telling a lie is nothing new. In the English language the word “mendacity” has
hardly changed from its ecclesiastical Latin origin, mendacitas or ‘lying’.
lie. Often they are only fibs with harmless intent, like those that preserve
innocence about belief in the Easter Bunny.
lie too, sometimes with minor consequences — to escape political
accountability, to bolster popularity, or to avoid public retribution.
different classes of mendacity. Society can tolerate political and bureaucratic
lies, up to a point. But when the consequences are too injurious — that is to
say, when the policy makers or their proxies are reckless enough to have
“gambled” (to use Stan Marshall’s word) and lost, or worse, possibly having
contrived the fundamentals going so far as to assure billions in profit— a
minimum expectation is that the culprits will be held to account.
democratic societies, instances of egregious public policy failures on the
scale of the Muskrat Falls project — given magnitude by a small population and
limited fiscal capacity in our case — are rare.
government’s refusal to install credible oversight is a major problem, it is
also the case that most people deny that politicians or senior bureaucrats
might act with such callous disregard for the public interest. They demand
accountability only when calamity hits them in the face. A weak and conflicted
government counts on such passivity.
professional engineer — a Nalcor insider — alleged mendacity at the executive
level of the company. He allowed himself to be extensively quoted. In the post
entitled Muskrat: Allegations of Phony Cost Estimates and the preceding post,
the engineer stated, “I could not put up with falsifying information anymore.”
Said he: “The likely costs (of Muskrat) were known about three years ago, but
Nalcor Management kept it a secret, steadfastly denying that there were major
schedule delays and cost overruns, until it was no longer possible to hide the
true status with the election of a new Provincial Government.”
said, “simply took a policy decision to understate the project costs” which —
together with the ensuing bids for the work — required “creative accounting on
a massive scale”
the cost estimate of $7.4 billion, he alleged, was mendacious from the very
$11.7B — expected by some experts, including this engineer, to rise to around
$15B — the project will vastly worsen our fiscal circumstance.
should be more proactive, but in matters that are complex and that have not
been subjected to transparent review, they rely on the authorities, especially
the media, to exercise their respective roles and to ensure that mendacity — or
malfeasance — is laid bare. Yet, the “authorities” (a rather diverse group to
be sure) are unwilling to exercise those responsibilities. They can’t rise
above their own incompetence or their conflicts to intervene.
professional engineer’s narrative of “falsified” project estimates, there has
not been a whimper.
Premier, not from the Minister of Natural Resources, nor even from the Minister
of Finance who sat on the Nalcor Board during much of the time the deceit
a word from CEO Stan Marshall, whose silence is affirmation that he may as well
as have been appointed head of a University Department — feigning ‘ivory tower’
as long as the fee is right.
Chairman, Brendan Paddeck, addresses the best paragons of mendacity on the
northeast Avalon, the St. John’s Board of Trade, and in so doing expresses a
desire to restore Nalcor’s pride without acknowledging that simple honesty in
the administration of public affairs is a vital place to begin.
are the Opposition Parties.
self-righteous NDP are nowhere to be found, incapable — speaking of
incompetence — to perform their first duty as members of the House of Assembly.
Of secondary importance, they are too politically dumb to recognize that they
are in possession of a portal out of the political wilderness.
there is not a word from the current Tory leader — notwithstanding our
engineer’s claim that the true project estimates were held “until it was no
longer possible to hide the true status [of the project] with the election of a
new Provincial Government.” By the standard of modern democratic societies,
when a major conflict of interest is alleged, Paul Davis is expected to step
aside until the allegations have been dismissed. There is no place for
unallayed perceptions of conflict among Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition.
is not a word from the Consumer Advocate or the Auditor General.
are complicit by their silence. And silence metastasizes mendacity. It
have ignored the engineer’s allegations, evidently finding a convenient
sidestep in his anonymity. They refuse to see that this man took a courageous
step in making the disclosure at all. He didn’t have to. Yet, their lethargy is
endorsed by news directors and station owners who no doubt warn about risk of
lawsuit — and the threat to ad revenue — thereby allowing a mendacious
government to be excluded from the responsibilities of journalistic licence.
They do not as much as pick at the fringes of deceit. Not just flat-footed,
they are muzzled.
attributed to the Russian writer, journalist, and philosopher Dostoyevsky
reads: “Much unhappiness has come into the world because of… things left
suitable citation and it invokes two disturbing reminders.
that our engineer alleges not just deceit but also the pervasiveness of who
knew about it. He said “everyone knew” that the budget estimate was
knew” — but no one said anything. The statement needs no interpretation, and
its clarity invokes a jarring second reminder: the Mount Cashel scandal.
it is to recall, the abuse was allowed to perpetuate because it was kept
secret, and the abusers given protection from prosecution. The cover-up
occurred at the highest level — politics, government, the justice system, and
by at least one member of the media.
All bowed in fealty to a lesser god to protect special interests, especially
abusive priests and the Roman Catholic Church — and to subvert the public
everyone, but a good many knew — and did nothing about it.
1970s and the fallout — the pain and the lawsuits — attributable to the
officially prescribed silence continues.
scandal threatens. The government, the opposition parties, the oversight
institutions of government, the media, the academic, social, and commercial
elites, and the public have been given not the whole story, by a long shot, but
clear, unambiguous insights into alleged mendacious behaviour on a grand scale.
The consequences are easily quantified — the imperilling of the economic and
social fabric of our society. But the cause — the process used to give the
project sanction, and those responsible — await investigation.
those who will have to choose between heating their homes and feeding their
families may never equate with what young boys endured at one of the darkest
times in our history.
seems sufficient, but what can’t be reversed can be accounted for.
ferret out the truth. It is our collective responsibility.
group charged with illuminating darkness is the media. Though they have been
flatfooted, they are vital to this process — that is, unless the claim of
journalistic licence is a sham.
journalist Nazlı Ilıcak, 72, among those detained.
Economist recently reported that during Turkey’s latest round of troubles the
state, headed by the increasingly tyrannical President Recep Tayyip Erdogan —
another tender ego — arrested 100 reporters to suppress examination of its
violations of human rights and the rule of law.
Turkey or Russia or any of those places where reporters, doing their jobs, fear
for their lives. Here the rule of law is defeated only by opacity and silence —
by inertia, by denial, and by the willingness of special interests to be
deferential or to entertain their own conflicts.
are not supposed to be part of that group.
Russia, and other places, reporters face down state thugs.
history will record that, here, reporters couldn’t even face down Dwight Ball.