Premier unmoved by Peckford letter

Ashley Fitzpatrick
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Former premier calls for independent panel to be convened

Brian Peckford — File photo

A letter from former premier Brian Peckford to Premier Kathy Dunderdale, emailed early Tuesday morning, has laid out Peckford’s concerns regarding the advancement of the proposed $6.2-billion Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.

Opposition members supported the statements by Peckford, objecting to the project’s development to date.

Dunderdale said she sees little merit in the opinions.

In the letter, Peckford states he had worked on development of the Lower Churchill, both as minister of the former Department of Mines and Energy and as premier. Having followed the advancement of the proposed Muskrat Falls project, he questions the efficacy of the project reviews.

“I submit that appropriate impartial assessment to this point has been lacking,” he states.

He writes he does not believe the Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities (PUB) is qualified to review a project the size of Muskrat Falls and the reference question being answered by the PUB is limiting.

He adds he believes project proponent Nalcor Energy has a bias towards a hydro development based on its background, and refers to the Muskrat Falls project as “Nalcor’s baby.”

“There is deep concern in some quarters of the real likelihood of major cost overruns and the impact this could have on the financial integrity of the province,” he says.

The former premier ultimately recommends a panel of experts be convened to review the work to date “and to specifically address the natural gas options and test their viability and cost.”

Liberal MHA Yvonne Jones applauded the letter.

“I think we need an independent review and it’s nice to see a former premier like Brian Peckford stepping up and showing his concern for the long term implications of a project like this on Newfoundland and Labrador,” she said.

“I certainly would support what he’s asking and I think most people in the province would.”

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael supported the call for considering multiple alternative options for supplying power to Newfoundland and Labrador, regardless of any work Nalcor Energy says it has completed to narrow down the options for review.

Michael said she, unlike Peckford, feels the PUB could conduct the broader review.

“I think the PUB has the wherewithal to get the expertise to work with them. I think the problem is that they haven’t been given a mandate to do that, they’ve only been given a mandate to look at two options that Nalcor has decided on,” she said.

“That’s such a narrow mandate, however if they were able to move further ahead and do the wider piece of work that needs to be done, they can hire the expertise to work with them.”

Meanwhile, when asked about the letter following a visit with students at St. Francis of Assisi Elementary School, Dunderdale questioned Peckford’s knowledge of the work that has gone into the currently proposed project.

“Mr. Peckford — I don’t know how close Mr. Peckford ever was to the energy files here in the province in terms of a new development. I know a great deal of work went into (Upper Churchill) redress,” she said.

“And you know the work that’s taken place, certainly in the last eight years, he’s not been privy to. And you know he certainly hasn’t been here for the debate. If he has fundamental questions, or issues to raise, or an analysis to provide to show where we’re flawed in our thinking, or where there are gaps, then you know I’d be happy to hear him.

“But a message from afar, about a debate that you haven’t been engaged in, or public information sessions that you haven’t participated in, then you know it’s difficult for me to deal with.”

She said the PUB tapped experts at Manitoba Hydro in order to be sure it is properly informed for its own findings on the project. The province waits for PUB to conclude its review work, but she said she is satisfied with the methodology and the course of the project to date.

The full text of the Peckford letter is available online at

Organizations: Department of Mines and Energy, Board of Commissioners of Public Utilities, Manitoba Hydro

Geographic location: Muskrat Falls, Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • sealcove
    February 23, 2012 - 10:13

    Was it peckford that got the oil flowing just asking

    • David
      February 24, 2012 - 00:57

      Nope...Chevron/Mobil, 1979.

  • Jackie Logans
    February 22, 2012 - 19:33

    Muskrat Falls has been studied to death -- at enormous expense. You know, at some point, the people in charge (i.e., the Newfoundland & Labrador government of the day) has to either TIHS [read backwards] or get off the POT. Enough already!

  • musicman
    February 22, 2012 - 19:01

    At least Peckford has two things to his credit. 1. He knew when it was time to leave. 2 . He has an opinion ( to which he is entitled) on Muskrat Falls. It seems that most readers cannot see beyond cucumbers.

