How did 2.2 million m³ of sand and clay that lay atop the section of the lower Churchill Valley shown in the photo below disappear? The devastated onesquarekilometre site is located across from Edward’s Island a short distance upstream from Muskrat Falls. Read on and you will find out.

Site of  landslide viewed across the Churchill River from Edward’s Island

The North
Spur stability problem
specifically Nalcor’s refusal to submit its “fix” for independent
still rankles those who have followed the sad
saga of the Muskrat Falls project. 

The current $11.7 billion price tag is its
own testament to, among other issues, Nalcor’s incompetence. But its failure to
take every precaution to ensure the dam’s integrity
having been warned of the risks, having closed the door to expert analysis is another in its list of indictments.

The North
Spur instability problem isn’t about money anymore
that ship has sailed. But four years after project sanction, an independent
assessment of Nalcor’s remediation plan still eludes. 

Says James
L. Gordon, the highly published Canadian hydro engineer and frequent writer on
this Blog: “every utility I have worked with has welcomed a review board, with
the exception of Nalcor…”

The precise geotechnical issue at the North Spur has been discussed here many times. Hence I will spare readers lengthy technical definitions and explanations except to the extent necessary to reacquaint everyone with the problem

Recently, I revisited a series of photographs of the 2010 Edward’s Island landslide, taken in August 2015, only a few of which got published in a piece for this Blog entitled “Captured By A River Damned”

The decision to do so now is one more try at killing the complacency that infects the provincial government on this issue. Nalcor has its own reasons for denying the seriousness of the issue. Even Stan Marshall, from whom much was expected, seems to have drunk the Kool-Aid. 

The photos are a reminder that a potential collapse of
the North Spur, or large parts of its northern slope, is not a mere theoretical possibility. 

Edward’s Island is located between kilometre 72 and 73 as measured from the mouth of the Churchill River, according to AMEC, a consultancy which performed a study of the landslide in 2011. The site is just 20 km or so upstream of the Muskrat Falls project.

The North Spur
comprises roughly 50% of the Muskrat Falls dam.   

The Spur is
a 40to60m high trumpetshaped deposit of sand and clay of 1000m length
measured from its north bank at the Trans Labrador Highway, terminating south
at a high rock knoll known by the Innu as Manitutshu Spirit Mountain. 

While the
falls are powerful, the landmass around which they flow is described as
geologically ‘sensitive’. Riverbank
calving and landslides along the Churchill River are matters of historical
record. The area is geologically complex, but underpinning this complexity is the threat of naturally occurring and
induced earth movements.

The problem that joins the Edward’s Island slide and the North Spur is a marine clay called ‘quick clay’.

Quick clay is one of a number of glacio-marine sediments.
As the nomenclature suggests, they are associated with the last period
of glaciation, popularly known as the Ice Age. The clays were deposited by
glacial melt which raised the level of the oceans. As the glacial ice
disappeared, releasing its enormous weight, the landmass rebounded at which
time the seas also receded, exposing the shorelines of today. In a 1997 scientific article entitled “Quaternary
Geology of the Goose Bay Area” D.G.E. Liverman writes:

“After the
last ice age, the whole Lower Churchill Valley was inundated by the sea up as
far as Gull Island and a bit beyond. Consequently, marine clays were laid down
in these areas, after which these clays were covered by more sediments as the
land uplifted. The general limit of glacio-marine clays along the Churchill
River Valley is 100m above sea-level.”

The sediments, which the glaciers abandoned long ago, still retain the power to
reshape the landscape. 

Quick clay is distinguished from other sensitive clays by its chemical composition:
reduced salt concentrations, due to leaching, influences its
sensitivity and causes it to transform rapidly into a liquid state
— hence the
term ‘quick clay’. This excerpt from the AMEC Report on the Edward’s Island landslide sums it up nicely:

Excerpt from AMEC Report on Edward’s Island landslide

Norway is
home to one of the largest and most famous quick clay induced landslides. The well-known “Rissa“ slide occurred when a farmer performed the seemingly innocuous task of
digging out his property for a new barn, dumping the clay onto the shoreline
of nearby Lake Botn. The excavation
served as a triggering event causing approximately 33 hectares of farmland to
liquefy and to flow into the Lake within a few hours. The entire devastating
event was caught on film. The video 
“The Quick Clay Landslide at Rissa – 1978 (English Commentary)”  is well worth viewing.

