PUB criticism just ‘white noise’: minister

James
James McLeod
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Jerome Kennedy — File photo

Natural Resources Minister Jerome Kennedy said Wednesday Muskrat Falls’ critics are “grasping at straws” when they criticize the government’s decision to limit time for a regulatory review.

Kennedy was responding to Memorial University professor Wade Locke’s largely-glowing examination of the project.

Locke agreed with the government and Nalcor assessments that Muskrat Falls represents the lowest-cost option for electricity the island needs.

However, Locke did criticize the government for refusing to grant a three-month extension to the Public Utilities Board (PUB).

Locke said by rushing the PUB’s review, it creates an unnecessary “suspicion” in the public’s mind.

Kennedy dismissed that idea, saying the only people criticizing the government for limiting the PUB’s review are a core group of die-hard critics who will never be convinced.

“Whatever suspicion has arisen as a result of our refusal to extend that deadline is now a result of people looking for something else to criticize because  (on)  the project itself, they’re finding difficulty in criticizing the project,” Kennedy said. “It’s political white noise by those who are adamantly opposed to the project and will never agree, no matter what.”

In fact, Shawn Skinner, a supporter of the project and Kennedy’s immediate predecessor as Natural Resources minister, has called for the government to extend the PUB’s deadline.

Both opposition parties, along with former PUB chairman David Vardy and former St. John’s city manager Ron Penney have also called on the government to extend the deadline.

Kennedy said the PUB will have plenty of time to fulfil its terms of reference, which is simply to take an independent report on the project, and determine if it’s lower than an isolate-island alternative.

“The Manitoba Hydro International report will contain, to the best of my knowledge, a technical review of the project. Will look at the feasibility of the engineering put forward by Nalcor. When you put that in front of the PUB, they have a simple question to answer: Is Muskrat Falls the least-cost option?” Kennedy said. “Without diminishing the role of the PUB, it seems that they perhaps want to assume unto themselves a greater role than is contemplated by the terms of reference.”

Last spring, the Public Utilities Board was a cornerstone of the government’s argument for Muskrat Falls. Premier Kathy Dunderdale was repeatedly asked in the House of Assembly about parts of the project, and she repeatedly said the answers would come from the PUB review.

“Mr. Speaker, not only is there nothing to hide and not only are we going to the PUB to ask the fundamental question, the critical question that you have been putting forward day after day,” Dunderdale said in the House on May 18. “What is the critical question? Is Muskrat Falls the lowest cost option for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador for electricity generation? That is the question that is going to be put to the PUB. When that question is answered from the PUB, all of the other answers to the other questions will become absolutely clear.”

On Wednesday, Kennedy was particularly hard on criticism coming from the NDP, saying the current tone represents a break from deceased federal leader Jack Layton.

“The NDP has been making a lot of noise in the last little while, but it’s my understanding that Jack Layton supported the project,” Kennedy said. “Does the NDP still support the project? They’re not answering that.”

jmcleod@thetelegram.com Twitter: TelegramJames

Organizations: Public Utilities Board, NDP, Manitoba Hydro International

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Foghorn Leghorn
    January 19, 2012 - 14:56

    There is no doubt that Danny Williams and Jerome Kennedy appear to be cut from the same cloth so to speak. I can barely look at either of them and think that they are nothing but over grown school yard bullies. It must have been a nightmare to have gone to school with either of them.

  • Joe
    January 19, 2012 - 11:37

    Do the complete process to eleminate doubts and get the public on side. The present government's arrogant attitude is neither appreciated nor accepted by the voters. AND I have to wonder if there are caucus members who agree with Sean Skinner's comments. In comparison Sprung was Sunday School compared with Muskrat, but it was the beginning of the end for the government of the day.

  • BR
    January 19, 2012 - 10:37

    If it works, Kennedy looks good. If it doesn't work, Kennedy retires or goes back to law There is no risk to him. He might look bad for a while but he doesn't care. Peckford did the same thing with Sprung. It didn't work and now he lives in BC. The only problem with an extension is that something will come out that Kennedy doesn't want us to know about.

  • Randy
    January 19, 2012 - 10:17

    What's that saying anout absolute power corrupting absolutely. This seems to be the case with Kennedy and dunderdale.This over priced project is to important to play games with. It could bankrupt our province

  • sealcove
    January 19, 2012 - 10:06

    white noise sounds like something the government do on a daily basis

  • John Smith
    January 19, 2012 - 09:06

    I agree completely with Mr. kennedy's remarks. He is right on the money. 100% correct. Nice to hear the truth every now and then.

  • Steve Winslow
    January 19, 2012 - 08:55

    It's disrespectful, contemptuous and self-serving to dismiss one side of a public debate on a critical pubic policy issue as "white noise".

