All eyes on Muskrat

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It’s a little national attention that Premier Kathy Dunderdale and her government probably didn’t want. For months now, Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s commitment to provide a loan guarantee for the Muskrat Falls project — provided, among other things, that the project can be shown to make economic sense — has been flying under the national radar.

The federal government has been tightening purse strings, cutting back expenses and talking about growing deficits, but the provincial government has maintained that the loan commitment is inching ever- closer to completion.

Thursday, the Canadian Taxpayer’s Federation jumped into the fray, saying the loan guarantee

shouldn’t go ahead until the project passes some significant hurdles. And it’s not just the CTF: the independent citizen’s group Democracy Watch has also raised concerns.

The hurdle that the province probably liked hearing about the least? The argument that Muskrat Falls hasn’t yet withstood rigorous independent analysis.

“It has not been put to a full independent review that is separate from the (provincial) government,” Kevin Lacey with the CTF told The Canadian Press. “The taxpayer is the one that’s going to be shouldering most of the burden and, as a result, should be afforded the right to see all of the documentation before an independent review.”

That’s a sentiment Democracy Watch echoes.

The Dunderdale administration has argued for months that Muskrat Falls is the most-examined project to ever see the light of day in this province. But while studies of the project falls from the skies as ceaselessly as rain, Lacey has a point — many of the studies involve examinations by non-arm’s-length observers, examinations with tightly set terms of reference that essentially spell out the results in advance, or are simple recalculations of Nalcor-supplied numbers.

Studies that have fallen outside the government’s guidelines — like the examination by this province’s Public Utilities Board or by the joint federal-provincial environmental review panel — have been roundly vilified and then simply dismissed by the administration.

Premier Dunderdale clearly disagrees with the new critics. Wednesday, she repeated the government mantra that, “We’ve had every expert that we could put our hands on look at this project and review the expertise of Nalcor.”

But maybe it’s not hand’s-on review that’s needed. As the CTF is clearly pointing out, a view from some hand’s-off experts — working with terms of reference not framed by the province — might be in order.

It is late days in the project’s timeline, as contracts are awarded and the province is moving quickly past the point of no return. So there may be a clear temptation in the rarified air of the premier’s office to simply suggest that a bunch of mainlanders should mind their own business — a tried and true strategy for many premiers of this province.

But when that business requires considerable federal government support, you have to expect that mainland eyeballs would eventually focus here.

Let’s see how the project withstands a little extraprovincial scrutiny.

Organizations: Canadian Press, Public Utilities Board

Geographic location: Muskrat

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Recent comments

  • crista
    November 18, 2012 - 09:55

    now that the days and nights are getting colder and the increase in electric bills are going to be higher we wonder if the people can not afford to pay there bills on time are they allowed to get a guaranteed loan or have they got to go out and get another job,so if they can not afford to pay they bills on TIME, interest???? when are the government and the ones that support the ones that make these decisions when are you going to stop thinking of your selves,what kind of world do you live in???? and you say it is one of the best things that can happen,when are you going to tell the people the worst thing that can happen???? you selfish and think of your SELVES, BASTARDS STOP INSULTING US and your foolishness thinking you are some thing,you know what you are,remember that????

  • Maggy Carter
    November 17, 2012 - 14:49

    So Joe (John) - what is it to you if the 2041 group has spoken to the taxpayers' federation and democracy watch? People and groups trying to protect the public interest shouldn't talk with one another? We had our own watchdogs in this province - like the PUB - until Dunderdale neutered them. We had legislation that protected the public's right to know until Dunderdale repealed it. We had a legislative assembly designed to protect us from arbitrary, underhanded, abusive behaviour by government but Dunderdale hasn't had the courage to face it. She is doing so now only because she is constitutionally obligated to obtain legislative sanction for her version of 'grand theft hydro'. She and her parliamentary puppets will stare down, shout down - and with their massive majority - vote down any objections from the opposition parties. So John - if it's traitors you're looking for - go look in a mirror.

  • Joe
    November 17, 2012 - 13:03

    Another farce created by those traitors in the 2041 group, Bernardo and Denny. Guaranteed these outspoken watchdogs had a face to face meeting with 2041 Inc and heard the same crap being spewed around Newfoundland.

  • Maggy Carter
    November 17, 2012 - 13:02

    Who is John Smith and what is his track record? A paid plant, a shill, a hack, a sock-puppet, a turncoat, a Judas? A guy who gets his 'talking points' bright and early every morning. A cut and paste man who re-hashes every old post he and his pimps have hobbled together in defence of Muskrat - and still comes up short. He can't argue the facts because they are not in his favour. He can't argue the logic because there is no logic - just a hell-bent intent to push this boondoggle through no matter what the public thinks and no matter what burden yet another ill-advised hydro-electric deal imposes on several more generations of Newfoundlanders. Rather than defend the indefensible, he attacks. He repeatedly questions the motives of others without revealing his own. Every day this phoney is out there under a dozen different aliases attacking real people - people with real credentials, with real integrity, with real concern for this province. Unlike this faceless, nameless, spineless nome, these are people with no axe to grind, no master to serve except the truth, and no thirty pieces of silver to show for their trouble. The only comfort the public can take is that secrets rarely last forever.

