Premier looks cool in school, but remains oblivious

Brian Jones
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It certainly was a bizarre juxtaposition this week: as the Public Utilities Board (PUB) held hearings about the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric development and heard from opponent after opponent, Kathy Dunderdale sat in an elementary school classroom, answering questions and telling the kids how wonderful it is to be premier.

It must have been fun and thrilling for the youngsters, surely, but extremely weird for political observers.

Was the premier oblivious to the extremely important events happening elsewhere?

Did she seem unperturbed because she is a great leader, or because she plans to obstinately pursue her chosen course of action, despite facts to the contrary?

Was she unaware of Dubya’s lesson in Florida that photo-ops in classrooms can backfire?

Newfoundlanders (and Labradorians) could have had their faith in the educational system strengthened if a pupil had raised his or her hand and asked, “Ms. Premier, since you’re here instead of at the Public Utilities Board hearings, are you going to go back to your office and read a transcript of the submissions that were made?”

No, Johnny, she will wait for the PUB’s report, and then she will dutifully ignore it, as she has ignored every other bit of information that goes against the government’s determination to blow $4.1 billion on the dam and transmission lines for the for the sake of “future generations.”

There is good chance future generations will interpret that determination as pathetic irony, as they struggle to pay their monthly power bills.

It is understandable the premier would not be swayed by the critical utterings of letter writers and pundits, if she is even aware of those little people with their little opinions.

She is equally dismissive of a former premier and a former PUB chairman. (In her own defence, Dunderdale could argue she is an equal opportunity ignorer.)

In an open letter, Brian Peckford said the province, by approving the Muskrat Falls development, would take on an unnecessary and potentially disastrous level of debt.

He also pointed out, as Cabot Martin recently did, that the cheap availability of natural gas has changed the energy market, and thus the economic projections regarding Muskrat Falls are outdated.

Here’s the most striking sentence from Peckford’s letter: “A lot has changed in this area as a result of the shale gas phenomenon of recent years. The whole North American energy equation has been turned on its head.”

In keeping with more than 500 years of tradition, it is risky to speak out against the governor of Newfoundland.

Defenders of the PC empire jumped on their party’s former leader like Giants on a Patriot.

His letter is arrogant interference, some said. What does he know, living 4,000 miles away in Lotusland? Why, he gave up his status as a Newfoundlander when he retired, packed up and moved to B.C.

These are strange and unfair criticisms indeed, coming as they do from residents of an island where some residents — whose families are 200 years removed from Ireland — brag in brogue about their Celtic background, wave the tricolour and, in their own minds, are more Irish than the green ale that flows in Dublin pubs.

The PUB hearings will prove one thing: any support for Muskrat Falls development is entirely political, rather than being based on facts.

All the facts have not been considered, and cannot be considered, as long as the government insists there are only two options: develop Muskrat Falls or keep burning oil at Holyrood.

As more and more people have been saying, there are plenty of other options. Dunderdale and her government are intent on ignoring those options. Get ready to pay up.


Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at

Organizations: Public Utilities Board, North American, The Telegram

Geographic location: Florida, Newfoundland, Lotusland Ireland Dublin

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Recent comments

  • Frank
    February 25, 2012 - 22:39

    John Smith asks for proof. How about this statement, from Dr. Stephen Bruneau, a professional engineer at MUN's Faculty of same: "Even if only 60% recoverable, the natural gas resources at Hibernia, Terra Nova and Whiterose can provide fuel to run a Holyrood-equivalent combined cycle plant at full capacity 365 days a year for over 100 years." Mr. Smith, you keep referring to LNG. I agree, LNG is not feasible or even sensible in this case. But natural gas is NOT the same as LNG, and it is very feasible. Right now, the offshore installations are powering their operations with natural gas, straight from the reservoir. Right. Now. All we need to do is connect to it. Read Dr. Bruneau's full report here:

  • Premer, what Premier
    February 25, 2012 - 19:17

    How can we call a person who ran for the Premiership and won it, the Premier, when she has not had the House of Assembly opened for even one day since her win in October. I really think she is being manipulated by some outside force. It appears she is being governed by some ex-politicians who want certain things to happen for them economcally, that will create grave risks for the rest of us Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

  • Ha
    February 25, 2012 - 18:01

    The Premier's Office is P.O.ed with the Telly again.

  • William Daniels
    February 25, 2012 - 07:53

    It's simple. Support the project if you want your electricity rates going the roof.

  • Brian
    February 25, 2012 - 07:50

    I can see now why the Premier talked about the Telegram's poor writing. If this is the best the Telegram has, they are in bad shape. This guy is pretty sad when it comes to constructive writing. Maybe he needs to go back to school where they teach positive thoughts.

