Step right up and see the latest report

Brian Jones
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The missing link caused a huge argument among my friends in 1972.

As was our annual custom, we spent a glorious day at the Calgary Stampede, riding the Zipper and Skydiver and eating cotton candy and sno-cones.

Cows and cowboys didn’t hold much interest for us and neither did the freak shows on the midway. Looking at bearded ladies, miniature men and sword-swallowers held far less appeal than hurtling upside down at high speeds and screaming for God’s mercy.

Then we passed the exhibit for the missing link.

We knew about the missing link. It was in the news now and then. Richard Leakey was world famous, and his discoveries in Africa occasionally made headlines in the newspapers we delivered to make money to pay for a day’s indulgence at the Stampede.

We went in. A furry creature appeared to be encased in ice.

A skeptic might say it looked like an ape suit underneath smudgy Plexiglas. Anyway, there it was — the evolutionary link between man and monkey.

One of my friends insisted it was real.

We pointed out to him that if it really were the missing link, it would probably be in a museum somewhere, rather than on the Stampede midway. Much arguing ensued, ending only with the terror induced by the Wild Mouse, a single-car roller coaster that would make the hair stand up on the neck of a Neanderthal.

Silencing experts

Fairground hucksters come to mind while watching Natural Resources Minister Jerome Kennedy and Nalcor CEO Ed Martin. Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, and see why natural gas won’t heat your homes.

The provincial government has been releasing reports on the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project with a speed that would make a professional sword-swallower gag.

Wind, natural gas, power bills, oil prices, electricity demand — they’re all there in government reports, each and every one proving the development of Muskrat Falls is necessary and vital and paramount.

It’s easy to spot hucksterism on a midway.

In the political realm, you have to listen more closely. Sometimes, what is said is less important than what is not said.

What the Muskrat hucksters — excuse me, the provincial government — have not said is that they are willing to let independent experts have input into the official debate.

In fact, they have done the opposite, and have made sure independent, expert scrutiny cannot be part of the official process.

As has long been known, the provincial government removed the Public Utilities Board from the Muskrat Falls process. So, a body that is supposed to oversee utilities is denied input into a major investment in a new utility.

Step right up, ladies and gentlemen, and see the dog without a brain.

More recently, the hucksters on the hill have declared no experts will be called during the special debate — if there is one — about the Muskrat Falls project.

Producing reports is all well and good. (Set aside, for the moment, questions about why such reports weren’t produced two years ago, rather than now, mere weeks ahead of impending debates in the House of Assembly.)

But there are two sides to this issue, possibly more. There is a list of pros, and a list of cons. The government’s tactic is to ensure only the pro side gets heard.

If the government is so certain of the veracity of its reports, it should allow independent experts to have a public forum to comment on them — either in the House of Assembly or through the PUB.

Let’s be clear about the strategy the government has chosen.

This is not leadership. This is hucksterism.

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

Organizations: Calgary Stampede, Public Utilities Board, The Telegram

Geographic location: Muskrat Falls, Africa

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Recent comments

  • Winston Adams
    November 09, 2012 - 14:29

    John Smith, you attack all the alternatives except EFFICIENCY. You attack conservation, but that is not efficiency, on a technically level. My assessment , an a engineer is this. 1.3 billion dollars converts 151,000 houses to high efficient heating. 0.3 billion more to do efficient domestic hot water. This more than offsets Holyrood energy production and most all of Holyrood demand capability, and much more than our allotment from MF power. Now this is only utilizing efficiency most , not all , of residential efficiency. If we use all our efficiency options, and after allowing for the rebound effect, we have more offset than our forecast needs up to 2030. Now MHI says it is cost effective to increase wind up to 10 percent of our capacity, which is a modest add on, not the big battery backup scheme. And we have a small, but not insignificant amount of island hydro left. With these added to Efficiency, it will allow a very least cost option alternative and carry us up to 2041 , and should lower power bills as energy use is so reduced, which would make you happy. Now this involves a conversion rate of 13,000 units per year, or less if the local wind and hydro is sanctioned. holyrood use would ratchet back and be unnecessary in 10years or less. That it in a nutshell, in one paragraph, not 20,000 pages. Now a peer review would be good and shouldnt cost very much. I just hope I haven`t misplaced a decimal point in my arithemic. Now this could be paid for with a 8 percent add to power bills , about 0.9 cent, as it will generate about 52 million dollars a year. Rebating half the cost of concersions to consumers. The reduction in demand will be about 45 MW per year. Now this is from memory as my 1.5 page analysis is not in front of me. Now you say you are anxuous to scrutinize the thousands of pages of reports and studies any opponent would put out there. This is a small, a little analysis, which can get gutted and headed quickly by experts and you can assess yourself. This is my best shot at helping you with your power bills which you have long complained. I can email you the 1.5 page version. The Telegram has a copy, but who knows when that can get out. So with this medium you can get it first. I stick my neck out here John, so give me a break if it is not up to your expectations, as I work alone , not even a typist , and these keyboards is new to me, and nalcor has yet to engage my services, so no income for my efforts. just trying to help your power bill situation John. and if nothing else, I hope you give me a D for effort, a F would be a disappointment. But I`ll take it like a man. At least my effort is not at public expence. Oh my, perhaps this permanently puts me,in your estimation, in the lunitic fringe class. Your call John. Be merciful.