Dunderdale Government sanctioned the Muskrat Falls project in December 2013, but
the words “quick clay” were slow to enter the public lexicon.

Cabot Martin called the North Spur “the weak link in Nalcor’s Muskrat Falls

Dr. Stig Bernander

Others, like Dr. Stig Bernander, an internationally renowned expert
on quick clay, and, later, hydro engineer James L. Gordon read Martin’s research and
were aghast that the issue had escaped detailed public examination.

While independent review is still refused by Nalcor, the demand is hardly excessive.

What would be
the cost of a three-person panel of geoscientists to review the remediation plan? Likely it would equal a rounding error on the money Nalcor
wastes at Muskrat before breakfast on a single day.

The issue
caused Dr. Stig Bernander such concern that he flew from Sweden in 2014 to conduct field research at Muskrat Falls. From there, he returned to St. John’s to lecture at the
LSPU Hall and Memorial
and to warn Nalcor. What did he received for his “pro bono”
effort? Only a dressing down from Nalcor V-P Gil Bennett. 

AMEC Exhibit: See investigated area across Churchill River from Edward’s Island

Kayakng the Churchill River August 2015

The Edward’s Island landslide is one halfday’s paddle from Muskrat Falls by kayak. 

In my August 2015 trip
down the Churchill River, I
accompanied by trip coordinator and kayaker Mark Dykeman. 

I am grateful to Mark for permitting me to publish his photographs, which are presented along with some of mine and others selected from a 2014 PowerPoint Presentation by Cabot Martin entitled “Field Trip Report”, based upon the field work of Dr. Stig Bernander in the Lower Churchill Valley area. Other images are taken from the AMEC Report. 

Together, they paint a fairly full picture of that landslide one about
which the public would not be generally aware.

What triggered the Edward’s Island landslide? 

There are a number of possible triggers. Some are noted in the AMEC Report:

Dr. Bernander’s PhD thesis confirms the effect of a build-up of pressure in the slope due to extreme precipitation and adds others like down-slope undercutting by
erosion, seismic tremors, as well as man-made influences like road construction, embankment supports, excavation,
rock-blasting, soil compaction, and interference with drainage.
All have the capacity to cause quick clay to
change character.

AMEC suggests that the most probable cause was meteorological a winter period when the temperature was 8 degrees above the norm, causing excessive snow melt and saturation of the river bank. 

The North Spur Quick Clay Instability And Landslide Problem: The Weak Link In Nalcor’s Muskrat Falls project   By Cabot Martin

The sheer number of causal factors for a landslide within valleys containing quick clay only heightens the risks for a catastrophic event at the North Spur. 

James L. Gordon, P. Eng. (Ret’d)

James L. Gordon also wrote of the unpredictability of such landslides.
He made specific reference to a slide that occurred in Surte, Sweden:
The slope in Surte had remained stable ever since it emerged from the sea some
thousands of years ago. Yet, only driving of a few pre-cast piles for the
foundation of a family house in a steep part of the slope was sufficient to
trigger this catastrophic event. Quick Clay was proven the cause.  A slope of this kind”, he stated, “may be
regarded as ‘a time-set bomb ticking through the millennia.’”

Almost as a
warning, and one worth noting, Gordon wrote with respect to the North Spur: “It
is essential to ensure that the safety of the natural dam is determined with
precision by geotechnical engineers with “quick clay” experience.”

photographs of the Edward’s Island landslide constitute proof that the demands
of Dr. Bernander, Jim Gordon, Cabot Martin, and the Grand River Keepers of
Labrador (among others) for an independent review of the North Spur design are both reasonable and long overdue.

The landslide at Edward’s Island was measured by AMEC having a volume of 2.2 million
³. The area of the slide is approximately one square kilometre.

From Cabot Martin’s PowerPoint Presentation “Field Trip Report” to Central Labrador with Dr. Stig Bernander, October 2014

The first three photographs are cuts from the AMEC Report taken from a helicopter. Even they do not represent the full dimension of the landslide area. 

AMEC photo

AMEC photo

AMEC photo

This is a view of the landslide area from across the Churchill River at Edward’s Island

The photos from our kayaking trip were all taken at grade. Standing on the landslide site at this elevation, several photos are needed to capture the entire area.


