OPINION: Warning: Muskrat Falls is haunted

Pam
Pam Frampton
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Muskrat Falls

I’m on the fence when it comes to Muskrat Falls.

And yes, that’s despite the ridiculous assertion hurled out there by some that because I work for a newspaper that is owned by a company whose head office is in Quebec, I’m automatically against the project.

So, those folks have just been proven wrong.

I’m on the fence because I have not yet been convinced it is the best deal for this province. Nor have I been dissuaded from the possibility that it might be.

Premier Kathy Dunderdale did nothing to alter my position with the speech she gave on Wednesday to the St. John’s Board of Trade.

It must be getting close to Halloween because she trotted out the bogeyman in her attempt to persuade people that any other course of action but the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric development is catastrophic.

She started out on a high note, talking about the strides the province has made in terms of independence and economic strength.

“Our success is not a flash in

the pan.” she said, “It is the new reality.  …”

And then she pulled the ace out of her sleeve — or, rather, the Quebec card.

And she played it over and over and over until I felt like I had been pummelled to death with it.

She was using a stick argument, when everyone knows carrots work better.

Of course, she was playing to a safe crowd — the Board of Trade has endorsed the project provided it likes the highly anticipated “Decision Gate 3” numbers.

And it’s a good thing, too, because if that was her best argument, she will never sell Muskrat Falls to anyone who opposes it.

Quebec is an open wound, even after 30 years, the premier declared, and then rooted around in that wound with her pointiest stick. Quebec would try to “keep us down.” It is a geographic yoke around our necks. Muskrat Falls will “break Quebec’s hold” over us. They are suffocating us. We will not be held hostage. We need to be in the driver’s seat. We will be the authors of our own destiny.

And on and on it went, to the point where I began to believe Danny Williams had taken up ghost-

writing.

Do you want the fate of Labrador to be in the hands of Quebec, or would you rather that we were our own masters, the premier asked.

 

“If Muskrat Falls does not go ahead,” the premier said, “what happens in Labrador from that point on lies squarely in the hands of Hydro-Québec and the province of Quebec.”

If the premier feels as passionately about the merits of Muskrat Falls as she insisted she did — “This project does excite me!” she proclaimed, at one point — then she’d better come up with a better way of convincing the critics than by threatening them with the monster under the bed.

We’re not children, Madame Premier. We need something better than “you will do this, or else.”

You talked about how cost-effective Muskrat Falls will be. Then show us the numbers and prove it. Because right now, the only numbers that are getting through to me are how many dollars I will be forking over for higher-priced electricity.

And that’s what you’re up against here. It’s a tough sell.

Muskrat Falls must succeed on its own merits, you said in your speech.

So perhaps you should focus more on those merits and a little less on the bogeyman.

We’re smart people in this province, and we deserve a far more cogent argument.

Incidentally, the premier was piped into the Board of Trade luncheon by a kilt-clad bagpiper.

Let’s hope she remembers who’s ultimately paying that piper, and who should get to call the tune.

 

Pam Frampton is a columnist and

The Telegram’s associate managing editor. She can be reached by email at

pframpton@thetelegram.com.

Twitter: pam_frampton

Organizations: Board of Trade, Board of Trade.It, Hydro-Québec

Geographic location: Muskrat Falls, Province of Quebec, Labrador

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  • Francois labelle
    October 18, 2012 - 23:03

    As a Quebecer, I take objection to the fact Quebec has been unfair to NFLD...NFLD forget the controversy among Quebecers in the way the partition of Labrador in favor of NFLD occurred...In 1915, the Quebec Streams Commission sent engineer Wilfred Thibaudeau survey the Labrador Plateau, then a part of Quebec. Thibodeau saw the site`s potential Newfoundland obtained jurisdiction over Labrador in a 1927 ruling of the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council. In 1947, Commander G.H. Desbarats, under the direction of the Newfoundland Government, completed a preliminary survey that confirmed Thibaudeau's findings. However, development did not proceed due to the inhospitable terrain, the severe climatic conditions, the geographic remoteness, the long distance transmission requirement, the inability of the investors and developers ( British British Newfoundland Corporation Limited granted a 99 year lease authorizing development of the upper Churchill River watershed. ) to stay the course and the lack of markets for such a large block of power at the time.On top of all these problems, selling the power in the U.S. was complicated by the National Energy Board stance against long-term power export contracts, something Quebec had no parts in and was even penalized in it`s exports to the US. It is easy to judge the terms of this contract in today`s terms..The contract has been dissected ad nauseam by two supreme court....I`m also pissed off at my bank charging me 7% on a 7 years closed mortgage...while the rate today is 4%...I could scream at the bank all I want! Take them to court! Just grow up NFLD!

