we will deal with Stan Marshall, and a Liberal Government that sanctions any crazy plan to relieve the public of the financial burden of Williams’ crazy scheme. After all, if Marshall is up to such madness, it is precisely because this is the road down which Williams has led the province. 

Besides, we might ask: how would Williams know? 

Are Danny’s friends who still occupy senior posts at Nalcor doing an end run around Stan Marshall as they counsel him that everything is fine at Muskrat Falls – just keep the money coming? Does socializing with Williams give him unwarranted access to the play-by-play unfolding within the Crown Corporation?

Is Stan Marshall as dumb as he seems, having make no changes to either senior management or to the Muskrat Falls project, possibly believing as he has stated, that the management team has learned from their mistakes – even as he ignores that, for most of them, Muskrat is their first major civil project, not their 5th or 10th?

Stan Marshall has already indicated he is attempting to bury the hatchet with Hydro Quebec and that an agreement on one issue has already been concluded which might otherwise have gone to court. Should we question Premier Ball regarding the latitude he might have given Marshall? We should.     

But Williams is not a credible spokesperson to tackle any unwise strategy Stan Marshall may be contemplating. He simply isn’t.

The province is facing project costs of $13-15 billion and 21.4 cent per KWh power or higher. Yet, Williams seems incapable of coming to grips with the reality that there is only one group of people expected to pay for the Muskrat Falls boondoggle – that is the Island ratepayer. 

Williams refuses to take responsibility for his unctious public policy decisions as Premier. He not only spews nonsense that the province can double the total capacity of Muskrat, Gull and the Upper with Labrador’s wind power potential, he doesn’t relate the silly strategy to cost, to the province’s fiscal capacity, or to a marketplace that won’t pay even a tenth of the production and transmission costs of such a scheme. Williams himself, not Labrador in this case, is where the wind is coming from. 

Most importantly, Williams ignores the human and economic costs that high electricity rates post-Muskrat will impose. He refuses to acknowledge that people will be forced to choose between food and electricity

Photo Credit: Sun Times Own Sound, ON
Consider what is going on in rural Ontario right now. Bruce County is home to one of Ontario’s largest sources of electric power –
the Bruce Power nuclear generating station, providing upwards of 30 per cent of
Ontario’s electricity. Still, the nuclear plant does little for
local residents, all of whom pay steep delivery charges to Hydro One.

Those events offer a glimpse of what is in store in Newfoundland.  

In July Global News reported: “The severity of the situation extends well beyond the struggles
of any one particular family. Since January of this year, Bruce and Grey Counties have reviewed the applications of more than 200 people seeking
assistance with their hydro bills. Some of these individuals are recently
unemployed or back at work after an extended period, while others are facing
issues such as long-term illness and disability.”

The Global
News story included this comment: “People have to choose what they’ve got to
pay,” said Phil Sams, a resident of Bruce County who has already faced one
disconnection notice. “Most people choose keeping the lights on and then they
starve for the month, which I think is ridiculous.”
The Frazer Institute, a public policy think tank, weighed into the issue: It referred to a United Way Report which
“detailed the experience of one rural Ontarian who struggles with energy costs.
She shuts off her water heater during the day, hangs her laundry to dry, avoids
using the air conditioner, and only runs the dishwasher at night. Despite these
energy saving measures, she runs electricity bills around $300 a month.”
The Sun
Times in Own Sound noted that Francesca Dobbyn, executive director of the
United Way of Bruce Grey, “…pointed to national news
reports that quote the Ontario Energy Board as saying nearly 60,000 residential
customers were disconnected in 2015 from hydro services due to non-payment.  That number was confirmed by The Sun Times…”

Dobbyn: “If we had 30 kids in Ontario with the measles, we’d have a health
crisis. With 60,000 households in Ontario who were disconnected from hydro,
that’s a crisis. And in rural Ontario, when that disconnection means you can’t
use your well, that’s a public health crisis”.

The Owen Sound Sun Times story states “Rural residents, on average, pay almost double the delivery
rates compared to households in “urban high density” areas, according to the
United Way report.”