  • Harvey
    February 22, 2012 - 18:18

    Pickford, in the name of God, shut up, stay out of NL's way!!! As a premier you were a laugh...we will never forget you and your cucumbers!!!

  • R. White
    February 22, 2012 - 16:55

    The last thing Brian Peckford owed this province was when he moved to BC.

  • Cyril Rogers
    February 22, 2012 - 16:36

    There is only ignorance and arrogance by Ms Dunderdale and her supporters whenever this project is questioned in any way. The snipers who post here cannot get beyond their own cynicism and inability to rise above the gutter level of discourse. Former Premier Peckford, whom I did not support while he was in power, but some of you obviously did, is now the ogre and a pariah in the PC corridors of power. Mr. Peckford has the same rights as anyone born here to express his concern for the long term viability of the province. All he is saying is to proceed with caution and make sure the other alternatives are not a better option before plunging the province into a financial bog from which we may not recover. Clearly, his criticism stings and the virulent attacks on his past record give ample proof of the fear in the PC camp.

  • Leo Stamp
    February 22, 2012 - 14:09

    Seeing that Peckford is living roughly 2hours away from me by road, he actually should have absolutely NO SAY about NL anymore. If he wants to make statements and back them up then go back to NL.

  • Maggy Carter
    February 22, 2012 - 10:25

    The evolution of this Muskrat project is deeply disturbing for two reasons. The obvious reason, of course, is that it poses an enormous threat to the province's economic future. A doubling or more of our total debt based on a single project that does nothing more than maintain the status quo in terms of electrical service is an incredulous leap of faith. On the surface, it seems that the amortization of this total investment will fall to ratepayers but, of course, that is highly unlikely. Electrical rates can only be increased so much before diminishing returns set in. Once rates double, those with the means will find a way to reduce or replace their dependence on electricity. As consumption falls, rates will rise even faster to offset the associated loss in revenue. Eventually government will be forced to subsidize rates directly - otherwise the province will become an unattractive destination for new industry. Even before construction is complete, Muskrat will be widely perceived as a millstone - a repeat of the Churchill Falls fiasco except that this time it will be entirely of our own making. The second disturbing aspect of this project is the cynical, contemptible, deceitful manner in which this file is being advanced by government and Nalcor. Democracy and accountability in government as we know them have been hijacked. The process for scrutinizing such enormous public expenditures - one that was built up over many decades of legislative reform - has been virtually dismantled overnight at a time when it is most needed. It begs the question of whether the judiciary needs to be involved in re-asserting the integrity of those review mechanisms. The implication, otherwise, is that once a government has been elected, it is free to pursue its own agenda without the checks and balances that voters normally take for granted. What bothers me even more is the suspicion that this government and Nalcor - using public funds - have established a virtual boiler room that is operating below the radar to discredit and impugn the motives of anyone who dares stand in its way. That boiler room has produced more than a few John Smiths whose only job it is to disrupt free speech and public opposition to this project. Former ministers of the crown, senior bureaucrats, lawyers, businessmen, and even former premiers are all targets of that insidious mud slinging campaign. I firmly believe that her handling of this file will be the political undoing of Kathy Dunderdale. When she is gone, my voice will be among those who will inevitably demand a thorough investigation into the manner in which this project is being forced upon the public and taxpayers of this province. What are the costs, who is receiving money for helping to whitewash this insanity, and what rules are being broken along the way? These are among the issues which the opposition, whether or not the House ever reopens, should be hammering away at every single day in the media. I know Ms. Michaels is not up to this task, and quite frankly I worry that neither are the Liberals, which is why private citizens have been obliged to lead the charge against this madness. It may well be that it won't be until we get a new government in a few years time that the sordid details of what I suspect is a very ugly story will begin to emerge.