  • Anon
    October 06, 2012 - 19:22

    This whole project is insane. We do not need the power and likely never will. We are already drowning in debt, and if we do ever need power, we can simply develop smaller hydro projects on the island as needed. Read http://nlcpr.com/AvalonPowerDemand.php for an overview of the alternatives.

    • NOT JOHN SMITH
      October 16, 2012 - 16:35

      ANON the alternatives document cited argues that we should use offshore natural gas to burn in a rebuilt Holyrood GS. How can that be economical when the NL offshore is an exceptionally expensive place to operate? Gas is cheap from land-based sources. How can it be cheaper to bring it out of the Grand Banks? Do you have a magic hand line for that? You need platforms and wells and seabottom plumbing to do that. Did I a miss a coupon in a box of Count Chocula?

  • p earle
    October 05, 2012 - 03:43

    For the premier to say ' to escape the influence that Quebec has over us' is a reason for building muskrat falls is a complete contradiction, because nothing then could be more certain that Quebec has influcenced us to build M Falls. Is there anyone in the world who sensibly can say that a private business would start a project such as this, at an unknown open future cost of billions to its own share holders, for a future product that will be cheaper then that same product in the open market from else where? A product, a kWh of electricity, who’s calculated value is tied into so many future variables in the world, that an accurate equation for this calculated value has never been formulated for it’s insertion into a computer! Has there very been a business who would do this knowing that it has no future idea where it can sell its product to the market, except to itself, so it can make a profit. Of course lending banks, construction companies, contractors, mining companies and any company needing it’s cheap power, electricians, consultants, lawyers (and thus you can see why the board of trade) all will make guaranteed top salaries and profits. Is there any wonder why they have all jumped on board the building of M falls? What business in the world has ever had the equivalent of giving away 20% of their product for free for a potential out let connection to a market which will be buying and selling the same product in an indefinite future at a price that will be 75-80% cheaper? I heard a word used on the news last evening, in describing Mr Williams comeback to defend the project he started, coming back on side with the D government supporting and defending the M Falls project. ‘The word’ describes what this is all about... I didn’t coin this word the media did. They are defending their Legacy. And that is what the building of M Falls is all about. It’s not about what will be good for our future or our province, it’s about those in charge building a historical and future monument to themselves before their gone from office! This type of thing has happened before. I use to drop in to see Joey at Roaches Line. The last time I saw him was after his stroke, he was not able to speak and the side of his face was paralyzed. But he was positive and could walk around. There was a bust of himself, about 2 feet high on the window ledge, and as I was leaving I complemented him on his life’s work. He walked over to the bust ....sat down next to it...and hugged it. That’s right he hugged himself! Nothing, until now, has ever turned me off about this beautiful, marvelous place Newfoundland. But now Im gutted by the affect on the fishery, the fisher people and coastal communities and the potential destruction of our future welfare, that has been, and is being created by the vanity and pompous behavior of those who have been elected to government. P earle, carbonear.

  • Ed Power
    October 05, 2012 - 00:40

    The bane of our existence is an impenetrable Quebec border that we cannot breach through entreaty, threat or appeal to reason. So, without a Federal Government willing to enforce our constitutional rights to wheel our power across Quebec in the same way that oil and gas flow east and west without restrictions, and a Government in Quebec that would throw the Mother-Of-All-Hissy-Fits should the Federal Government even think about it, we are forced to sell our power at that border to the guy with the knife at our throat. Fast forward to 2022 (thereabouts) and a gazillion megawatts of power flows across Labrador (none for Labradorians - hope you like the towers), under the Strait of Bell Isle, across the Island to Soldiers Pond, back across the Island to Port Aux Basques where.........we suddenly find that Nova Scotia and New Brunswick have decided that they want a piece of the "Quebec Action" before the power flows across their borders. Now instead of just one, we have three guys with knives at our throat." I can hear them now, in their best Robert De Niro voices, "Nothin' personal, just business...."

  • William Daniels
    October 04, 2012 - 20:37

    Well said Pam. Totally agree.