  • Cyril Rogers
    November 09, 2012 - 11:54

    BRIAN....I don't totally disagree with your premise that.."The opposition, indeed anyone, have utterly failed to demonstrate in a constructive or substantial matter that the conclusions of Nalcor are grossly incorrect or that this project is not in the best interests of the province, choosing to attack the messenger rather than confront the message, in this case there are no similar high-level reports presenting alternatives with merit...". The problem I see with your comments is that many people with extensive experience on the subject have been utterly ignored and dismissed by the government as "naysayers". The report of the Environmental Review Panel, appointed by government, clearly indicated that NALCOR had failed badly in doing its due diligence and yet we are left, more than a year later, with no more comprehensive works than the reports of people who relied primarily on NALCOR's data to produce these same reports. The PUB, that much-maligned entity, was handcuffed in its efforts to complete a comprehensive study, so nobody should have been overly surprised at the outcome. Both Navigant and MHI injected important caveats into their recommendations and, in my opinion, damned the project with faint praise. All of this suggests that NALCOR had been less than thorough in assessing various alternatives. Therein lies the crux of the issue!! As you say, Muskrat Falls MAY be the best alternative BUT the materials presented have been so one-sided that only a fool could accept the conclusions without question. In summary, though, and I speak only for myself, this is not about attacking the messenger and, indeed, the party most guilty of doing that has been the government........ by its dismissive attitude and its characterization of all opponents as naysayers.

  • John Smith
    November 09, 2012 - 10:35

    Yawn...another day, and another meaningless, nonsensical rant by a maninlander writing for a Quebec owned newspaper.As I have said before...why doesn't the opposition, the NDP, the Liberals, the 2041 group, the Con O' Brien group get together, pool their resorces, and come up with experts in the fields of electrical generation and distribution to prove to us that muskrat is not the best option for us? Instead of constantly alludeing that Nalcor is corrupt, or the government is in on a big conspiracy, or that we don't need the power, or that conservation is the way to go ....prove it. The government was critizised for not coming out and providing information and independant studies on wind, on gas, on that they have done that it's not good enough, or Nalcor is corrupt and is providing false information....really? Why? Why would an entity, fully owned and operated by and for the people of NL be out to hurt us, to gouge us, to falsify information? It is ludicrous, it is is the last gasp of the lunatic fringe. They have nothing...not one scrap of evidence or proof to show that muskrat is not the best way to go. They offer no alternatives other than to conserve...really? C'mon naysayers...let's see your reviews, your reports, your indepandant analysis proving that this is as bad as you keep saying it us your experts....where are they? Who are they? There is nothing keeping the opposition parties from bringing this evidence to the public. We all know the Tely would salavate at any chance to get negative press on Muskrat out there. So we who support the project, understand it's benefits, and the undisputable logic that is inherent in the development await your evidence to the contrary....

    • Little Man Dan
      November 09, 2012 - 12:25

      Get down John Smith, you lapdog lackie! you're embarassing me. I sure hope the good people of NL don't put any weight in your dribble, you paid, Tory wag.

    • Little Man Dan
      November 09, 2012 - 12:26

      Get down John Smith, you lapdog lackie! you're embarassing me. I sure hope the good people of NL don't put any weight in your dribble, you paid, Tory wag.

