Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Time to Come Clean

Time to Come Clean

By: Ryan Young

It was a bitter pill for many to swallow last week when the premier finally confirmed that the principal beneficiary of the Muskrat Falls project would not be NL, it would be Nova Scotia and Emera. It becomes even harder to swallow when you consider that the entire reason for going through Nova Scotia in the first place was to give the finger to Quebec and ensure that we would be the ones to benefit from our own energy production. Danny’s $7 Billion-dollar tantrum will likely turn into a $20 billion dollar noose before a kilowatt of power ever flows from the Lower Churchill River, if indeed it ever flows at all.

At the time of sanction, we were told that Emera’s generous Maritime Link deal was good for this province because it would ensure access to southern energy markets without having profits hijacked by Hydro Quebec. It was an easy sell to a province that never got over the bad deal on the Upper Churchill. Unfortunately, as the project has progressed and bits and pieces of the truth about Muskrat Falls have been dragged out of politicians, it seems like in our effort to screw Quebec, we sold the farm to Nova Scotia.

The premier came clean in the House of Assembly on March 9th, telling the province that Emera’s share in the Labrador-Island-Link (LIL) had risen from 29% to 59%. Ball was quick to shift the blame to the PC’s saying that "This was not my idea. This was not the idea of anyone on this particular side of the house." While that might be true, it still doesn’t explain why it took a premier who campaigned on openness and transparency 16 months to let the people of the province know that they wouldn’t even own a majority share of the LIL, despite the fact that the ratepayers would be the ones covering the cost overruns. Emera will enjoy an 8.8% return on their investment, with zero extra financial risk to them, and all paid for out of your rising hydro bills.

How could this happen? Well, as the Uncle Gnarley blog has been saying for quite a long time, ratepayers in Nova Scotia were protected by their public utility board, the UARB. The UARB ensured that their stakeholders would get the best deal possible, and even sent Emera back to the bargaining table to make sure that Nova Scotia would get a better deal than the original 20/20 deal signed by Danny Williams. Our own PUB has had no such oversight and has been shrouded in secrecy as far as Muskrat Falls is concerned. As pointed out in this recent Uncle Gnarley post, the PUB didn’t even have the terms reference to look at the Emera deal during their 2012 review.

With Danny’s hand-picked puppet, Andy Wells, at the helm, the PUB has failed to protect Newfoundland and Labrador ratepayers and has not offered any sort of meaningful oversight for the Muskrat project at all. It will be interesting to see if Wells will throw his hat into the ring for St. John’s mayor again this fall. With Dannyland aka Galway nearing its initial opening dates, good King Danny may need a puppet more in City Hall than at the PUB. Now that Dwight Ball and Cathy Bennett have made it quite clear that it will be business as usual at Nalcor, Danny can breath a sigh of relief, and Wells’ work at the PUB is done.

For an $800 Million dollar investment, Emera will earn an annual profit of $70.4 million for at least 50 years. That should finally kill the myth that Dwight and all the premiers before him have perpetuated that there will be profits for NL from Muskrat energy. In case anyone out there is still confused, there will be NO profit from the sale of Muskrat Falls power, other than what the rate payers will be forced to pay each month on their electricity bills. Then Why didn’t the PUB raise any alarms over such a deal? How could they have remained silent and secretive when we were knowingly selling ourselves up the river in the name of getting Muskrat built or bust. Sadly, it looks like even if it does ever get built, it will still be a bust for the people of NL.

So, if we can’t trust Nalcor or government and we can’t trust the PUB, who do the people of NL have to turn to? As good as the PC’s have been in the official opposition role, you will not hear them ask any tough questions about Muskrat for obvious reasons. The NDP have done a fairly good job of asking tough questions, but with such a small caucus their attack is limited and their questions almost always get blown off with spin by the premier and his ministers who know that they only have to be a little long-winded and wait out the clock. Paul Lane has done an admirable job of engaging the public and raising major issues in the media, but with limited resources and no questions in question period, it has been difficult for him to get the government to acknowledge the issues at hand when it comes to Nalcor and Muskrat Falls. The Auditor General is currently investigating Nalcor, but with only a small team and limited resources and no clear mandate from the premier, it could take years just to go through the books, let alone all of the other issues that deserve a look.

Where does that leave us? If people want answers, they will need to stand up and demand them. They will need to find a way to force the government into opening up Nalcor and the Muskrat Falls project in particular. While many have been very vocal, many more seem to be perfectly fine with allegations that could possibly include criminal acts, and at the very least the squandering of billions from the provincial treasury. In a recent poll, however, for the first time since it began, more people were against Muskrat Falls than were for it. This proves that people are willing to change their minds, when given a chance to look at the facts.

When Dwight Ball promised openness and accountability for Nalcor, people expected more than just asking their buddies at EY to do an expensive study on the cost. Why hasn’t the premier opened things up and come clean with the people of the province? He is quick to point fingers at the PC’s every chance he gets, but he has the power to reveal the truth about Muskrat and he refuses to do so. Why? By opening it up and showing the people the truth of the extent that we will be burdened by Muskrat Falls, they might even be able to earn enough credibility to keep a couple of seats in 2019. Instead, they have decided to keep us all in the dark and stay the course set by the previous administration that they are always so quick to blame.

By now it seems common knowledge that Dwight and Co. do not consider honesty and integrity to be part of their job description. They are fully committed to the spin and no matter how many times they say that they inherited the project, they can’t deny that they have failed to take any meaningful action on the file since they took over the reins. If they can lie or stay silent on things that are so obvious to so many, it leaves people scratching their heads and wonder what else they might be hiding. It’s time for the people to demand that the premier come clean.


  1. If we do not Protect OurSelves, they will TAKE EVERYTHING! Maybe they already have :(

  2. It's NOW either ... TRUTH or POVERTY ... for current (and yet unborn) citizens of NL.

    Either we (ALL) stand together as a society and fight for truth, or we send our citizens of all ages elsewhere to build a decent lifestyle.

    No low to middle-class paid citizens can build a reasonable existence in NL any longer. The unemployment rates are falsified (WAY MORE than 20% are unemployed or under-employed when you measure the number of fully employed vs the total population).

    There are very few (to no) decent paying jobs here for young (or older) citizens. If you think you have one, think again after you project your 5 year personal, (or business) budget.

    The levy fees, 15% taxes, increased costs of virtually everything you consume, fewer jobs, failing/shrinking industries (including oil) , large employment projects coming to a close, a completely ineffective (and blatantly corrupt) system of governance, rapidly falling (crashing?) real estate values, and the only housing/construction starts are on land that was essentially pilfered from the public. ...

    ... AND if that wasn't bad enough (and it is) our 2.1 corrupted political parties (in at least two colours) are complacent and "on-the-take" with salaries and pensions while they stand in support of outlawing the world's largest and greenest industrial revolution in global history, (renewable energy, that can create thousands of ongoing jobs right now) .... just so a few corrupt psychopath-like money pigs can force our young (and yet unborn) children to pay for Muskrat electricity.