  • crista
    October 04, 2012 - 20:34

    do any body know what premier smallwood done???? not only what joey done???? why do you think it's called newfoundland and labrador???? upper churchill falls and lower churchill falls the deal was an agreement and it was put in seal why do you think revenue comes from upper churchill falls ,joey did not have the authority to sell churchill falls,the government were responsiable for the resources???? why do you think it was put in seal it's crown land and resources,he did not sell the rights to the land,nfld and lab???? john crosbie i do not own the G D fish???? fishies minister???? what are you not beening told????and what do some body know???? churchill falls deal???? 1$???? and why was it put in seal???? for 99 years???? if i stand correct???? MOTHER NATURE...

  • crista
    October 04, 2012 - 20:12

    do any body know what premier smallwood done???? not only what joey done???? why do you think it's called newfoundland and labrador???? upper churchill falls and lower churchill falls the deal was an agreement and it was put in seal why do you think revenue comes from upper churchill falls ,joey did not have the authority to sell churchill falls,the government were responsiable for the resources???? why do you think it was put in seal it's crown land and resources,he did not sell the rights to the land,nfld and lab???? john crosbie i do not own the G D fish???? fishies minister???? what are you not beening told????and what do some body know???? churchill falls deal???? 1$???? and why was it put in seal???? for 99 years???? if i stand correct???? MOTHER NATURE...

  • Beverley Rowe
    October 04, 2012 - 18:31

    Could have been a speech from DW!! Said the same things as he did this afternoon on NTV!!

  • Maurice E. Adams
    October 04, 2012 - 11:42

    Muskrat Falls does not give the province a route to and through Nova Scotia. The 1,500 page so-called Nalcor/Emera 'agreement' is, in truth, a "non-agreement" that gives Emera TWO (2) years to "opt in" to this Muskrat Falls project and to decide on whether to build a link between NS and Newfoundland..... If they decide not to ---- ALL EXCESS Muskrat Falls power MUST ALSO go through Quebec.... We will once again be forced to provide Quebec with even MORE power (unless NL gets approval from and pays the $1.2 billion cost of building the line itself).... That will mean rates for island ratepayers will go much, much higher than currently projected. ........Muskrat Falls is a shimozzle, and if anything, only a transmission line to the island (possibly along with a Strait of Belle Isle tunnel at a 2005 cost estimate of $1.7 billion) should be considered at this time.----- A real, substantial, feasible, cost effective, option that received a favourable provincial pre-feasibility study and which government said deserved a full feasibility study as late as 2011 (see www.vision2041.com ).

  • Don
    October 04, 2012 - 09:18

    Thank God I had sense enough to never vote for Joey. I guess the "same old fools " know nothing , only Pam and her buddy "Cuts t Both Ways." By the way, it was the out port people who kept electing Joey so I guess they are the "same old fools " Cut Both Ways is referring too. And to Eli, My head is straight and time will prove me right. Try looking beyond the trees for a change.

    • Eli
      October 04, 2012 - 13:23

      I caught your attention Don. Great bit of hyperbole, nothing more. Throughout all this discussion, Ed Martin sits in his high-chair at Nalcor laughing his coiffed head off, knowing full well there won't be a vote in the house. Give you the skutters!

  • Republic-of-NL
    October 04, 2012 - 09:02

    Muskrat Falls good/bad, only history will tell. However, here's something I do know. In the Atlantic Provinces there is a lot bunker sea and coal being used to power the masses? We also know the fossil fuels we use will climb higher, and higher you will never see them go down. So this brings us back to Muskrat Falls. If you decide not to build it now at 7.5 Bil, give or take a Bil, and in the next 10 years we decide we have to build because the fossil fuel price are so astronomical that we need a sustainable energy source, then the Muskrat Falls project will cost about double what you would expect it. We need sustainable energy, and you could not build enough wind farms, and solar panels to produce the kind of energy that this project will give you. Besides, everyone loves solar panels, and wind farms yet they don’t want them in their neighborhood. What are you going to do????

    • Winston adams
      October 04, 2012 - 09:25

      Republic- please note that effeciency is an option at less than 1/3 the cost of MF, proven fact by major studies. And precently we are wasting 40 percent of of hydro energy here.MF is completely unnecessary for island demand for decades.

  • Winston Adams
    October 04, 2012 - 08:52

    John Smith, is this your attempt at humour? You praise Pam for her comments- I suppose because she says she is still not convinced either way, and may yet be a convert to the MuskRAT scheme. Then again, you are right on, as this stupid rhetoric does nothing to prove the benefits of MF. Even you do better with your talking points, however twisted. And you give the impression you are not Tony the Tory, when you ridicule the Premier. But then you refer to this Board of Trade show as putting lipstick on the pig aka 'Muskrat Falls'. Muskrat Falls project- a pig? John, did you hit your head? Did you see the light? Did you mis-speak, that is mis-write? Have you crossed over? Oh my ,oh my. Has the rat become a pig? Has the RAT lost it's biggest supporter? I'm baffled. Without John as a supporter, these postings will be dull, dull, dull. Tell me it ain't so. Speak to me John.