In the image below, quick clay is easily visible. The surface area of quick clay features an almost plastic-like quality.
In the next two photos, the act of vibrating the surface of quick clay with our feet caused the clay to liquefy.

In the photo below, the slide carried all surface vegetation to the river. This dead sentry had its roots torn away in the avalanche of sand, clay and mud.

The next two images capture a river flowing not over the hilltop but through it. Sub-surface water flows pose a huge risk to quick clay impacted slopes because they cause erosion and soil saturation. Nalcor has installed a bentonite cut-off wall along the toe of the river at the North Spur to prevent water migration. But test results were never reported as to whether this work was properly completed. Workers performing the installation and hydro engineer James L. Gordon have spoken to the need for such testing.

However, there is a larger issue which Cabot Martin reported on in 2014 explained in the next slide:

Excerpt from a Presentation by Cabot Martin, 2014

Indeed, Dr. Bernander’s concern about the forces acting downhill, and the special character of the clay along the Churchill River, was reinforced just days ago, in technical correspondence with the Grand River Keepers.

Said Bernander: 

“In the previous reports (I have) stressed the fact that the sensitivities of the over-consolidated Clays of Eastern Canada, the Normally Consolidated Clays in Scandinavia and the highly porous soils typical of the Churchill River Valley are not related to the same structural and evolutionary conditions.

“Sedimentary history, chemistry of soil constituents, grain size structure and grain shape radically influence the stress/strain (deformation) behaviour of soils, thus importantly affecting failure processes and the different modes of slope failure.

“In fact, this is what the problems related to the safety analyses of the North Spur dam containment is mainly about.”

That said

The next series of photos depicts specific features inside the landslide area. One can’t help feeling the sense of devastation. The magnitude of the slide simply bewilders. Imposed upon the North Spur, the implications are staggering. Even a landslide farther upstream would likely cause a massive wave to topple the dam. 

Nalcor’s proposition is that such an event couldn’t happen at the North Spur. The next photograph, taken during the portage around the Spur is one more piece of proof, if any were needed, that the North Spur contains the sensitive clay called quick clay. It was taken by a third member of the group of paddlers on our 2015 kayak trip down the Churchill River.

Physical evidence of quick clay at North Spur caught on camera displaying the same plastic-like property evident in several places at the Edward’s Island site


The Edward’s Island quick clay induced landslide is only one and not the largest to have occurred in the area of the Lower Churchill Valley. 

For a mere few thousand dollars, a threemember panel of geotechnical experts could be assembled to perform a review of the North Spur design that Nalcor has, so far, adamantly refused to undertake. The essential issue today is exactly as Cabot Martin described it, following Dr. Stig Bernander’s visit and field work in 2014. 

In his latest post on this Blog, Jim Gordon also noted: 

“Even Hatch (Nalcor’s Consultant) recommends a review board with their comment in the conclusions  “Further analysis on the sensitive marine clays with regards to potential loss in strength when subjected to seismic loading is required. This should be coupled with engaging two eminent consultants with specific expertise on sensitive marine clays”.

Perhaps, the Premier’s newlyreconstituted “Muskrat Falls Oversight Committee” can test Nalcor’s resolve to countermand any challenge to its authority. If the Committee has assumed the status of “real” as distinguished from “fake” the status of the Committee set up under Premier Tom Marshall it has much to prove. A measure of its resolve is whether it will insist that the review is conducted with or without Nalcor’s co-operation. 

Of course, unless the people of Happy Valley-Goose Bay and Mud Lake realize their predicament and get angry the issue will continue to get lost among the one thousand moving parts that make this project a catastrophe.

If nothing else, the Edward’s Island example confirms that a landslide at the North Spur or along the slope of the Lower Churchill Valley goes well beyond a mere theoretical proposition.