  • MUN Poli Sci
    February 22, 2012 - 09:40

    There are at least two books that have been published that discuss the undue influence of the "Old Guard" of the NL public service. Dr. Doug House, who was economic adviser to both Clyde Wells and Danny Williams, and Bill Rowe, one-time Liberal leader and adviser to Danny Williams on Ottawa affairs, both wrote books detailing how the senior public service held its own agenda regardless of which party held government. Among the names which appeared to both books consistently were: David Vardy, and Ron Penney, who testified this week at the PUB hearings. Yet, it was the Williams administration that had to go to Ottawa to redress inadequacies in the Atlantic Accord that these men originally negotiated and Premier Peckford signed. I am suspicious of the financial implications of the Muskrat Falls project. But these guys do nothing to instill an once of confidence. You are retired gentlemen. Your reputations are what they are.

  • Robb
    February 22, 2012 - 09:38

    Hey B. O'Neill, they may be peanuts, but at least they are not blowing wind....maybe you would need that wind for the wind farms you think we should forget Sprung...???....sorry, we don't, so we really can't take Peckford's word on the matter, thank, down to business...when we can get the monkey's off our backs and get a real project going.......oh wait now, why don't you use natural gas, which will run out some day, but you know, it's an alternative.....very narrow-minded at best......lets build wind farms, well how many of these monsters do you need to supply what Muskrat can do efficiently....No, B. O'neill, we can do without the temporary fixes, you must be liberal.

  • Selective HEARingS
    February 22, 2012 - 08:45

    Ahhhh, the arrogance, the inability to listen to anyone with a different opinion then their own and the my way or the highway attitude still shining thru our premier. Which is the same reasons why the house of assembly isn't open and the bussiness and the interests of the people aren't being met. She has been givin her orders to follow and they have flying by the seat of their pants being totally reactive instead of proactive. The view of NL by this government will have all the sites of margret whentys anaglogy. And its ironic that our premier has become, ExaCTLY WHAT THEY DISPISE. Oh, I think so! But my guess is she isn't listening.

  • Ed
    February 22, 2012 - 08:39

    Peckford was Premier for 10 years, until his Sprung greenhouse fiasco brought down his government. Premier Dunderdale will have less than half of that if Muskrat falls goes through.

  • Louie
    February 22, 2012 - 08:36

    I don't think Mr Peckford waded in here with any political intent but he probably didn't realize that so many swords would be coming out so quickly and yes the Abitibi affair did not leave the expropriated company without happy faces. However, it is important when comparing Muskrat to Sprung to consider that the size of the fiasco could be a wopping 310 times if we don't get it right. Get all the ducks in a row before proceeding.

  • George S.
    February 22, 2012 - 08:25

    In 2007, NL Hydro commissioned a study to assess the viability of using natural gas as a fuel source for combined cycle gas turbine in Holyrood. The study was completed by EnerSea Transport of St. John's and Houston, TX. Where is that study. Strange how the Managing Director of EnerSea Canada has been silent. In 2008, Newfoundland LNG completed a throrough environmental and economic review of constructing a liquefied natural gas facility at Grassy Point, Placentia Bay, including a pipeline ot Holyrood. Strange how the proponent of this multi-million dollar exercise has been silent. The Province used to fund and sit on the board of directors of the Centre for Marine CNG, an institute focused on promoting natural gas development offshore Newfoundland. What would that group say to the viability of natural gas? Where is Michael Enchescu, the former MUN proferssor and patron scientist of the natural gas potential offshore Newfoundland? The scientist who was paid by the Department of Natural Resources for years to present at conferences around the world about the 50 trillion standard cubic feet of potential reserves offshore Newfoundland and Labrador. Maybe, just maybe, there is a bigger plan that Nalcor and the Province have conceived which could justify the ridiculous investment known as Muskrat Falls. Is there a plan to generate 5000MW of electricity using natural gas offshore Labrador and transmit on wire paid for by Emera? What is the real game here folks?

  • Frank
    February 22, 2012 - 08:13

    If participating in public information sessions, and being privy to all the behind-the-scenes work are prerequisites to having an opinion on this issue, 99.9% of us cannot have an opinion. Which, of course, is just the way Williams, Dunderdale and the rest of the government want it.

