Maybe they should call him Dwight Gall.
Here's what Liberal Leader Dwight Ball said on Nov. 4:
“Even though this government is plowing full steam ahead on the Muskrat Falls Project, the $1 billion federal loan guarantee is still not finalized.” (http://www.assembly.nl.ca/business/hansard/ga47session2/13-11-04.htm)
Here's what he said on December 10, about a month later:
“The Muskrat Falls Project was sanctioned last December and the Federal Loan Guarantee was finalized over a year ago.” (http://www.assembly.nl.ca/business/hansard/ga47session2/13-12-10.htm)
For this blog post, I'm going to be relying mostly on Hansard, because it's already transcribed by the awesome folks up at the House of Assembly, which saves me the effort of going back through literally dozens of interviews, media availabilities and other public comments Ball has made in the last year. Suffice it to say, on more times than I can count, Ball has looked me in the eye and said the Muskrat Falls loan guarantee could be blown apart by a stiff breeze.
On Nov. 5, (http://www.assembly.nl.ca/business/hansard/ga47session2/13-11-05.htm) Ball introduced the first private member's resolution of the fall session, which called on the government to send the Muskrat Falls project back to the Public Utilities Board. During his speech, he again referenced the Nova Scotia component of the project. His message up until now is that the Nova Scotia end of things could fall apart, and the government could be left without the federal loan guarantee. Here's what he said Nov. 6:
“This project now, this $7.7-billion project that we talk about, is currently not finalized. Even today, we find ourselves in Nova Scotia answering questions to get our partner, I guess Emera in this case, so that this can actually become an official project where we can then go and get the federal loan guarantee, which is a big part of this.”(http://www.assembly.nl.ca/business/hansard/ga47session2/13-11-06.htm)
On Nov. 19, Ball used his very first question of the day during question period to ask about the Nova Scotia business, and he asked if the loan guarantee could fall through:
“Yesterday, the Government of Nova Scotia came out against the Maritime Link deal. They said the deal provisions are vague and put that province's ratepayers at risk.
“I ask the Premier: If this deal falls through, what happens to the $1-billion federal loan guarantee?” (http://www.assembly.nl.ca/business/hansard/ga47session2/13-11-19.htm)
Remember, Ball is asking this question just three weeks before he said in the House of Assembly, “The Muskrat Falls Project was sanctioned last December and the Federal Loan Guarantee was finalized over a year ago.”
Just for fun, I went back to see what Ball was saying a year ago. Today, he's saying that the Muskrat Falls loan guarantee was “finalized” more than a year ago, but on Dec. 12 he was saying something very different.
Here's one of several questions he asked during question period in the House of Assembly that day (the emphasis added is mine): “the Premier should rethink the deal that was signed with Stephen Harper based on section 4.4 of the term sheet for the federal loan guarantee. The Premier has left it wide open and allowed an incomplete list of default events that could be included, really, at any time.
I ask the Premier: You signed the term sheet; what happened to crossing those t's and dotting the i's? Why does the term sheet contain such loose terms that could set this government up to put this $1 billion loan guarantee promise in jeopardy?” (http://www.assembly.nl.ca/business/hansard/ga47session1/12-12-12.htm)
But then on Tuesday of this week, Ball said, “The Muskrat Falls Project was sanctioned last December and the Federal Loan Guarantee was finalized over a year ago.”
It wasn't just one off-hand comment in the legislature, either. On Monday night Dunderdale announced that the provincial government has successfully borrowed $5 billion to finance the project over the course of 40 years at an interest rate of 3.8 per cent. Dunderdale did the announcement in the lobby of Confederation Building with a choir on hand. Personally, if I was in Dunderdale's shoes, I would've been tempted to do the announcement in front of a giant pile of money.
After the announcement, Ball emerged to speak to the assembled media, and said the whole announcement was “bizarre” because the government sanctioned the project last year.
I asked him, specifically, about all of this comments over the past year regarding the loan guarantee, and suggesting that it could fall apart. Here's what Ball said:
“The federal loan guarantee was no surprise, when you look at this robust business case – as they call it – was really based on Bill 61 which is a power purchase agreement where people of this province will pay 100 per cent of the price of this project regardless what the price of this project is.”
It's a shame that December 2013 Dwight Ball doesn't have a time machine to go back and tell December 2012 Dwight Ball that the loan guarantee is a sure thing. He could've spent all that time during question period asking about other things.