And if you have read the entirety of this piece, which has turned out to be far more lengthy than planned, you deserve the reward of seeing two of the many magnificent photographs contained in Mark Dykeman’s collection, taken somewhere on the Churchill River

                                See also: Captured By A River Damned (A Photo Essay)

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. Indeed, this matter is the most important test of the mettle of the new Oversight Committee. I suppose Feehan, who is an economist, not an engineer, appreciates the impact of the loss of the power generation asset of Muskrat if the North Spur fails, as well as the risk of downstream flooding and loss of life.
    Stan Marshall, an engineer, seems not concerned of the risk of losing this asset.
    How can Feehan not insist that this low cost Review panel is essential. I am not aware of Wade Locke making any comment on this subject. Economist Vardy has. As economists go: the good (Vardy)the bad(Locke) and the ugly (Feehan) seems to apply. Yet even the ugly can be good. We will see.
    Yet Andy Wells washed his hands of this risk, saying they (the PUB) had no jurisdiction, as the government took oversight of the design of Muskrat away from the PUB.
    So, is oversight of this matter beyond the comittee`s oversight jurisdiction!. Depends on what the meaning of the word IS, is, replied Slick Willey Clinton when cornered. Likewise, depends on what oversight matter is being oversighted….some things are untouchable, that may expose the folly of this project from day one.
    I had a friend that recently passed away at age 80. He always failed to do precautionary things……even drove for decades without a drivers licence or insurance. His expression for his neglect was `I just let it slide`.
    A fitting inscription go go on top of Spirit Mountain, should the worse happen. `They just let it slide`
    Winston Adams

    • This is a good summation Winston. Not only did `They just let it slide` but they pissed away the money as quickly as possible in a gruesome attempt to make stopping or asking questions about the spur failing irrelevant.

      Remember that the PUB has dismissed independent evidence of reliability issues. They seem to have an aversion to competent independent analysis. I would suggest this is by design and not likely to change with the oversight committee getting fresh lipstick. It still looks like a pig to me.

      The question is what political pressure can be brought to bear to implement a prudent review of the spur engineering? The opposition parties are complicit in the silence. Stan and Gil are in hiding and resemble Stan and Ollie in their scripted mantra that all is well….just don't ask for evidence or competent engineering studies.

      Radio talk show hosts have learned that if you are not toadies and ask tough questions about Muskrat or the devastation fish farms will bring from virtually unregulated salmon farms using frankenfish and banned chemicals, you will be purged.

      Hoping responsible parties, regulators, political opposition, public advocates, the media will suddenly overcome the negligence and collusion that has been the reality and do justice to this destructive project before the spur fails, is beyond faint hope and more resembles the definition of insanity, expecting different results this time.

      It will take an uprising by rate/taxpayers to force the issue.

    • My son Bruno starting an uprising in newfoundland be like finding one street on the rock without a pot hole…..Its not gonna happen…We have become so thick skinned to whatever politicians dump on we have become immune to the effects of torture… Your concern of Cst Smyth visiting you in Cape Breton would be like me find someone here with a badge to stop the constant thunder of snow mobiles and four wheelers going up and down my street all hours of the night….It aint gonna happen …..

    • I would think that the Insurance Corporations must by now be assessing "Construction Risks" with higher premiums. And the future, (post construction), General Insurers must be doing the same. Catastrophic "act of God" clauses and the like.

    • You would think yes for sure..If there had been some thinking done pre construction by these well educated smart people that everyone refers to here we might not be in this pickle..Im no politician or engineer but I'm smart enough to recognize that dirty smell that's coming from this project..

  2. And is the Telegram off to running start for important local issues, as promised by owner Mr Lever in his Note to readers.
    Well, one of the top stories is a reprint from Ontario that real easter bunnies being released is a problem this time of year.
    Russell writes on the delayed justice issues. That is: if you can drag out a matter that is before the courts, long enough, it can finally get thrown out, 18 to 30 months is the limit. This is a technique mostly by defense lawyers, or proseution lawyers if they want to let matters SLIDE.
    Easy to see how the SLIDE principle can be very effective, so no one ever gets punishment if there is failure of the North Spur. Lawyers will offer their services for expertise for the SLIDE principle defense. They will teach this technique when the new MUN law school opens. The course will have evidence based components, called CORE SCIENCE, in this case, CORE SLIDE SCIENCE, from a legal perspective.

  3. I would suggest that in some respects government's/Nalcor's and Dr. Bernander's underlying positions (as I understand them) may in part be a distinction without a difference.

    Government/Nalcor says there is no evidence of "downhill progressive landslides' along the Churchill River Valley (a letter about a year ago from Minister Trimper to the Grand River Keepers re-stated that position). And government, Nalcor, SNC-Lavelin all take the position that the Edward's Island landslide is not a downhill progressive landslide, but a "Flowslide".

    However, such a distinction may, practically speaking, be almost irrelevant.