  • A. J. Merrington
    January 19, 2012 - 08:36

    How bloody arrogant, ignorant and insufferble of an elected official to dismiss the concerns of highly educated, experienced and respected Newfoundlanders as white noise coming from die-hards grasping for straws. In what Bizzaro World does Mr. Kennedy think that those questioning Muskrat Falls are "having difficulty in criticizing the project". Have he and Mrs. Dunderdale been listening at all or is this the newest incarnation of the 'great lie principle' - if you tell it often enough and long enough people will eventually be brainwashed enough that they will believe it. My belief is that if this deal goes through, the political legacies of some of these politicians will be right up there with Joey Smallwood. In the meantime Mr. Kennedy, try wiping that smirk off your face.

  • D
    January 19, 2012 - 07:53

    "....the only people criticizing the government for limiting the PUB’s review are a core group of die-hard critics who will never be convinced." Perhaps Mr. Kennedy should read the Telegram, watch the news and listen to open line, because there are many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians who are not sold on Muskrat Falls. But it's becoming increasingly clear that the government is not listening to the public. Nothing anyone says will sway government for that matter, be it Mr. Locke, Mr. Vardy, or your next door neighbour. It's getting done, and all we can hope now is that it works out in the end. Seems like a strange way to deal with a project of this magnitude.

  • McLovin
    January 19, 2012 - 07:30

    Wow, this Kennedy guy knows no bounds!! He'll even use a dead guy to discredit his critics. Jack Layton was the Federal leader of the NDP, what does he have to do with the Provincial NDPs? Is Mr. Kennedy suggesting that the Provincial NDPs follow their federal counterparts? That's odd because, I'm sure Mr. PC Kennedy was one of the MHAs out there campaigning against Steve Harper in the ABC Campaign. I'm not necessarily against Muskrat Falls and I hope it turns into a great thing for our province, but I don't like this government's strategy towards this project or their attitude in general. It seems too convenient that our Premier (aka. Houdidni) wouldn't open the house so that there could be a debate on Muskrat, they won't give the PUB the time they have requested for their review and they refuse to release any relevant information on the project to the public. It just feels like this project is being shoved down our throats. It seems the government will latch on to any piece of evidence that says that this project is a good thing but is quick to insult and discredit anyone else who has the opposite opinion. We are talking about a $10 Billion project here and it's Minister Kennedy's and the rest of the government's responsibility to ensure that they have studied this project from all angles, especially after the disaster that the Upper Churchill turned out to be. The fact that they refuse to debate the project in public and are limiting the PUBs time frame for a review and the fact that they have provided a very narrow scope for that review, only leads me to believe that there's something greasy going on behind the scenes.

  • Maurice Rogers
    January 19, 2012 - 07:29

    He didn't say what was wrong with waiting another three months. The government has an arbitrary deadline with no cost associated with giving the PUB an additional three months. Dunderdale and Kennedy don't seem to notice that their attitude is an example of what happens when a party has been in power too long.

  • MBC
    January 19, 2012 - 07:24

    How come this Minister is insulting Wade Locke and former Minister Skinner??

  • White Noise gets louder election time
    January 19, 2012 - 07:20

    Sorry Jerome , you're wrong. First off Locke criticized govt for limiting the review and he supports or at least his economics does. I too am criticizing the rush and I am not one of those partisan critics.

  • Tired of all the spin
    January 19, 2012 - 07:15

    Minister Kennedy is out of touch if he thinks that it's only a few hard core political types that are not certain Muskrat Falls is the best way forward. Governments should never gamble with public money, and from everything that I've seen, the viability of Muskrat Falls depends on too many inadequately researched assumptions. If there were some kind of energy emergency facing us I'd understand, but the only real risk of delay is that we might spend a few more dollars than we had to making sure that we are pursuing the right long term approach. If I have any advice of value to offer to Mr. Kennedy it would be to answer the questions, address the doubts, and exercise more patience in making a decision of this magnitude. There's no going back if we rush in blindly.

  • John
    January 19, 2012 - 06:21

    Typical Kennedy arrogance and bullying. He is like the school kid who takes your lunch each day and if you say any against him he will insult you and offers nothing in informed debate. Shame on you Jerome!!

    • Doug
      January 19, 2012 - 10:49

      The PUB is charged with reviewing a utility's capital investments including long-term power purchases for a reason and it is not "white noise" Annually the PUB reviews the capital budgets of Newfoundland Hydro and Newfoundland Power to ensure that these monopolies do not make imprudent investments that are not in the best interest of the customers. A monoply even when it is owned by the government must be kept in check through regulators, it is what is mostly inplace throughout the western world. I personally trust the judgement of a regulator who passes judgement based on evidence (factual) much more than politicians who unfortunately follow the doctrine of political expediency most often following the emotions of the electrorate. If you believe that politicians are the most capable to make complex decions in an unbiased manner you must truly be niave. Shame on the Minister but he is a politician, look at him and his peers and would you invest 6.5 billion with them?