Muskrat Falls too small by itself: Grimes

Dave Bartlett
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Former premier critical of latest announcement on Lower Churchill

Former premier Roger Grimes is raising questions over the Williams government's latest plans for the Lower Churchill hydro development.

Roger Grimes says Premier Danny Williams’ latest plan to develop the Lower Churchill “just can’t work.”

“I can’t make any sense out of the way the premier keeps changing the water on the beans ... about what he may or may not be doing about the Lower Churchill,” the former premier told The Telegram Monday.

At the PC convention in St. John’s last weekend, Williams revealed the province is in negotiations with Nova Scotia and Emera Energy — based in that province — to try to get a deal to develop a Maritime transmission route for power from the proposed Lower Churchill hydroelectric project.

Williams also said the plan is to now develop the smaller of the two proposed dams — Muskrat Falls — first, before building a dam at Gull Island.

But Grimes said that plan is folly.

“It makes ... absolutely no sense to finance the smaller part of the project that, of and by itself, can’t make any money,” he said.

According to Nalcor Energy’s website Muskrat Falls would generate 824 MW of power, while Gull Island would generate 2,250 MW, almost triple the power of the smaller dam.

But what really makes the plan unviable, according to Grimes, is the added cost of building transmission lines to the island followed by a subsea cable to N.S.

Grimes noted the ongoing environmental assessments are only for the two dams and their powerhouses, not for the transmission parts of the project.

He also said according to the province’s own energy plan, building transmission routes to bring power to those now being served by the Holyrood generating station will mean higher power bills.

“The capital costs of building it has to be paid for by the ratepayers on the island,” Grimes said. “That means up go your electricity bills.”

While Grimes said the premier may be right to say the plan would stabilize power rates, those rates would only become stable after a “rate-shock” to consumers.

As both the premier and former energy minister, Grimes said he was “intimately involved” in a Lower Churchill deal which would have been good for the province.

“It makes ... absolutely no sense to finance the smaller part of the project that, of and by itself, can’t make any money.” Roger Grimes

But he said Williams cancelled the Liberal deal-in-principle because of politics.

Grimes said if Williams didn’t like some part of the plan — most notably the banking arrangement, — he could have changed part of the plan instead of scrapping the whole thing.

But instead, he said, Williams chose to make Quebec the bogeyman.

“Quebec is not the enemy. Quebec was prepared seven years ago to sign on to a deal where they buy the energy from Newfoundland and Labrador at New York prices,” Grimes said.

He admitted the optics of having Quebec guarantee a loan for the Lower Churchill on this province’s behalf didn’t sit well with many.

“It’s great politics for the premier here (within the province.) A lot of people like the idea of ‘shag Quebec, they shafted us back in the 60s,’” Grimes said.

But he contends if the Liberal deal went through, the province would have owned 100 per cent of the Lower Churchill. Instead, Grimes said the Williams government is now talking partnership with N.S. and Emera and still needs to get a loan guarantee from Ottawa.

Grimes suggested Williams would rather be popular than to achieve a “practical and beneficial deal” for the province on the Lower Churchill.

“All we’ve seen is the premier flying by the seat of his pants with no real plan,” he said.

When asked if he sees any benefit in a Maritime transmission route, Grimes was to the point.

“Not in my view,” he said, adding that the route has too many detours.

The Telegram contacted the premier’s office for comment on Monday.

“Thanks for the opportunity,” replied the premier’s spokeswoman in an email. “But the premier won’t be responding to Mr. Grimes.”

dbartlett@thetelegram.com

Organizations: PC

Geographic location: Quebec, Nova Scotia, Gull Island Newfoundland and Labrador New York

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  • Robert Taylor
    November 03, 2010 - 10:02

    Dear Editor, Roger Grimes has a right to voice his opinion just like everyone else. I am not a Danny worshiper but I do like the fact that he is standing up to Quebec. That province has repeatedly shafted Newfoundland and delayed the development of our province's natural resources. And Ottawa has stood meekly by without offering any support whatsoever for Newfoundland. This would not happen anywhere else in Canada and I agree 100% that a solution has to be found that does not include Quebec. We have already wasted too much time trying to work out a deal with that province. Quebec is quite content to never see any of the natural resources in Labrador developed unless it receives most of the benefits. Furthermore, I do not believe that a project that can generate a very significant 800+ MW would not be viable. Developing the Lower Churchill in a two-phse approach seems a sensible solution as does cooperating with Nova Scotia and New Brunswick on an alternative transmission line to U.S. markets. Roger, please continue to express your opinions as I am certainly interested in hearing them along with those of other people who could be considered as having some expertise on this subject. But I am fed up waiting for the Quebec alternative that will not be acceptable to Newfoundland anyway. It is time for Atlantic Canada to stand up and show the rest of the world that we can move forward without Quebec.