    Whether there is "Progressive" OR "Retrogressive" (Flowslide) Failure along the Churchill River Valley or on the North Spur itself — the risk from either type is significant, and there is substantial evidence (PROOF)/agreement of retrogressive "Flowslides) on the North Spur.

    Either a 'progressive' or a 'retrogressive' (Flowslide) result in practically the same thing —– not just a single, relatively short, landslide ('short' in terms of distance back from the shoreline). For example, the 1978 North Spur 'flowside' retrogressed (cut back into) the North Spur some 200 metres and reduced the breath at the top of the North Spur to a distance of about 80 metres.

    Nalcor, Hatch, SNC-Lavelin maintain and rely on an assessment that the Edward's Island slide was a "Flowslide", and that the 1978, 2-3 million cubic metre North Spur slide was not a downhill progressive slide, but a flowslide —- and therefore their position is that the North Spur is not at risk from downhill 'progressive' landslides and is now safe (due to stabilization) from 'retrogressive' Flowslides.

    But whether the failure is 'progessive' or 'retrogressive' (flowslides), either can be of a catastrophic nature. A flowslide presents an equal, catastrophic threat to the stability of the North Spur.

    Nalcor's stabilization works relied in part on the selection of an above-surface steep slope on the north/downstream side of the Spur that had an inclination of about 66% as its worst/ 'reference' case. The analysis then included a comparison of other parts of the Spur to this reference case.

    Nalcor subsequently reduced the inclination of that 66% slope (and the other NS slopes) to less than 40% so as to reach what it considered an acceptable 'safety factor'.

    Notwithstanding this decision, portions of the BELOW SURFACE slope at a downstream deep hole had, and still has, a slope inclination of 80% (well above the 66% 'worst case'/reference) slope used to develop/analyse the North Spur and design the existing stabilization works.

    Even though that downstream, subsurface, deep hole slope still exists, SNC-Lavelin/Nalcor's Dec. 2015 Progressive Failure Report states that "even if there were a first time failure in this (Lower Clay) unit, there would not be retrogression and flowslide".

    However, a year earlier, Hatch's 'Cold Eye' Review reported to Nalcor that Liquidity Index (LI) "Values in excess of 1 are an indication of the potential for both liquefaction and flow type failures" —– (and the Liquidity Index values for the Lower Clay layer, portions of which are in direct contact with that 80% slope, ranges from 0.1 to 2).

    Since some lower clay Liquidity Index results have values above 1, and Hatch says that Liquidity Index values "in excess of 1 are an indication of the potential for both liquefaction and flow type failures", how can SNC-Lavelin/Nalcor's Progressive Failure Report state that "even if there were a first time failure in this (Lower Clay) unit, there would not be retrogression and flowslide"?

    The facts, the evidence, call out for anomalies such as these to be reconciled by an independent and expert geotechnical review board.

    • I think that I should clarify that irrespective of the existing and continuing risks of flowslides, the above is not meant to dismiss or diminish Dr. Bernander's concerns, or to suggest that there is little or no difference between Nalcor and Dr. Bernander's positions.

      If, as Dr. Bernander suggests, Nalcor's analytical methods do not properly assess the risk of progressive failure on the North Spur, then Nalcor's existing stabilization measures are unlikely to make the North Spur safe.

      That is perhaps the most important question that needs to be addressed by an independent expert geotechnical review board.

  4. Mr Gordon has stated that it a job to simplify the technical analysis of the North Spur problem.
    Maurice seems to boil down the issues in his description here.
    In my studies in the late 1960s at MUN, I did a civil course on soil analysis, but I recall nothing on quick clay, and detailed analysis on these issues were not well understood then. After a diploma from MUN, I continued to Nova Scotia for an electrical engineering degree, and afterwards worked 5 years with Nfld Hydro. So, I have no expertise in quick clay analysis, but some fundamental knowledge of dam construction.
    This piece shows a google photo (from Cabot Martin`s work), of the Muskrat Falls area, showing the North Spur etc. It does not show the large depression of almost 200 ft deep just downstream of the North Spur. I have seen from Maurice`s blog where this large hole is located and the steep slopes there.
    Mr Gordon mentions that the North Spur may require much lower slopes for stabilization, having a base twice that currently being done.This makes sense. It would appear that that may require a large earth works to fill in the deep hole and perhaps extending to a point near the bottom center of the google photo, to the right bank of the river, as that right bank seems to have past slides there.
    Engineering studies in the 1960s suggested that the stabilization of North Spur could be 10 percent of the cost to the overall dam and generation site. That would suggest some 600 million cost. Recent assessments suggested it could be done for perhaps 1 percent, so 60 million.
    I expect the inclusion of the cut off wall and other works exceeds 60 but is much less than 600 million. The question is whether the stabilization is adequate, and I doubt that it is.
    Perhaps Maurice, with input from Mr Gordon, would do a further piece for Uncle Gnarley, showing this large hole superimposed on the Google photo, and appropriate base size allowing for slopes as Gordon thinks necessary (both upstream and downstream), to give context for the non technical reader what is at stake here. It might serve as a template, should there be a failure, to indicate what proper stabilization should have been required.