  • H. Murphy
    February 24, 2012 - 13:53

    I do believe this is the second piece of tripe in a row from EDITOR Jones that has been of a strongly biased and vitriolic nature towards the Premier. It amuses one to see the Telegram get its back up when the suggestion was made that when the Premier spoke of their poor reporting that they would in turn pillory her in their editorials. "Oh no, that would be against journalistic integrity". Surely, editorials are opinion based, but Mr. Jones shows quite clearly what opinions he has when he approaches all the pieces that come across his desk. To think that a desk editor would not try his best to give two sides of a story to enrich debate, but instead use his platform to push his own ideology (or ignorance... take your choice - MHI report was not political and was in support of the project albeit with caveats, go figure), is enough to turn someone from reading this paper entirely! Mr. Jones seems to just prove the point through his negative writing that if you are not part of the solution, then you are only part of the problem. If you can offer something to further debate, I would love to hear it as this is no doubt an important issue that deserves MATURE debate. Unfortunately, I cannot see that happening anytime soon.

  • John Smith
    February 24, 2012 - 09:53

    All I'm saying is show m the numbers. Show me the costs. I know experts in the field presented at the PUB herrings, they said that the muskrat deal was viable, and feasible, and gas powered generation was not. These are people in the buiness, not know nothing naysayers speculating about tech that is not even invented yet. The naysayers are constantly screaming for proof, and numbers, and reports and reviews. Which is great. Nalcor and the government went out and had Navigant do a report, and they had MHI do a report, the PUB will do a report...all saying that Muskrat is the lowest cost option. So all I'm saying is let's see the proponents of LNG supply their technical studies, and viability studies. You can go on the NALCOR site and see quickly why this is simply not viable on any level, yet that's not good enough. So bring it on I say. Show me how much it will cost, how it will be done. I'd love nothing more than for someone to show me how I can save money on my power bill, because that's what it's all about for me...I could care less about how they do it. I have looked extensively at LNG, and it is not viable. So prove to me that it is. You can't just throw numbers out there, you have to have data behind Nalcor does for muskrat. You can't just as a layman say this will cost a billion, and this will cost 2 billion, that's just stupid. Show us all, prove to us all that LNG is the way to go, that it is viable, long term, economical, better than hydro...prove it.

  • Frank
    February 24, 2012 - 08:44

    John Smith says we don't own the gas offshore. That's ridiculous. It is OURS. We OWN it. The operators pay us economic rent to extract it. Right now, all three offshore installations are powered by massive gas-fired generators, which burn gas from the oil field (and each can power a city the size of Mount Pearl). How much would it cost to run a 12-inch pipeline to the Grand Banks, to bring that gas to Holyrood? Not more than a billion. And perhaps a billion, on the outside, to retrofit Holyrood. That's less than half the cost of Muskrat. There is enough gas to fuel Holyrood for more than 100 years. Is that short term, Mr. Smith? All that stands in the way is the negotiation of a price for the operators that makes it feasible for them to connect to OUR pipeline. Since they bear no pipeline costs, and the field is already developed, their costs would be relatively low. These are all facts, Mr. Smith. Can you address them? Have you heard Nalcor address them? Or are you the one who is talking nonsense?

    • Curious
      February 24, 2012 - 10:32

      Where did you find the figure of 100 years worth of gas.

  • sealcove
    February 24, 2012 - 08:34

    She has not led anything yet

  • Townie
    February 24, 2012 - 08:30

    Newfoundlanders always like to blame outsiders for our problems. But perhaps if they looked closer at their "leaders" actions they might find the real cause. "Leaders" and their followers who KNOW everything, but cannot LEARN anything.

  • Eli
    February 24, 2012 - 08:09

    Oh, Oh, another day for John. Another day of missed medication. We all suffer because of that.

  • Too Funny
    February 24, 2012 - 08:00

    ' strange and unfair criticisms indeed '. Unfortunately both sides in this debate have employed such tactics.

  • John Smith
    February 24, 2012 - 07:14

    Well, what can you say? Yet another missive from our resident expert on electrical generation? I think not. Mr. Jones our electricity rates have increased by 60%since 1998, does that matter to you? Mr. Jones our rates will continue to climb as long as we are tied to oil. The other alternatives have been looked at. The goverment has a plan in place to harvest wind power, as soon as we get interconnected. The whole gas idea is a pipe dream. NOIA presented at the PUB. They are the experts in the area. They are 100 % behind the project, and stated that natural gas is not a feasible, or viable alternative. We don't own any gas offshore, we don't own drill rigs, or all the infrastructure to bring it to land. Even if we did, do you thing investing billions into more short term fossil fuel is the answer? As opposed to building a dam, which will provide power for perhaps hundreds of years? Your arguments are nonsensical, and poorly supported in my opinion. There seems to be a real venom in your words, almost a hatred for the present government...why? Prove to me that transporting (somehow) pressurized LNG from the USA, the depressurizing it, then storing it, will work...get the facts and us all how smart mainlanders really are. Don't just sit behind your laptop and spew more mindless hatred...let's see some facts.