Those areas pay in excess of 18 cents per KWh for their
electricity, except in off-peak hours.

Now, what
person except Danny Williams, is incapable of doing the simple extrapolation of
the misery meted out in rural Ontario and giving it a Newfoundland context.

Yet, he is allowed an ad nauseum rant on NTV as Glen Carter, Host of the Carter File, is unwilling to have him answer for his role in the human tragedy slowly unfolding in the province. 

Carter makes no attempt to raise any such issues – though Nalcor, under Stan Marshall, has made no secret of the cost of Muskrat power or that the problem may be further aggravated by continuing cost overruns. The requirement for more reserve
thermal capacity, too
 (consistent with the Liberty Report) can only further compound the problem.

What has Williams to say to all those people facing this financial imposition and the huge impact on their quality of life represented by outrageous power costs? 

Can’t NTV or for that matter the public broadcaster and the media generally, not connect the dots on the economic and human implications of the issue, especially for those on limited and fixed incomes.

Why on earth must buffoonery be permitted to constitute news!

Williams is fooling no one except, perhaps, the NTV Host. Williams may as well get ready for the howls of people who are about to confuse their mortgage payments with their electricity bills.

He is about to discover just how quickly a public in financial distress can alter their perception – even possibly of the Hydro Quebec bogeyman – something that Stan Marshall might be counting on. 

But Danny Williams should be most worried that he replaces Hydro Quebec, as public enemy #1. A cold house and an empty stomach.is going to make a lot of people damn mad! 

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. Desperate comments by a man desperate to resurrect his legacy. But dont worry Danny you will go down in history as the absolute worse premier this province has ever had. The public may still adore you, but when their power bills double, that scorn will be correctly vetted to you.

  2. Everyone is "stupid" except you it seems. If you can't make your argument without name-calling, as you have not to date, you can't make as argument. You should start your own political party. Call it the "Know-It-All Party" perhaps, then run in an election, and elect no one, including yourself

    • Well, this is a fatuous non sequitur if I ever heard one. Uncle Gnarley, stick to your guns. As Christopher Hitchens said, “[i]t is too much to expect to live in an age that is actually propitious to dissent.”

  3. As to the latitude that Premier Ball might have given Marshall.

    Back in May I requested from government a copy of Stan Marshall's 'mandate letter'.

    Around mid-August I received an email reply which said in part (the relevant part) "With respect to Muskrat Falls, we have been public in establishing a mandate, which is to get the project on track".

    Latitude? What latitude?

    Maurice Adams

  4. Uncle GNARlEY is correct in all his accessment's requarding Nelcor and this boondoggle project.We have a looming crisis hitting us soon in this province
    . which no one has the potential to fix. For years we saw the fishing industry as our economic bright spot.
    No of this will matter. If we can't afford to live here.

  5. That "interview" was a model of how NOT to do journalism… but what else can you expect from the likes of the St. John's media elites?

    As for wind power, Danny Williams and Ed Martin drove the private sector wind industry out of the province. They will never be back. NALCO has neither the inclination, nor the expertise to develop wind energy, and if Muskrat is any indication, you don't want NALCO developing anything, anywhere, ever again.

  6. Is it still on the original interview where Danny said he didn't want Quebec sniffing around Muskrat Falls now and fricking it up for HIM? Not US….but HIM. You know what Danny? My rose-coloured glasses fell on the floor and shattered when you made that statement. I am SO DONE with you!