    • Thanks for the link Robert. It quantifies how much can be saved by stopping site C now even with 1.5 billion in sunk costs. It makes clear that BC Hydro wildly overestimated demand! Yet the political decisions push it forward. Do you think that the rich contracts and abundant "fees" for the contract have anything to do with it?

      The unneeded power will have to be sold at a loss. Stopping now would save taxpayers 1.7 billion.
      All sounds familiar does it not? Ignore the economics or the fact that it is unneeded, just plunge straight ahead.

  5. Robert…….you suggest it is time for MUN to do a study……and ask does the public really give a Dam.
    I ask does MUN really give a DAMM!. I suggest not. MUN is getting it`s share of Nalcor dollars, I suggest, and are therefore not independent nor without bias, and explains their silence on concerns expressed in this blog. I had thought otherwise about MUN and hoped this was not the case, but like the media, who are influenced by ad revenue, it seems MUN has lost its credibility. It may have stated with Locke, as to Muskrat on this project, but goes beyond Locke. I could say more.
    I believe UG had previously questioned the operation of MUN, on an item by his brother, if memory serves.
    And I see that Ashley Fitzpatrick is getting a scholarship to permit her to better analyze technical matters involving resource issues. A bit late, I suggest, as to the our hydro resource, wind, conservation, and efficiency resources and the Muskrat boondoggle. And even with better knowledge, what good does it do to serve the public if the media is influenced by ad dollars, and avoid issues where ad dollars may vanish. MUN had the expertise to question the folly of Muskrat, but stood down and stayed silent. If MUN is silenced , what chance is it that Ashley will come to the rescue with her scholarship knowledge! Pity and shameful. The Telegram sort of admitting they are too ignorant on technical knowledge to be be effective to inform the public, on a 12 billion dollar blunder.
    I don`t buy it,as that lack of knowledge is the issue, as Russell is no dummy, but avoided important issues to expose the folly of Muskrat Madness. There was just a line that he would not cross, or not permitted to creoss, and not that he was incapable to understand the technical issues.
    Winston Adams

  6. Robert, since posting above, I Googled `UBC site C report` and found lots of summaries of that report.
    Amazing of the parallels of this and Muskrat, only Muskrat is probably 10 times worse, well, more like 3 times worse. I would advsie any reader to Google and read up on this BC site C thing, and UG should perhaps devote a piece on it: it calls for a Pause and a full review,,,,,,,,in other words put it On Ice, as Des Sullivan, Dave Vardy, and others have long advocated for Muskrat. The BC report is from UBC……where is our equivalent from MUN!!!!!!!!!!.
    Vast sums of money going to MUN, and bursting at the seems with guys with high fulutent degrees and letters and titles behind their names, and yet SILENCE on this boondoggle. We have been let down badly as a society by this institution of higher learning.
    Winston Adams

    • There is historical symmetry in how corporate bought "Tory minded", governments in both BC and NL, have sold its electorates on job making mega projects, not as they advertise the "better fiscal" model. Don't be fooled by the "Liberal" label. BC Liberal is Tory in drag.

    • Winston, MUN survives because of Government subsidies so why bite the hand that feeds you? For far too long, Newfoundlander's have become too reliant on Government handouts to prop up economic boondoggles. Asking for institutions or citizens to "rise up" and challenge the status quo requires a good hard look at ourselves … something most of us don't want to do.

    • Winston don't forget that both projects have SNC Lavalin central in the boondoggle. Both use the SNC playbook honed overseas in projects that have resulted in charges and execs including the CEO fired.