  • DON II
    October 04, 2012 - 08:24

    To avoid confusion, I am NOT Don, I am Don II. I agree with Pam Frampton's observations. Premier Dunderdale is in way over her head on the Muskrat Falls project. It appears that as usual, she has been receiving poorly researched and very bad advice from lobbyists and her advisers and bureaucrats. The Premier's desperation and exasperation is showing in her provocative rhetoric aimed at Quebec. Dunderdale is resorting to conjuring up old wounds and resentment that Newfoundlanders feel toward Quebec for perceived injustice stemming from the Upper Churchill contract. The people are smart in Newfoundland and they know that it was our own Government that allowed that one sided deal to proceed for reasons of political expediency, rampant political patronage and vote buying! Quebec just signed on to a deal that was too good to be true and which was an offer that Quebec simply could not refuse. The Upper Churchill deal was offered up to Quebec by the corrupt and incompetent Government of Newfoundland! By resorting to injecting the Quebec issue into the Muskrat Falls debate, Dunderdale is showing that her position is weak. The Premier's critics have hit the nail on the head when it comes to finding the problems with the way Muskrat Falls is being developed. The bottom line is that the Mining Companies want cheap and secure hydro electric power to supply their mining projects and they don't really care where that electricity comes from or who provides it as long as it is secure and cheap. If Quebec can supply the required electricity at lower prices, the mining companies will sign a deal with Hydro-Quebec. If Newfoundland and Labrador can supply the electricity from Muskrat Falls the mining companies will sign a deal with Nalcor. Perhaps, the mining companies would deal with both Hydro-Quebec and Nalcor and play one off against the other in search of the best possible deal. If future large scale mining development is to occur in Labrador a secure and cheap source of electricity will be necessary. The question is, should the rate payer and tax payers in Newfoundland and Labrador accept the financial responsibility for the cost of building the Muskrat Falls and subsidizing electricity rates for the benefit of mining companies, forestry companies and other developers? Hopefully, Premier Dunderdale will explore all of her options and speak with all of her sources of advice both pro and con in order to arrive at the correct decision. Also, Premier Dunderdale needs to resist all of the pressure being applied to her by interested parties and lobbyists who have a lot to gain by persuading her to do their bidding without public consultation and without transparency. Hiding facts, spinning the facts, being lobbied by people with agendas behind closed doors and taking bad advice is they way the Government of Newfoundland has operated in the past and many very bad deals were the result. I won't name those deals here but every Newfoundlander and Labradorian knows what those deals were. This is an opportunity for Premier Dunderale to take charge and not be pushed around by people with a vested interest in persuading her to make a very bad decision at the risk of upending the economic stability of the Province. I believe that Muskrat Falls should be developed but not at any open ended cost to the public treasury or the environment. Somebody suggested that if the mining companies want cheap power from Muskrat Falls, let them contribute a substantial non-repayable grant to offset the cost of building the project.

  • John Smith
    October 04, 2012 - 08:20

    The Premier mentioned many reasons for the development of Muskrat falls within this speech, the fact that Quebec is an impediment to our future growth was just one. She also mentioned the need fore power here, and in Labrador, the connection to the mainland among others. The thing is Ms. Frampton, can you say thatwhat she said about Quebec, and Quebec hydro is a lie?? NO! You cannot. It is not trotting out the bogeyman when the monster is real. In 2041 we will need alternative routes for UC and Gull island power, if not we will be held hostage by Quebec forever...great for companies in Quebec, like the one you work for, but not so great for the people of NL. Oh...and by the way Pam, you are paying 70% more today for your electricity than you did in 1998...with a 7% increase about to hit us in March...worry about that for a while...

