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.”