  • Paul
    November 03, 2010 - 09:50

    I will not attack Mr. Grimes. I see no need. he is entitled to his opinion in 2003 as he is now. I also see no need to revisit the past and review the merits of the "deal" that Mr. Grimes had worked out. it is dead. QC has said if we do not sell it to them they will not allow transmission of the power on their lines in any capacity and have manipulated their politicians to make sure this is the case. The way I see it is that we have no choice, but to look at the maritime provinces as a way to get the power through to the US and even ON and yes to hell with QC. Will it cost in the short term, yes, but that is to be expected. if you buy a house you have to expect a mortgage payment. Would this have not been the case in 2003? It certainly would not have been for nothing.

  • W McLean
    November 02, 2010 - 17:27

    Willi M., there is a whole cadre of people for whom Roger Grimes strikes a nerve merely by continuing, stubbornly, to exist.

  • Willi Makit
    November 02, 2010 - 15:10

    over 3500 views of this story and 42 comments (the vast, vast majority attacking the messenger - not the message). Methinks that Roger Grimes struck a nerve with this letter - either that, or people are very interested in the economic viability of a scaled back development. What a golden opportunity for an open and transparent government to demonstrate their fiscal responsibility and show us the proof that the project is viable - assuming it exists.

  • Ron
    November 02, 2010 - 15:04

    This is the typical Liberal naysay that got us nowhere for so long and put Danny where he is. It'll never work! Don't even try! Thanks Rog. Please stay gone.

  • diane
    November 02, 2010 - 14:26

    Well Grimes was there, had his shot at things. People didn't want him or his government. Oh yes and he sounds like he is speaking like a "regular" joe...i guess getting Grimes on the open lines again was part of Westcotts plan. If thats the best you got, try again. Maybe you should be bringing Danny Dumeresque back again...haha. These guys are 2 of the biggest clowns the Liberals ever had. I am with the Premier, don't sign a deal until its a good one. And Meeker what do you want the government to present the information when it is not completed yet? I can only imagine what you would do with any information you got your hands on. And i am no political plant, just someone who cares about this province and wants the best for it. If that means not signing the Lower Churchill deal...so be it!! I do not want a deal signed just for the sake of signing a deal. Thats why i feel comfortable with this Premier handling the file. So Meeker go back and give your buddy Grimes a call and strategize again!

  • Jim
    November 02, 2010 - 12:18

    Not being from Newfoundland, and being detached from the politics I must say I enjoy reading the comments more than the articles. It takes no time at all to lose site of the issue being debated and become embroiled in the love/hate of politics. Seems to me (with the benefit oft that detachment) that Grimes is raising some very valid points. I might be wrong, but his comments, while slightly bent politically, are based more on economics and logic. What he did, or didn't do as a politician (which in any jurisdiction is very, very difficult to ignore), is not so important as what he is saying now. Whatever happens, the proof will be in the pudding. Mr Williams seems to be getting a bit ahead of himself (and from the little I know of his style, this is not the first time). He has more than indicated that there is a lot of steam behind this project, but seems he is alone in that belief. At least I haven't seen anything from NS or any other partner to back up his vision of how far ahead is the planning for this project. Just saying....

  • Geoff Meeker
    November 02, 2010 - 12:13

    This is an embarrassment. Why are all these people attacking Grimes, but not even considering a debate on the 2003 deal, versus the Muskrat Falls proposal? Chances are, most are political plants, but if they truly care about their province, and if Premier Williams is "all that", why can't they discuss the merits of one proposal over another?

  • john
    November 02, 2010 - 11:13

    Goff meekey... the 2003 deal was discussed already... in 2003. Talk about having your shot and blowing it. If you want to go over the cost-benefits point by point then talk to the liberals in grimes' cabinet that were uncomfortable with the deal and then go talk to dean macdonald on what he thought of the deal and his resignation as chair of NL Hydro.

  • Jordan
    November 02, 2010 - 10:56

    Grimes sucked as Premier and was an embaressment to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. This is the same guy who went around making fun of us in front of the country. He's just a washed up failed politician looking for his 15 minutes.

