Comments for Muskrat Falls Symposium sponsored by the Sociology Department of Memorial University organized under the leadership of Dr. Stephen Crocker:
impact it might have had on public understanding of the Muskrat Falls project. I
will be careful not to perform an appraisal best left to others.
reason was that no clairvoyance was required to see that this project would end
badly and those who saw it that way had an obligation to warn the public. The business case could not
stand up to scrutiny. Those responsible needed to be held to
power from the Upper Churchill in 2041 and seriously understated construction risk.
They constructed a 50 year demand forecast for electricity which could not
survive even the construction phase. Well before construction started the
Province and the Feds were talking about the need to import Irish and Mexican
labour because of competition for local hires from Western Canada. Don’t tell
me we built MF because we needed the jobs.
governing coordination of the water flows on the Churchill River – a
requirement before even one shovel of dirt was dug – and practically no senior
megaproject expertise; cronyism helped select senior management and the board
of directors. No independent oversight
of the project followed.
the decision to sanction was prudently made.
should risk a multi-billion project for a couple of hundred megawatts of power,
and let it skirt normal political and institutional checks and balances, could
only have been divined in the parallel universe of Alice in Wonderland.
sanction decision on a condition known as ‘uninformed public’, though denial
and partisanship also played a role.
transpired; hence, many are still focussed on power rates.
or a mini-split – when the whole Province should be considering the
ramifications of a crushed Treasury and how it will affect decent health and
stuck in a paradigm of delusion, each still perpetuating the myth that NL will
be swimming in revenues from the project.
is about rate mitigation and insolvency and the weight of a $25 billion total
Gnarley Blog has been influential seems fanciful.
Nalcor perpetuated propaganda, on the one hand, and fact-based analysis, on the
waste and cost overruns and the threat of energy poverty and insolvency – not
objective analysis – to awaken people to the charade.
that freely chose not to occupy the Muskrat space.
the most important one was common sense.
rich in potential for the sharing of opinion and analysis, though I quickly learned
that readership and public confidence are both hard won.
largely to persistence and possibly a recognition that a high standard of
research and writing would have to be enforced.
charts, exhibits, the absence of political bias, the practice of announcing
revelations obtained under ATTIPA or from confidential sources, and the opportunity
to apply Nalcor’s own words against them – which were often contradictory or
embellished – at some point earned a steadily increasing readership.
Management to the North Spur, from the stupidity of the “Dome” to the
exhibition of incompetent Quality Control exhibited best by the popped cable,
from the giveaway of both “free” and “cheap” power to Nova
Scotia – which had no relationship with the cost of production – to the false
promise of revenue from power exports.
claim of intergenerational equity whose purpose was to obscure a hideous “take
or pay” contract that hooked Island ratepayers for the full cost of the project
– one that was based on escalating demand among a declining population and
absent the admission that the capital costs had been low-balled.
clearer style, their talent for making the complex comprehensible.
largely attribute to the high quality of analysis performed by guest
public policy analysis, but in the early days of Muskrat, JM was a star
engineer with enormously valuable insights. David Vardy, a former Clerk of the
Executive Council and Chair of the PUB was a prodigious and insightful analyst
and is still a major contributor.
that of renowned Hydro Engineer, James L. Gordon, who wrote a good many posts. Like PlanetNL and JM, there were contributors
needing anonymity, like Agent 13 and the Anonymous Engineer. There were many other contributors, too.
clincher was the story of the Anonymous Engineer and the revelation – supported
by Grant Thornton – that the budget estimates for the project had been
concern that in the euphoria of an impossible promise, they had been misled.
departure and the mishandling by the Ball Administration of his severance
package? It might have had an impact.
the public trust? It did.
call of the Commission of Inquiry? I am confident it did.
less light would have shined on the debacle. Denial by the authorities is much
harder when the public record is confirmed by proof that they were warned.
ignored because they are not accountable. I would ask: are they less
accountable than politicians? Bloggers certainly don’t have politicians’ protections.
And, like all citizens, bloggers must avoid slander.
public dialogue. They know that in the social media space they will be called
out in a millisecond if their narrative flies in the face of the facts.
|Source: The Telegram October 25, 2012|
There is another dimension to this question. How do we hold
Danny and his colleagues to account other than by rejecting them at the polls?
Is that really sufficient accountability for inflicting monstrous damage on a
small and vulnerable society?
corporation selectively dishes out grants to a plethora of community, public
service and other groups in a scheme that duplicates the Government’s role, in
which all, including those denied, are expected to remain silent for fear of
disenfranchising themselves from future rewards?
has no place in this province and Uncle Gnarley has no time for that game.
institutions fail. An important example is the Access to Information Act
without which the ability of private citizens to play a role in the public
policy apparatus and to expose bad decisions, cover ups and misinformation,
would be far more difficult.
that, in addressing public policy issues, individual citizens have been granted
a powerful platform. But the work is not effortless. It is a monumental task.
Done poorly, you will be ignored. Done well, expect the readership build to be
and responsible press is a core requirement for a democratic society.
to give an issue like Muskrat investigative time and the truth is they could
have done far better. But Muskrat required a depth of analysis unlikely to have
come out of any media organization.
start, first by politicians sensitive to the risks being imposed on a small,
aging and shrinking population and then by review institutions established for
hoping that he will chastise reckless politicians and feckless officials. But
even more, I want to see him issue a clarion call for the strengthening of our
oversight institutions. I hope that he throw down the gauntlet to the media, to
other institutions (including to Memorial) and to all individuals and groups in
our society, reminding us that we have to do better.
of parody in a world of Alice in Wonderland. Our problem, however, is that as a
society we don’t get to put down our version of that book. In Alice, we find great
humour but the problem, in its full dimension, is that the solutions are no
laughing matter. As much as they think it might, no individual, no group and no
institution, including Memorial, will escape Muskrat folly’s cruel reward. Memorial
can do more.
for the first time. In addition, because
the Terms of Reference set by government downplays the environmental, social
and political impact of MF, MUN researchers can fill that void and offer their
research to the Inquiry. They can also
speak up; very few have.
solutions which will surely be needed if we are to remain a viable society.
sponsoring this Symposium.