      The playbook is build a project much larger than needed, short circuit regulatory processes, put rate/taxpayers on the hook with take or pay contracts, enshrine secrecy about contracts with eager jurisdictions that benefit politically from opaque decisions, and grease the wheels with lucrative payments to "agents" who arrange the deal.

      Like Muskrat there is no need for site C and yet the politics drives it forward despite the dubious economics or need. Should not this raise serious concerns about why and how decisions were made for Muskrat? Why is transparency not essential to protect rate/taxpayers in NL? Why does this go on and all when so much is at stake? Is protecting the guilty and their oligarch friends more important to politicians than the citizens or the viability of the treasury? When will these fundamental questions get addressed? When the guilty have left town and death and fiscal destruction is completed when the spur fails?

      It seems the feudal princes trump wimpy governments that pretend they are in charge. Your "democracy" is a hollow meaningless exercise.

    • Okay Bruno, so you are saying SNC is responsible for the size of this project (as well as site C). That SNC is responsible for short-circuiting the regulatory process in NL? So the feudal princes of SNC have foisted this project on wimpy ole Danny Williams. No doubt another conspiracy of Quebecers taking advantage of hapless NLers.

    • Don't take my word for it Bernard. See:

      For a case study of the SNC playbook and the Alberta bills that ended transparency and shifted decisions into the backrooms see:

      This is a good primer about the SNC playbook written in 2012. It outlines the overdesign, rich "fees" and government collusion to keep taxpayers in the dark. It also mocks how undemocratic this is with fitting quote from Gordon Gecko. You also have a lot to learn Bernard.

    • I do have a lot to learn for sure. I have no trust in outside advisors. They are like your financial advisor. Reminds me of the ad on TV when the guy asks his advisor "how come the fees and bank profits are so high yet returns so low". In 2002 HQ and NL had a deal to develop the lower Churchill. As usual, HQ would have assumed all risks and NL would receive a risk-free annuity. In 2005, a joint bid from Ontario and Quebec to develop the lower Churchill was also rejected. NL wanted to go it alone. How hard could a project like this be? I don't know much about SNC but I do know that it is unwise to rely on the kindness of strangers. Not sure if any of the other contracts are any better. Astaldi appears to have signed a contract on a 'cost-plus' basis – that is unheard of. I am simply saying that the ultimate blame has to rest on the NL government – They wanted to develop this alone – be careful what you wish for. It is sad really. You can't commit to a project of this size (close to 50% of GDP) without knowing what you are doing.

  7. Mike, the Telegram reports that the new mine for St Lawrence got 17 million form the government and the company gave the Liberal party here 15,000.00……..what Americans can Pay and Play. Amazing so little in donations can get so much……..this at a time when they tax books and close libaries….. so you are right about propping up boondoogles, and to expect institutions or citizens to question and limit this behaviour …… if too much to expect, then we continue to be a have not province, and maybe a bankrupt province.
    And Bruno……. oligarch refers to places like Russia, and yes, it seems we have conditions similar……..even having people committed as mentally ill if they speak out (see the Court of Appeal statement yesterday……that we are in a dangerous place when authories do this…police takes a man to doctors to have him involantary committed……what is the difference between this and Russia, China, or North Korea… you are right…..our democracy is hollow, and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms made a mockery.
    We, as a province can be put in the poor house, and a few rob the riches, and are unaccountable, and worst of all, is the apathy of the people, and the media an accomplice to this plunder, by their silence and poor journalism.

    Such a rant can be dangerous, I guess. I often get a phone call from the RNC association asking for donations!. It should be illegal for them to do this……a form of intimidation in my opinion. I am tired of telling them they are not on my charitable list.

  8. Winston, An oligarch is " a person who belongs to a small group of people who govern or control a country, business, etc." An oligopoly is "a state of limited competition, in which a market is shared by a small number of producers or sellers."

    That seems to me to describe NL and its politics much more than your "democracy" that has no transparency or accountability or functioning regulatory regime.

    This is not just a semantic exercise. To meaningfully engage in politics it is essential to frame the politics accurately. Your "democracy" has become a hollow and meaningless construct that obscures the truth and keeps the oligarch's victims in a state of paralysis.

    See the reality and act accordingly. Expose the oligarchs and demand transparency. The media are complicit and protect vested interests, not the taxpayers.