  • Arthur
    November 02, 2010 - 10:38

    I guess that justthe4cats - doesn't understand politics when he/she stated "All this from a former Premier no one ever voted for" - all of our Preimers were "elected" the same way, by their party members, not the general public. Why not try adressing the questions raised rather than attack the messenger? Who raises questions is not important, the answers are!

    • Robert
      November 02, 2010 - 15:26

      Re your comment that "all our Premiers were elected the same way"---- you are so wrong about that. Party members elect a leader who when an election is called carries their party into that election and if they win a majority of seats he/she then becomes Premier. Roger the dodger was elected as leader of the Liberal party but refused to call an election to be officially proclaimed Premier. He simply held the office without every being elected to it.

    • justthe4cats
      November 03, 2010 - 07:39

      It is u ARTHUR that doesn't understand politics. The party votes for their leader. The people vote for the party candidates. The party that gets the lions share of the seats forms the Gov and then their leader becomes the Premier. Roger Grimes never faced the general electorate on his way to be the Premier. He was voted leader of the Liberals by the liberal party. By default he then became the Premier, as the office was vacant. He was never elected Premier!!!!!!

  • Lloyd
    November 02, 2010 - 10:13

    Seems simple to me, if it's not viable for a big project to make money, then how can a considerably smaller and proportionately more expensive project make money? If it made good economic sense to wheel power via undersea cable (to NS) then how come they want Federal dollars to help pay for it? And if you need Federal dollars to pay for that, how come the can't use Provincial or Federal dollars to supply all of Labrador with power from this project in the middle of their back yard? No plans for that yet in spite of the fact the present premier vowed that the 'Lower Churchill' will not be developed unless Labradorians are the prime beneficiaries' . Besides all that the province has to have an agreement in place with the Innu, which, as far as we can tell, is nowhere in sight so far.

  • John Smith
    November 02, 2010 - 10:06

    Oh, don't we all long for the days when good ol' poppy eyes was running the show? People were leaving the province in droves, the province was teetering on bankruptcy, we were the highest taxed in Atlantic Canada, the Auditor general wasn't allowed to look at the books, school kids had to pay for all their textbooks, there was no heating rebate program, and on and on. No, I have to say I don't really miss ol' poppy eyes and his lunatic shemes. Even the Voisey Bay deal is shoddy at best. Why don't you just fade into the oblivion Roger, that is unless you have something positive to contribute.

    • gerard
      November 02, 2010 - 12:22

      If oil prices did not go through the roof, Danny would not know wether to sht or get off the pot, he got 2 billion from the feds, then lost it in equalization, he was susposed to have fixed the Voisey bay agreement, but the Max trucks are still going through the holes. He was suspose to be ON WATCH, when Abitibi shut in Stephenville, and then he purposely drove Abitibi out of GrandFalls, and took the hydro for his Pet project, NALCOR, leaving GFW without a profitting papermill that provided 700 top paying jobs to Central. With Roger Grimes as Premier, he stopped Abitibi from shutting # 7 papermachine with Bill 29, and there is no doubt there would still be a papermill operating in GrandFalls if he was still Premier, but instead we get premier Danny who keeps his Corner Book mill going as he takes over 105 million dollars worth of hydro profits from the expropriation of EXPLOITS HYDRO to date with intention of never allowing another forest industry in Central, specially if it means sharing the Hydro that was developed to bring GFW into existence, and ensure it's survival. Danny is good for the East coast and Corner Brook, we need a premier of the Whole PROVINCE, and that includes LABR. We need to shake things up in the next election, and at least elect more opposition voices, mainly in GFW and Central.

  • Brad
    November 02, 2010 - 10:00

    Yes Roger is/was a turd, but he did get somethings accomplished while in power. Can one of the Danny worshippers out there please name 1 thing Danny has done by himself for this province? Oil isn't included, because if the price was down to where it was when Grimes was in power it wouldn't matter what percentage you owned because it was worth nothing. Newfoundland has money on paper, but what has changed really? It is still a have not in my book. Still have the highest unemployment rate, welfare/EI abuse, heavier taxes, more expensive everything, dying outports, lowest wages etc. etc.

  • W McLean
    November 02, 2010 - 09:56

    What Keith Warren would have written on the Telegram’s website in 1969: I have faith that Premier Smallwood on the strength of six resounding majority victories in the last six provincial elections can make the right decisions for this province's energy future.