    • david
      November 17, 2012 - 19:24

      I have tracked this down....John Smith is the exclusive local sales rep for an Italian company that sells weatherproof siding for hydro looks and feels like vinyl house siding, but costs substantially more, comes with no waaranty or guarantee, and 300% of the invoiced cost must be prepaid to a Cayman post office box to initiate delivery. You know...standard Nfld. government procurement stuff.

  • saelcove
    November 17, 2012 - 10:30

    John smith is one of williams minnows what ever it cost build it

  • John Smith
    November 17, 2012 - 09:52

    All you have to do is ask who are these two groups, and what is their track record? Then you will see why what they have to say is completely unimportant, and is biased to the nth degree....The bottom line is when the deal was first announce it had no mention of the few hundred million in savings that we would see from the loan guarantee. It stands on it's own without the loan is still the lowest cost option by billions without the we should proceed as if the guarantee is not there...if it materializes great...if what...

    • UNSURE
      November 17, 2012 - 10:50

      I thinkthere are 5% of people in favor of the project who know the facts,5% against the project who know the facts, and the remaining 90% havent the foggiest idea of the ramifications either for or against the project. We need more information on how much this is going to cost the people of Newfoundland or how much potential benefit we will derive from it. Otherwise there is alot of flapping with no real solid information

    • a business man
      November 21, 2012 - 12:34

      UNSURE: I will be honest here. I haven't the foggiest ides of the ramifications either for or against the project. I will not make a penny directly from MF, as I have nothing to do with construction or energy, BUT I do know that I will make money as MF drives the cost of living up in NL. For that reason, and that reason alone, I strongly support MF and the conduct of the government. Right or wrong, it is my right to do so.

  • saelcove
    November 17, 2012 - 09:40

    Let,s not forget it is tax payers money, 7billion will probably 12 billion we all know how contractors love to work with government money

    • John Smith
      November 17, 2012 - 09:53

      no b'y...I think it will be a trillion...yep about a trillion should do it...LOL

  • Will Cole
    November 17, 2012 - 09:10

    Here's a couple of questions I have on this issue: Will the Maritime link be designed with the capacity to carry Upper Churchill electricity for when 2041 rolls around? And in view of Dunderdale's self-proclaimed "end-run around Quebec", will Emera retain the right to sell the Maritime link to the highest bidder (i.e. Hydro Quebec) if it so chooses at some point? On a related note, from ancilliary policies designed to stifle the flow of information such as Bill 29, and the marginalizing of the PUB, to the cancellation of the debate on Muskrat in the HoA, the Dunderdale continues to commit politcal suicide with its clumsy approach to the selling of Muskrat to the electorate, and this is fortunate. At this point in NL's history, it may be prudent for NLers to ensure a minority government is elected come the next election.

  • Harvey
    November 17, 2012 - 08:34 the mainland eyeballs have so often interfered with NL...UPPER CHURCHILL, FISHERIES, SEARCH AND RESCUE, ETC, ETC. Let's stop playing political games with Muskrat Falls. We need this clean energy to help save our planet from suffocation. I'm glad that John Cabot didn't have Dwight Ball, Andrew Parsons, Lorraine Michael onboard, because he would never have found Cape Bonavista.

  • David
    November 17, 2012 - 08:19

    Thank gawd for smart people in the 'Rest of Canada'...if not for at least the hope that they are more concerned about their financial risk than we are about ours, this thing might finally be put through a sound, rational, legitimate vetting. For all those nouveau "Newfoundland Republican" simpletons out there: this is why you don't let children play with matches.

  • Tired of the Debate
    November 17, 2012 - 08:10

    It does not require a full blown review. A short review of the following would really serve to silence the critics 1) Legal Opinion on the Water Management Agreement. One thing is for certain is as long as HQ have first right of refusal for generation of power from water contained in the Upper Churchill resevoir, this is valid question. 2) Energy Output from Muskrat Falls considering the WMA works. Nalcor have said no problem, but the data has not been released to the public. 3) Do we need the power? Is is reasonable to assume a 50% growth in power consumption, with no real increase in population (over 50 years). Lets not stick to the econometric models. Lets use proper industry best practice end use modelling as was recommended by MHI at DG2. This is the one element that I believe could use real challenge. 4) What is the lowest cost. Lets look at the other options just not in the context of the isolated island. Lets look at the combination of wind, themal, and recall if the link to Labrador was built early. This was recommended by the JRP, but for the last 2 years ignored by Nalcor. 5) What is the cost of power if island demand does not grow as predicted by Nalcor. What is this risk. This is not a major review, and it should be completed. This false sense of urgency has been created by Government and Nalcor. This project should have not passed DG2. The work was not sufficient to establish it as the lowest cost alternative to the pronvince. Nalcor's gated management process failed. Because of this failure we now have this urgency to ram the decision to sanction.