Former Premier Kathy Dunderdale is scheduled to appear as a Witness at the Commission of Inquiry into the Muskrat Falls Project today. The question that should be in the public’s mind is whether she will display any more knowledge of why her Administration sanctioned the scheme than she did in 2012. At that time she ought to have known that Nalcor was headed by unsuitable and inexperienced leadership and that it was driven by ego (her own and Danny Williams’) as well as recklessness underpinned by several unfounded (possibly contrived) assumptions which included some 50-year forecasts.
Private Members Motion in support of sanctioning the Muskrat Falls Hydro
Project. House of Assembly, Wednesday,
December 5, 2012.
of Newfoundland and Labrador in to some foreign entity over which we have no
control. Nalcor is owned by the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, Mr.
Speaker. They work for us, Mr. Speaker. Nalcor works for us, and let me tell
you, Mr. Speaker, that Nalcor is a regulated company and they have a regulated
rate of return set by the PUB. Everything they earn beyond that regulated rate
of return either gets reinvested on behalf of the people or returned to the
government of the people. You see, Mr. Speaker, this is some of the challenge,
because even the basics of how energy is managed here in this Province is not
well understood by the people opposite”. (Bold added)
Note to the Premier: 1. Nalcor is not ‘regulated’ by the
Public Utilities Board (PUB). Newfoundland Hydro Corp. is the Crown owned
regulated Utility. 2. Newfoundland Hydro is not permitted to earn any return
over the “regulated rate set by the PUB”.
Any utility charges in excess of the regulated return are ordered
returned, to the ratepayer, by the PUB.
3. You were heard on an open line program suggesting that Newfoundland
Hydro built the Churchill Falls Hydro Project.
Not true. The correct answer is BRINCO.
|The Muskrat Falls Sanction photo-op|
Faux pas, such as those, could be overlooked as minor matters
of misspeak, but for the fact that they are a frequent occurrence by the
Premier and often, too, by her Minister of Natural Resources.
The media, too, are inclined to let the public make their own judgement.
Problem is, basic errors, such as those noted above, suggest that the Premier
simply does not know her file despite having been the energy Minister and one
of the leading spokespersons on Muskrat Falls.
the cut and thrust of politics when Members of Opposition parties exchange
barbs and insults across the floor of the House of Assembly. This subject addresses the question of
whether leading politicians are up to their jobs.
deliberate strategy of obfuscation. It
had a very specific purpose: fend off the critics. It confirmed this hypothesis: the Premier and
her leading Ministers don’t really understand the intricacies of Muskrat, they
know that and they have to keep it a secret.
exposed and as its rationale changed.
When one justification stretched credibility too far, another was
inserted, and kept active as long as it had staying power with the public. It began
with the proposal that power could be exported profitably. When that blew up, it was replaced with the prospect
of power for new mines; later the mantra was economic diversification.
bite, erodes any necessity for depth of knowledge or even the most basic
analysis. The Premier and her two
Ministers used the limitation with great success.
of innocuous lines scripted by PR types: “we need the power”; “Nalcor says
Muskrat is the lowest cost option” or “the ratepayer will enjoy stable
electricity rates for fifty years”. The politicians knew (or ought to have
known) that Demand and the price of oil, and a plethora of other “known
unknowns”, to quote a former U.S. Defence Secretary, were well beyond anyone’s
ability to calculate.
of complexity and demand for more detail? They deferred to Nalcor….Nalcor are
the experts, Dunderdale said. The
leadership is off the hook!
are obligating Government and the taxpayers.
defer to senior bureaucrats for any purpose other than occasional technical
airwaves, week after week for over a year, to conduct the Government’s
communications campaign and to deal with what the Premier and her Ministers are
unable to comprehend, has no precedent in the annals of the political history
of this Province, whether the Tory or the Liberal version.
challenge the political leadership, and to have them justify Muskrat Falls,
without deference to Ed Martin and Nalcor is, I believe, the single greatest
media failure of the entire Muskrat Falls ‘debate’, not that you can grace any
phase of Muskrat’s unveiling with that interactive and engaging term.
Federal Loan Guarantee and the Emera Sanction Agreement, are as unknown to the
people of the Province today, as when they were first announced. Why would our
politicians care if they know they will never have to explain?
fearless that he can go on the public media and be glib about returns on
Muskrat Falls. He knows that neither the
media nor anyone else has access to independent numbers that might prove that
he is ‘full of it’.
It is unfair to lay on them the shortcomings of a preoccupied or disinterested
public or, for that matter, the failings of politicians. But, on major issues whose impacts are
significant, the political leadership must be held to account. They must, as a
bare minimum, be challenged and be required to show proof that they understand
their files and that they are not mere puppets of smarter, more knowledgeable
and controlling bureaucrats whose interests may vary with the public
the introduction, are not misspeak, or ‘slip of the tongue’. They reflect a Premier, who knows little of
the facts underlying the complex issues for which her Administration is
responsible; they represent a mindset that feels empowered enough to say
whatever comes to mind, even if it is totally inaccurate and off-the-wall. The Premier knows she will not likely be
challenged by anyone, that she is free to pillory offending critics.
her key Ministers. Many of us have no