  • Jim
    November 02, 2010 - 09:42

    Joan - you say 'we done just that' and you are making fun of his english?? Come on. People like Grimes, much like yourself have a right to voice an opinion. Remember, this IS still a democracy? Oh, and I am not the only one who feels this way. Gee, listen to the former Prem-yer or you? I wonder.' If he was incorrect about the deal 7 years ago, Super Dan would not be long telling him so...

  • Shannon Reardon
    November 02, 2010 - 09:38

    Joan, you are out to lunch, and telling someone to keep their thoughts to themselves about public affairs is arrogant and rude, but considering who you deify, no surprise. Roger Grimes can weigh in on this just as any citizen can. How ignorant. Why is it all ad hominem here and no one is debating Grimes' substantive contentions???

  • Geoff Meeker
    November 02, 2010 - 09:13

    Danny had his shot at a Lower Churchill deal, and blew it. He's no longer even in the game. Just this morning, Ed Martin debunked the premier's last pronouncement, re: Muskrat Falls. I am amused at the number of people who are attacking Grimes with personal slurs, and avoiding discussion of the story itself. These are the equivalent of someone yelling while others are trying to have a conversation, and only serves to stifle debate... which, of course, is their intent. Lower Churchill development is critically important to our future, and needs full public debate. Grimes says interesting things here. Note that the premier "won't respond" to Mr. Grimes. Given that Williams sank this deal in 2003, I think we are owed a response. Let's talk, point by point, about the cost-benefit analysis of the 2003 deal, versus what the premier was promoting last week. (And no, sock puppets, I am not a Liberal or NDP. I might even vote PC in the future, if they replace the current crop of bobbleheads with people of substance, character and backbone.)

  • joan
    November 02, 2010 - 09:10

    Like all the others its time for Roger to move on over and stay over whereever that maybe... If there is anything that was learned from having you as Prem-yer it was to get you out of there and we done just that, so now its time for a real deal, I am not the only one who feels this way, so keep your thoughts to yourself and stop trying to pretend like you know a good deal because if you did you would still be the PREM-YER.. And as for our Premier not responding I praise him for not stooping to your level...

  • Mark
    November 02, 2010 - 09:03

    Wow. Twenty comments by 8:00am. The Assistant Deputy Ministers are earning their pay this week.

  • Robert
    November 02, 2010 - 08:54

    Well, well, well. Look who just crawled out from under a rock! Not thinking of returning to politics are you Roger?

  • newfietoo
    November 02, 2010 - 08:52

    If it wasn't for the deals that the liberals signed and the price of oil jumping through the roof....danny williams would not have any money to play with today. Think about it people, if the price of oil fell back to what it was when he took over, you'd all be screaming to get rid of him because he spent all the revenue earned during reign. The Little Dic-tator has done nothing good for our image across Canada and he will fall some day.

  • William Daniels
    November 02, 2010 - 08:17

    I guess Danny will go into the history books a the guy who almost developed the Lower Churchill. What a joke !!

  • Willi Makit
    November 02, 2010 - 08:13

    Reading the comments it's obvious that rather than address legitimate questions, the party tactic is to attack the source. Not one response defending the merits of the scaled back proposal or demonstrating its feasibility. That speaks volumes, doesn't it?

    • justthe4cats
      November 02, 2010 - 08:42

      While WILLIMAKIT attacks posters comments about Mr. Grimes and gripes about no one defending the merits of the scaled back proposal, He himself does not give any support to what Mr. Grimes had said. I guess that too speaks volumes doesn't it?

  • THE 8th FLOOR OUT IN DROVES
    November 02, 2010 - 08:12

    The 8th floor and Danny Party trolls are out in full force on this one!! Premiers of many professional backgrounds can and have signed deals, good deals. Uh, Voisey's Bay. Who signed that? And how come the Lower Churchill hasn't been inked yet if King Danny Williams I is such a glorious, incomparable, magnificent leader????!!!

  • Jon
    November 02, 2010 - 08:07

    Hmmm...don't remember hearing anything about this so called deal with Hydro-Quebec that the liberals almost had back then or at any point in time between 2003 and now. If it was so good Roger, then why were you booted out of office?

  • newfietoo
    November 02, 2010 - 07:57

    danny williams needs to have his name stamped on every project stating that he was the man that did it.

  • Turry from town
    November 02, 2010 - 07:57

    Oh Roger! What have we done?We booted you out of office(you were never elected as premier by the way). If you were still in office the lower churchill deal would be done,we would have gotten a few meager jobs and Quebec Hydro would be building a bank to store the profits they would make.Nothing more pathetic than a hockey player who has had his day and just doesn't have it anymore but thinks he can still lace em up,or a defeated has been politician,who has been shown the door by the public,who still thinks he has all the answers.Pathetic!