  • Brian
    November 09, 2012 - 09:46

    The aligned conclusions of the various reports, the manner of their delivery, their authors and the actions of the government certainly imply a dark conspiracy - however, the environment of their releases only implies scrutiny is required by the qualified and knowledgeable, it does not necessitate that the conclusions are incorrect. It may mean the development of Muskrat Falls is indeed the best option - which has only been proffered in a tactless way. The opposition, indeed anyone, have utterly failed to demonstrate in a constructive or substantial matter that the conclusions of Nalcor are grossly incorrect or that this project is not in the best interests of the province, choosing to attack the messenger rather than confront the message, in this case there are no similar high-level reports presenting alternatives with merit. The generation of power, it's delivery, and it's consumption are complex issues which require in depth modelling of the various supply and demand profiles and their superposition in time. Temporally, power supplies themselves also have various technical abilities to follow loads and meet demand. The simplistic declaration that "A" or "B" could meet power demand fail to outline the practicality of implementing and integrating these solutions, as such they generally lack the academic rigor to stand in direct opposition. It is also insufficient to claim that assumption "C" or "D" of the Nalcor report set is wrong, as alternative assumptions need to be supplied and the ramifications thereof worked out before the original conclusions can be invalided. We can look here to Manitoba Hydro's review, damning at times the simplistic models Nalcor has used in portions of their projections, but ultimately noting they are neither unreasonable nor make a material difference to the viability of the project. That Manitoba Hydro has recently run overbudget on their own projects is often quoted as a potential pitfall of this review, though again it is a slur misaimed, again it advances nothing but to attack the the messenger - it does not imply fault in the review, indeed may imply a better review, as a utility recently burned is one who has fresh in it's corporate mind the pitfalls which may challenge the project. The failure of the detractors to present a coherent, thoughtful, and demonstrated alternative does not imply one does not exist either; but this is not a vacuum. These detractors are numerous and vocal. The reports are public though, read them and compare. The balance of favors is towards developing Muskrat Falls. Also note, it has been open to public review for quite some time; indeed, the very existence of opposition groups such as 'Vision 2041' speak to this point. So to do the musings and contrivances of our official opposition parties. The case has been made. To those who have taken the time to review the reports holding in mind the study of power generation and transmission, they stand. There are numerous flaws, yes, but in the balance of the whole $7,800,000,000 project, they are not substantive. We live in the information age, there is no excuse for off-cuff opposition! (Nor the non-sequitur comparisons to Churchill Falls - a separate issue, perhaps a failing of our education system. The facts of that problematic arrangement - an event still within living memory - have been handily overshadowed by cultural emotion). Do not construe these views to excuse either the PC party or their political opponents for short-changing the people of Newfoundland, both by the crass way in which the project is being rammed forward and the lack-lustre invigilation thereof. At this rate, the current crowd in Confederation building should not expect to be held in gilded regard by the history books.

  • BlogDiss
    November 09, 2012 - 08:42

    When time is running out and a salesman needs to close a sale as soon as possible or risk loosig it he follows the following mantra........."Kill em with kindness or baffel em with bull shit". As far as Muskrat Falls goes, Dunderdale, Kennedy and Martin have sent all of the kindless to big mining companies in the form of a power give away and all they have left to to use to close the deal with taxpayers is bull shit! It doesn't appear that anyone other loyal tory blue supporters are being baffeled though!

  • Scott Free
    November 09, 2012 - 07:42

    Whomever pays for the report, owns the report. And, the owner of the report can manipulate the contents to deliver the desired findings and outcome to support government's position. That Secret Society known as the Con Party of NL, will do anything to circumvent democracy and push its agenda against the will of taxpayers. If the Tories were that confident that their numbers on Muskrat Falls are right and that the project is in the best interests of NL, then conduct open it up for discussion and debate to experts and have goverment's position proven and have the project proceed on its merits. If it fails scrutiny, then back to the drawing board or scrap the project.

  • Cold Future
    November 09, 2012 - 07:00

    It is clearly obvious that the Muskrat is a pig in a poke which will likely have negative impacts on domestic consumers. The right thing for government to do is to declare a moritorium and delay the project to allow for a full and fair unbiased independent review. What is the rush?-we owe this review to ourselves, our children and our grandchildren. Surely the contractors, job seekers and all of the short term benefitter's can wait a while longer. At this point we don't need a make work project, we have Long harbour and Hebron. Again why rush, do the right thing. Joey was forced into rushing-he literally had a gun to his head. The PCs seem to be content to put the gun to their own heads, Why Why Why???