  • Ralph
    February 22, 2012 - 08:10

    I can't believe "he's back". After the disgrace of the Sprung Greenhouse affair and his quick exit out west, he has the gaul to show up now and tell us what we are doing wrong.. Go "home" Brian Peckford, you took your right to speak out here in NL when you ran like a scaled dog. Leave the operation of this Province to those who know what they are doing.

  • B O'Neill
    February 22, 2012 - 08:10

    It's funny how the peanuts in this gallery always refer to the Sprung Greenhouse failure whenever Mr Peckford is mentioned. Yes, Sprung was a farce and cost the tax payers millions but lets compare it to another, more recent fiasco...the expropriation of Abitibi by NL's favorite premier. Anyone care to guess what that will cost the tax payers. It's a shame that Mr Peckford gets written off for this one bad decision he made even though he was one of the proponents involved with setting up the Atlantic Accord all those years ago which is why NL is a 'Have' province today. (yes folks.... it was Mr Peckford that lead the charge for NL to become a 'Have' province, not Danny... Danny just happened to be elected premier at the right time) I just wish people would stop being so narrow-minded and not take everything that the government spews at them at face value. No doubt hydro-electricity is a better option when you only weigh it against burning bunker-fuel but is it a better option than natural gas? wind power? waiting out the expiration of the Upper Churchill contract so that it can be reclaimed. To me, it seems the government of the day is trying to fast track this project without critical analysis and due diligence, which I think is the point of Mr Peckford's letter, and to me, that spells disaster. God guard thee Newfoundland and long may your big jib draw

    • Eli
      February 22, 2012 - 11:10

      "God guard thee Newfoundland". Last time I heard that it was uttered at Danny's tearful goodbye and his appointment of Dunderdale in the same breath. Jeeez, you wouldn't know but he was changing lanes on the Outer Ring Road. It made me puke.

  • canadafirstaid
    February 22, 2012 - 07:46

    Enough is enough, folks. Time to reopen the House of "the people" of NL and discuss what's what with Muskrat Falls Project plus other issues in a true and open forum. Not via mail, letters and other means but, face to face in the House of the 'people'. Enough is enough. cfa p.s. Don't wait til Spring - Do it Now!!

  • Terry Murphy
    February 22, 2012 - 07:38

    I think he has a case of sour grapes. Truely disappointing. Peckford was unsuccessful in developing hydro electric resources during his time in power. He once said it 'presented some of the most difficult challenges to Government'. Now it appears that the Dunderdale government has managed to do what Peckford couldn't. They have come up with a good plan that could see this province as an energy powerhouse, which we always should have been. We need to stop being so afraid, shrug off the past and move forward!

  • John Smith
    February 22, 2012 - 07:22

    It's so very interesting the names that have come out against the project, and how their speaking points are all eerily similar. When you listen to Vardy, and Martin, and Jim Morgan it's like they are all reading from a script written for them, by someone. Interesting they were all part of Peckford's weak government, now they are all together again...strange.

  • Paul Reddy
    February 22, 2012 - 07:14

    I was at a pub many years ago in BC and a chap spoke to me saying that they had our premier out there I politely told him that they could keep him. Alfie every now and again emerges with some rant with issues concerning this province, I think he should leave well enough alone.

  • Robert
    February 22, 2012 - 07:03

    Yeah you're right............I think I smell a rotten cucumber! Maybe the excess power from Muskrat Falls could be used to heat a new and revised Sprung Greenhouse!

  • J
    February 22, 2012 - 06:40

    Sprung Greenhouse is now giving advice? My guess is he's looking for a way onto the gravy train.

  • John Smith
    February 22, 2012 - 06:33

    I read the letter. It's good for a laugh, that's about it. Mr. Peckford should concern himself with the problems of his home province...BC. Leave the NL issues to those who live and work here.

  • wayne
    February 22, 2012 - 06:31

    what independent panel is brian speaking off, is it the one he used for sprung greenhouse