Emails record rage over power crisis

James McLeod
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Access to information response shows Dunderdale didn’t reply

On Sunday, Jan. 5, as the province was reeling from widespread blackouts, an 11-year-old wrote an email to the premier.

“Hello Ms. Dunderdale I am writing you (concerning) your statement on the not crisis,” the 11-year-old wrote. “I assume you have not been out in a freezing house without power for 36 hours like my family and I have but it is absolutely a crisis.”

The writer’s name was redacted for privacy concerns. But after criticizing Dunderdale’s decision to let liquor stores reopen, the email concludes by saying, “We are all very disappointed. Thank you (redacted) Age 11.”

If then-premier Kathy Dunderdale was checking her email during the first week of January, she had a good idea how people were feeling about the ongoing electricity crisis in the province.

Dunderdale received 46 emails on the ongoing power disruptions between Jan. 1-8. Some of them were people asking questions. A handful were from people offering words of support, but the overwhelming majority of the emails record a sense of frustration and raw anger at Dunderdale and her top staffers.

“We had been without power 32 hours only to end up with frozen pipes and sewer backup in our basement,” one person wrote. “Have some respect for the people of your province. Toughness does not impress anyone unless they too are bullies. Drop the saucy attitude and reach out to people who voted you in power and allowed you to live in comfort.”

Many of the people fixated on Dunderdale’s statement that the rolling blackouts and ongoing power disruptions did not constitute a crisis.

“When a city and province can’t provide power for itself in the frigid winter that IS a crisis,” another citizen wrote. “To ignore that or try to minimize the problem and score political points for Muskrat Falls is pathetic and shows a total lack of leadership.”

They weren’t all angry.

“I just wanted to drop a note to say I have to agree with the premier on all of the issues discussed in the media,” one person wrote. “Especially the crisis issue, it can get a hell of a lot worse than this in my opinion.”

The Telegram submitted an access to information request in early February for, “all emails sent or received by Premier Kathy Dunderdale” for the one-week period between Jan. 1-8. The newspaper also requested “all briefing materials prepared for and/or provided to Premier Kathy Dunderdale regarding electrical disruptions for the same period of time.”

In early January, equipment failures at the Holyrood generating station and two other smaller power plants, combined with heightened demand for electricity, forced the electrical utilities of the province to begin rotating blackouts.

A transformer fire at a critical power station in Sunnyside, and other equipment failures, widened the blackouts, leaving hundreds of thousands of people in the dark.

The premier’s office responded to the access to information request on Monday. They provided 46 emails sent to Dunderdale.

However, the response included zero e-mails sent by Dunderdale, which seems to indicate that she did not send a single email regarding the electrical disruptions during that one-week period.

The written access to information response also said that absolutely no written briefing materials were prepared for or provided to Dunderdale during that one-week period.

A spokeswoman for the premier’s office said that over the course of that week, all briefings about the power outages were conducted verbally, so there were no documents.

As for the e-mails, the spokeswoman said, “Emails received by the Premier’s account regarding the power outages in January were forwarded to the appropriate departments, particularly the Department of Natural Resources, for information purposes or for response as necessary.”

The emails provided to the Telegram also contain multiple requests from people asking Dunderdale to fire people.

“It is clearly a case of top heavy, incompetent management at Nalcor, Newfoundland Hydro and Newfoundland Power making inappropriate decisions,” one person wrote. Other people wrote to say that senior management a the utilities should be sacked.

Several people wrote to Dunderdale to say that she was the one who would lose her job when it was all over.

“I can’t afford to install an alternative heat source in my home, besides the furnace I already own,” a citizen of the province said. “I can however not vote for your political party next election.”



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Recent comments

  • white
    March 05, 2014 - 00:02

    This is complete b.s. john smith what kind of world r u living in?not a crisis? No its just freezing temperatures here in the middle of the winter with no heat or lights and most stores were either closed and even gas was running out at local gas stations. So if that's just normal day of life then we must be living in the 1800s. Most nl will agree with me when I say this was a crisis maybe not a huge one but u try living In the dark and being cold when u have no idea when power will be restored and when u can get something hot to eat. Nl light and power should be the blame for this. I get stuck with a 500.00 light bill that tripled from the month before when I had one heater on in the basement no lights on hardly all month and barely used the washer or dryer and u expect me to conserve energy for what? No thanks I'll keep my lights on and my heat on blast with my fans going.

  • Crisis
    March 04, 2014 - 06:53

    A reporter refered to the outages as a crisis Dunderdale said it wasn't a crisis. The reporter asked again , questioningly , but quite accusatory, if this was not a crisis. Those were some leading questions and with that the media and opposition had their torch. Did that reporter work for The Telegram or CBC. Anyone know?

  • John Smith
    March 04, 2014 - 06:14

    Imagine how they would have felt if they lived in Ontario? Where they went three weeks without power...let alone 36 hours. Of course it wasn't a crisis...the Premier would have been incompetent had she called it one. The police, hospitals and emergency sevices were all functioning properly, roads were passable and many stores and businesses were open. It was only a few years ago we had a sleet storm where we had power out for weeks...and that wasn't a crisis either....This was totally blown out of proportion....does anyone thin k Dwight Ball would have kept their power on? LOL what a bunch of whiners we have become....

    • Maurice E. Adams
      March 04, 2014 - 07:07

      The sleet storm that caused several weeks of power outages was not a 'few years ago' --- it was in the early 1980's when many, many more homes used oil and wood heat.

    • Marshall Art
      March 04, 2014 - 10:06

      Hey, John Smith, perhaps whether something is or is not a crisis is all in the eye of the beholder. Seniors, many with Alhzeimer's, being bundled up and moved in the dark, freezing cold, may have thought they were in a crisis situation. Elderly people with frozen pipes and sewer backups may be forgiven if they thought they were in a crisis situation, right ? Ditto for people living on home oxygen. Premier Dunderdale looked at everything from her cosy perch and haughtily informed the great unwashed that they were not in a crisis situation.

    • Tony Rockel
      March 04, 2014 - 10:27

      More wisdom from "John Smith", the genius who would have us believe that Muskrat Falls is an unmitigated blessing. So much for HIS credibility. He is either one of the few who stands to benefit from this massive scam or he is just another flunkey who has sold his soul to Dannyco. How many pieces of sliver did it take, I wonder?

  • Henriette Arsenault
    March 04, 2014 - 05:33

    I want to tell you my experience with the power outage of early January. Beside being cold, having the inconvenience of no water or bathroom, no tv to get the latest on this problem, we also had a power surge that crewed up our 4 yrs old freezer and spoiled all of our food! As seniors living on a old age pension, it took us a long time to save to get this and now it's all gone because of power outage. Also our electricity bill went up like crazy!! This is not fair. When I called NL Power, I was told that once the house gets cold it takes more to heat it up again but who's fault was it if it got so cold? No ours but NL Power's so why should I pay for their problem. I'm sure they have much more money than us senior! Something should be done about this. Enough is enough and now they are warning us that it could happen again and to save energy??