True to form, Premier
Dwight Ball and Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady have joined NOIA in a
new crusade to have the Government of Canada ante up for a “neo-PIP” (Petroleum
Incentive Program). NOIA not only wants the oil industry to receive exploration
funding, they want the “beleaguered” Companies to get operating assistance,
too. This is not as surprising as it is aggravating. We are talking about a
group of petty, quick-buck, short-sighted manufacturer’s agents anyway; the
Ball Government aligns perfectly with their thinking.

Many “private-enterprisers”, not just oil
companies, are wont to pump their chests about the capital which they put at
risk; until there is an economic hiccup — or pandemic — that transforms them into
beggars. Problem is, when the distress passes, they expect to be left alone to
conduct “private” business unhindered, the notion of payback quickly forgotten.

While more a small collection of projects than an industry,
the NL offshore is still very important — those absolute minimum capital
investments which are made here, and the relatively well-paying jobs, too. But on
what basis should we give them a handout when most of the construction jobs they
create are still heading elsewhere?

Don’t forget, operators in the Newfoundland
offshore have done very well these past few decades. Big profits have been made,
but you don’t hear any reference to that fact.  

People looking across Conception Bay today will spy
the Terra Nova Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessel. Hanging
around Bell Island, it awaits instruction to head somewhere for a planned
makeover. Is she heading to Bull Arm and to the skilled hands of Newfoundland
tradespeople? No, no, no — to Spain. That was, at least, until COVID struck.

Why not Bull Arm? Good question. Let’s examine
this and the larger issue.

Savvy businesspeople know to press their advantage
when a weak government is over a barrel, and the political smell of desperation
is all about. Think “Bay du Nord” and “West White Rose”.

Where was NOIA on the West White Rose deal when
Husky Energy forced the Ball Government to drop the requirement of retractable
gates to facilitate fast and easy entry/exit for large offshore platforms —
negotiated in the original deal — which would have allowed Long Harbour,
potentially one of the world’s best deep water construction sites, to become an
easy destination for international work?

Then there’s Norway’s Equinor on the Bay du Nord
agreement, the place which NOIA holds up as a model of company incentive
generosity. The Company gave the Ball Government nothing but an empty Press

Where was NOIA when Equinor wrung most of the
potential local construction jobs from that project, leaving only the subseawork and the anchor chain assemblies — the latter of the unskilled work variety?
The clods were too busy catching the deep-fried shrimp falling off the
reception table at the celebration to think about tomorrow’s lunch.

Let me take you back to a 24 September 2018 post
entitled Bay du Nord: Turning Good News Into Disbelief. The post was written by
a guest writer, an anonymous person whose long career in the industry qualified
him to address the subject. Consider these excerpts:

“The Government promises “4 million person hours
in pre-development and development phases. Person years of work on these
projects is measured by a formula representing the average per “tonne”. With
the complex “topsides” constructed elsewhere, the remaining mix of work simply
won’t warrant the same equation. In other words, the person years/hours of work
on mooring/anchoring systems is far less per tonne than on topsides

“Note that the Government’s press release states
that the “fabrication of the hull, turret, flowlines, umbilical’s, and other
components will be international. That leaves only the mooring/anchoring and
subsea systems. Little wonder person years of work have been converted to
“person hours””. 

NOIA wants the Feds to fund this paltry amount of
work with a Bay du Nord bailout and funding for other projects, too.

Which brings us back to the Terra Nova FPSO,
lingering off Bell Island.
Terra Nova FPSO (Photo Credit: Debbie Preston, Twitter) 

The vessel always signified corporate stupidity,
its owners regretting, almost from the moment it was commissioned, that they
got caught in the grip of accountants, for whom labour and productivity issues —
ostensibly the fault of the locals (and some of them were, but not all) —
outweighed the demanding and unrelenting realities of the North Atlantic, not
to mention the commercial advantages that a virtually faultless concrete
Gravity Base Structure gave Hibernia.