    • JM
      October 04, 2012 - 19:10

      John. In the 2003 deal where Grimes was going to sell power to Hydro Quebec, there was an upgrade planned for the transmission lines in Quebec. There is insufficient capacity to wheel all of Gull Island power through Quebec. However, the MF power which will be sent through Emera as part of the current deal, could be sent through Quebec via the existing agreement we have with Hydro Quebec. the government should tell us what the savings are by going through the Emera route. the fact that they havent likely means that there likely are no savings. Also another reason our rates have gone up is that in 2009 the goverment increased the rate of return for Hydro from 5% to 9%. This is part of the reason their Debt to Equity ratio improved so much. It is voodoo economics. The people of the province deserve the truth. The telegram should ask some of these tough questions.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    October 04, 2012 - 07:31

    Unbelievable. 1) Nalcor's own written submission to the PUB confirms that there is NO INCREASE IN INDUSTRIAL DEMAND forecast after 2015........ 2). Government's own Energy Efficiency Action Plan 2011 confirms that residential energy use went down 17% between 1990 and 2008. Figure 6 of that same plan shows that residential energy use actually went down at an even faster rate in more recent years -- 25% between 1993 and 2008.......That plan also shows that any potential for increased residential electricity use will have been totally eliminated when electricity finishes cutting oil out of the island's residential home heating market (at the current rate there will be no room for further growth just as Muskrat Falls comes on stream)......... So island ratepayers are being misled when being told that the island needs the power. .........Ratepayers are being forced to pay billions for unneeded power --- power that will have no market, but the multi-billion dollar cost of which will put island ratepayers on the hook for many decades to come. ..... Not only that, but by the time we will need to re-negotiate with Quebec, we will be in a weak fiscal position (due to our continuing high Muskrat Falls debt), by locking ourselves into a 50-year high cost Muskrat power contract, we will have filled and eliminated our only alternative Upper Churchill domestic energy market (island and Labrador power needs) with high cost Muskrat Falls power. .... How weak then will our bargaining position be with Quebec --- when we will have no alternative market for Upper Churchill power, we will have no money to run an alternative high capacity line from Labrador, and due to our debt payments/provincial debt we will again have no choice but to take whatever pennies we can get from Quebec, just to stay afloat.... Some strategic thinking, some strategy, some vision, some plan. --- We are doing it to ourselves. Maurice Adams, www.vision2041.com

  • John Smith
    October 04, 2012 - 07:30

    Well put. This government continues to treat the citizens of the province like children. We're not. NL has come into its own. We're better educated, more business savvy, and certainly capable of seeing past the empty rhetoric of unimaginative politicians trying to put lipstick on the pig aka ''Muskrat Falls''.

  • Don
    October 04, 2012 - 06:53

    I guess we now know why Pam Frampton is a news reporter and not Premier. It seems this YOUNG lady knows nothing about Newfoundland history. Quebec has had a choke hold on us (regarding power) for decades. Most of this can be attributed to Joey Smallwood who had no foresight whatsoever and gave away Churchill Falls power to Quebec. I feel the Premier is correct when she and Dr. Wade Locke says without Muskrat Falls , mining development in Labrador is dead for us and a great benefit to Quebec for now they will have a new customer for their excess power.

    • Pam Frampton
      October 04, 2012 - 07:42

      I am not a news reporter. I am a columnist and an editor. I am offering my opinion, only, and not news coverage of this event.

    • Eli
      October 04, 2012 - 08:18

      DON, I'm with Pam Frampton. We've gone from the necessity to stabilize power on the island, to exporting excess to Nova Scotia and now the focus is on mining development in Labrador. Which is it? If Ms. Frampton is on the fence I feel like I'm over a barrel. You said it yourself, Quebec has excess power, the mining companies will get it at their price unless we give it to them for less. And for us to produce it, we'll put ourselves in the hole for the nest 50 years...just to spite Quebec. Get your head on straight man.

    • Cuts both ways
      October 04, 2012 - 08:59

      This YOUNG lady never voted for Joey. It was the old fools that did. I suspect many of those same old fools support this lame duck proposal. Churchill Falls and Muskrat Falls are not Quebec's doing, they are both the doing of local politicians.

  • Cold Future
    October 04, 2012 - 06:37

    Same ole same ole. Blame the demon Quebec because we could not deal with them. Take them to court at every turn and then expect them to sit at the table. The fact is that Quebec will not hold us to ransom if the Muskrat proceeds. The govenment of NL will do that. We will do it to ourselves. You cannot give favourable electricity prices to the mining companies or the general consumers of mainland canada without the people of NL putting in the money to subsidize it. It is the natural fallout of a project with very unfavourable economic parameters. pay plus $200 per MWH and sell for $50 perMWH. Subsidy required from the NL consumer pockets $150 per MWH. No rocket science here, just stupidity.

  • Fred Penner
    October 04, 2012 - 06:31

    You speak of "cogent arguements" and then revert to the bogeyman! The premier did not once mention the bogeyman - you did! What will your Halloween costume be this year?