  7. Well as you stated in your article that Stan Marshall has made no real changes that affect Nalcor and it's structure, well this is kind of true, he has added a level of Executive VP's to the structure thus adding dollars to an already huge salary that is now on the rate payers and tax payers of the Province. He has left the Muskrat Falls structure in place, Gilbert Bennett who ran fibre cable before he came to Nalcor, building a mega project wasn't on his resume. He has no idea of concrete, turbines or damming. Yes the fibre is strung across Labrador at a huge cost absorbed by the project, thanks Gilbert we needed that? The project manager Paul Harrington who has been at site less than one can remember, is he still with the project sitting in his office on Torbay road or is he on vacation…Again? and under the agreement he was 'suppose' to be there at least once a week staying on top of progress (in case it goes off the rails mmmmm). The project manager for C1 (powerhouse etc) who works out of Torbay Road, YES Torbay road only flies up when Ed was going there or Stan wanted to see the mess, is afraid of any confrontation from contractors cause he might have to make a decision without his side kicks. Shouldn't the Project Manager be at site? The site manager for Muskrat Falls who sits in his office more concerned with flight schedules is afraid to come out of his office because someone might have a question that he'll need to act upon and not be able to reach someone at torbay road for an answer . As for people skills the muskrats up here have more sense in that department. The blame solely is on the shoulders of Nalcor, they never took ownership of this project. They continue to pussyfoot around with these contractors who are really running the show. It's time that the people of the province hear what's really going on with this project, no back doors Dwight (that might be a little hard for you) due to the fact that you soibhan and cathy started off on the wrong foot, a FEW white lies. and where are the salaries for all these Nalcor contractors sitting at Torbay road that were promised? Lastly, as you also stated, this project because of the miss management will be close to 14 billion when completed. Who will bail us out then Stan and Dwight? Fortis perhaps.

  8. Perhaps you and your readers are already familiar with it but, if not, I recommend reading "Twilight of the Petrostate,"

    What's interesting about the article are the uncanny parallels between petrostates and the petroprovince of NL. They encompass everything from populism, public spending, debt, to megaprojects. If you'll pardon the lengthy quotation, one extract is worth considering:

    "The worst placed are those countries whose budgets are not only oversized but also unbalanced. Borrowing from their own central banks would spur inflation, while putting a heavier tax burden on an increasingly impoverished population would not be easy. The only way out of the squeeze is to cut spending, starting with capital expenditures. However, phasing out infrastructure and other mammoth projects that governments use to create jobs could cause mass unemployment and social unrest. Shrinking capital spending may also trigger infighting among the corrupt elite, as its major source of illicit enrichment dwindles."

    As the provincial government searches for new markets for its debt, they luckily do not share the challenges faced by sovereign petrostates. But, in light of global trends in oil production, prices, and debt markets, the question is not whether NL will be forced to make drastic cuts to public spending but when. The real issue is not what the provincial government chooses to do but, rather, what it will be forced to do.

    As John Cassidy and others have pointed out, economic bubbles foster amnesia. So long as oil prices remained high, few people talked about the dramatic downturn just 30 years ago. The same holds true for credit markets. So long as credit remains readily available, few people talk about what will happen when it becomes prohibitively expensive.

    The common presumption is that, whatever happens in the future, the provincial government will always find buyers for its debt at manageable rates. But what if that's no longer the case? If that scenario sounds far-fetched right now, so too did the collapse of oil prices just a few years ago.

  9. We won't be paying these outrageous bills. Simple as that. A class action lawsuit should be forged against the government if rates climb. They should be suedfor not doing their job in taking care of the people of this province. Imagine risking public money like this so much so the prople will have to move out of province. I certainly will.

  10. It's like a card trick , ever since Williams announced Muskrat Falls , and the pulled out of politics ! Hard to know where to focus what is deception and what isn't !!!!
    What's the end result ?

    PS . Labrador provides the resource and Will also have to pay doubled if not tripled rate increases !!!

  11. Everyone is "stupid" except for you eh Des? Why don't you apply for the top job at Nalcor? Or better yet run for Premier if you're so smart? Your blog makes me want to throw up in my mouth…all the self righteous smugness makes me want to wretch….everyone is too dumb or too stupid…except for Des Sullivan…who knew?

  12. Danny Williams Speaks LOL

    What is this man's vision for a future. He never gave us one when in power and NO one is listening to him, Now!

    This man, gave (SOLD THE SOULs) NL away to the Bankers, who the Citizens of NL will have to pay back. This Project will never succeed until the North Spur, is 100% secure. And the $$Billions that will be required, to competed the project.

    As for me, I'm working toward building a Graphene Industry in NL. Worth Billion in primary processing and Trillion in secondary processing.
    This is the FUTURE, now let's Create IT! https://www.youtube.com/user/RobertMurraySmith