  • Rick
    November 02, 2010 - 07:56

    Well Grimie, that's why you're not running this province any more. You're washed up, you wanted to deal with Quebec then and it looks like you still have some motive to deal with them now. I wonder what's in it for you. I wish you would retire that mouth of yours like you retired from politics.Your like a washed up actor, you do anything to see your name in print or hear your voice on the radio.

  • paddy
    November 02, 2010 - 07:46

    I can't believe that this idiot has the gaul to come out and be so negative about future developement in this province. Its all about numbers Roger, you didn't get enough to get elected and Danny got more than enough with lots to spare. What does that tell you?

  • Don Lester
    November 02, 2010 - 07:44

    Here's a guy (Grimes) who's background is teaching in Central Nfld and being anointed Premier for a few short years (Thank God it was short) He made a video before his defeat by Danny Williams ( from which he's never recovered) giving the Lower Churchill away to Quebec. His expertise in developing the Lower Churchill is as empty as the soup can I just placed in the garbage container. I'll take a Rhode Scholar (Danny Williams) over a Grimes any day.

  • Pierre Neary
    November 02, 2010 - 07:43

    The Premier's dream of developing the Lower Churchill is dead. Several years of irresponsible spending, debacles such as the Mill in GF, and the Nafta bill Ottawa paid for the Premier have effectively killed this project for now. Millions have been spent already by Nalcor with little explanation where it went. Time for a visit from the AG. As it stands right now, all this is just election fodder for the Premier.

  • b
    November 02, 2010 - 07:41

    What else do you expect Grimes to say? Can't we get someone that is not the opposition of Williams to comment?

  • Penney
    November 02, 2010 - 07:40

    Grimes is wrong on at least one point. The Labrador-Newfoundland subsea link is already in for environmental assessment. He's right that the subsea link to Nova Scotia, nor additional power lines to the southwest of Newfoundland, have not been submitted for environmental assessment.

  • Mall
    November 02, 2010 - 07:39

    Why is it no other knowledgeable person like a business leader or engineer is critising the project? This former schoolteacher is not qualified to make this kind of assessment.

  • Ed McCann
    November 02, 2010 - 07:26

    There is nothing as "has been" as a "has been" politician. Time for grimes to butt out. He had a chance and screwed it up. The Peter principle prevailed in his case.

  • Greg
    November 02, 2010 - 07:15

    How is Roger Grimes?

  • Willi Makit
    November 02, 2010 - 07:12

    ''Thanks for the opportunity,” replied the premier’s spokeswoman in an email. “But the premier won’t be responding to Mr. Grimes.''??? Valid concerns have been raised about the viability of this very expensive project and the premier won't respond. What is he trying to hide?

  • justthe4cats
    November 02, 2010 - 07:07

    All this from a former Premier no one ever voted for, and when we had the chance we gave him the boot!! Sour grapes perhaps?

  • Keith Warren
    November 02, 2010 - 07:05

    If Roger Grimes, a career school teacher could sign a somewhat inglorious Voisey's Bay deal on the strength of a nine vote majority win at a Liberal Party leadership convention then I have faith that Danny Williams on the strength of two resounding majority victories in the last two provincial elections, and given his acumen for business, can make the right decisions for this province's energy future.

  • SHAFTING DEMOCRACY
    November 02, 2010 - 07:04

    “But the premier won’t be responding to Mr. Grimes.” What else is new??

  • Mike
    November 02, 2010 - 06:57

    And we should listen to Mr. Grimes...why?? If he was such an expert and the deal he had was so good for us, why do I not remember it and why did it just take one person to quash it? Also, I wonder how many friends he has in Quebec? Quite a few from the sounds of this.

  • Dwayne Cull
    November 02, 2010 - 06:56

    I mean "REALLY" !! I am by no means a fan of everything Danny Williams does but to see Roger Grimes mouthing off again makes me see bluer than blue. I the Liberals ever stand a chance of making some headway in the province they should find a way to shut this guy up. And forget the "Oh, he's a private citizen" BS. He's a symbol of the Liberals worst era...and will always be....

  • Mark D
    November 02, 2010 - 06:54

    Roger who???????

  • Ranter
    November 02, 2010 - 06:52

    Well now, this is something to think about - thanks Mr Grimes. Danny and his optics...and now we don't own 100% of the projects. Don't sign me up!