Today, only corporate arrogance on the part of
Suncor (the operator) allows the Terra Nova’s rusting hulk to wave to the people
of the Capital City and to the vast majority of the residents on the Avalon. As
to its new destination? It is as agood as a direct message: you know what you
can do with your Atlantic Accord!

That would not hurt at all, except that our own
Provincial Government and the dolts at NOIA are content to be supplicants to
those skillful players, while still stoking the fear that if the Feds don’t
ante up, the Companies will go elsewhere.

Where have we heard that one before?

Nearly 40 years later, it isn’t hard to figure out
where the drag came for obtaining the Atlantic Accord in the first place. Let
me tell you: as much as we blame them, it wasn’t all the fault of the Federal

But back to the matter of jobs and that rusting
hulk off Bell Island…

Who remembers the days when fabrication work was
an activity actually performed in Bull Arm?

I will wager that the people who worked on the
Terra Nova FPSO do. In fact, after 20 years, they will still be able to locate the
mooring points that held the ship. Yes, they are still in place!

Those workers will recall, too, that the hull entered
Bull Arm an empty tanker, that some of the modules were constructed there: the
accommodations module, the gas injections assembly, other assemblies consisting
of compressors, pumps, the flare boom, and possibly more – 60% of the topsides
modules, altogether, but the remaining 40% also came to Bull Arm to be lifted
and installed. All of this wprk, and the final hookup on the deck of the FPSO, represented a huge scope of work; a lot of good – skilled – jobs.

Against this background, on what basis should this
work – and more – not be performed on the Terra Nova FPSO — again? Newfoundlanders could do it 20 years ago, but not today?

Has the Premier ever picked up the phone to the
President of Suncor and asked him to sit around the Cabinet Table — with the unions
in tow — telling him we want this work for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians? If
he has, he has never said a word publicly. But he had no problem sending a
letter to the Prime Minister for a handout, offering not even to lift a finger
to do the job for which he was elected as Premier.

Today, the FPSO projects the image of a neglected rust
heap of a sunset industry. Having pumped oil for 20 years, neither owners,
Suncor, nor its partners, the Newfoundland Government and NOIA, nor the unions
that represent the Building Trades, as much as mention Bull Arm as a place
where this production facility, and ALL — yes, ALL — of its modules can be rebuilt
and put back into service.

Rather than either the Government or NOIA leading
the charge to wrestle with Suncor, and with the principles of the Atlantic
Accord forgotten, our workers are left to consider the prospect of preparing
mooring chains, should Bay du Nord ever go ahead.

Content with scraps from the table, the Provincial
Government, NOIA and the trade union leadership should all have their collective
asses kicked to kingdom come!

Yes, I hear the big “BUT” from the apologists at NOIA
— the hull will have to go on drydock, and that can’t be done at Bull Arm. So
what? The hull wasn’t built there in the first place.
Having found its way to Bull Arm, likely we can
find a Newfoundland Captain capable of making a round trip this time!   

If the Owners want “public” money, let them earn

If Newfoundland’s Representative in the Federal
Cabinet, Seamus O’Regan, “steps up”,  to
use NOIA’s phrase, it should be for local unemployed tradespeople and other
workers whose international unions have gotten them or who just see them as an
extension of  Alberta’s workforce anyway.

In place of the evasions that have characterized
his response to NOIA, O’Regan should be telling the oil industry that Canada
supports “Canadian” jobs.

One more thing. If NOIA was a real industry
association, the public would be hearing about meetings with international trades
union bosses, discussions of ways to enhance productivity, conversations around
how Newfoundland tradespeople can get access to the largest amount of work
possible — work measured in years, not in hours — and any other issue that helps
those jobs to be performed here; not in Spain, not in Norway and not in South

No wonder that tired, rusting hulk is moored off
Bell Island.

Rust is the perfect emblem of the current
political leadership of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Is John
Abbott or Andrew Furey ready to make that call to the President of Suncor?

Or, like Dwight Ball, will they become letter writers, too?                     

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?