Debate debacle

Send to a friend

Send this article to a friend.

So, the biggest financial investment ever made in this province will be debated in the House of Assembly in a format — a private member’s motion — that traditionally has only allowed two hours for discussion.

And that means that the Muskrat Falls debate will be like every other examination of the $7.4-billion project, in that it can be reviewed, but only within the government’s prescribed terms.

The best face you can put on it?

That, backed into a corner by what it considered to be the unpalatable opposition demands that a debate in the House requires the testimony of independent experts on hydroelectric projects, the government instead instituted a process that will deliver exactly what the government wanted in the first place.

You can have some sympathy for Kathy Dunderdale’s government — there is no way on the planet they would agree to an open-ended debate that would allow the opposition more time under the stage lights and offer potentially damaging testimony from witnesses as well. Who wants to be the reluctant stage-manager for an opponent’s theatre?

The problem with the approach they’ve chosen?

It generates an extremely time-limited debate restricted to the regurgitation of already-established talking points.

And, in the process, it reinforces exactly the point being made by many of the project’s critics — not whether or not the project can withstand scrutiny, but whether or not it is actually getting the kind of unfettered examination that a multi-billion-dollar project deserves.

Perhaps it’s a blind spot of the current administration.

The government repeatedly protests that Muskrat Falls is the most examined project ever, but steadfastly refuses to admit that virtually all the examination has been undertaken on the government’s terms, framed by the government’s restricted rules of engagement.

In the end, the government was left with a poor set of choices: either have no debate at all, or do what it has done — do a debate-lite private member’s motion on a Wednesday in December and hope that will fit the bill as an overall review.

It is a half-measure.

How much of one?

So much so, that on Monday, the Speaker of the House had to point out that one of the ways the government wanted to free up extra time to briefly extend the debate — perhaps with the best of intentions — was actually a violation of the House’s standing orders. Someone didn’t do all their homework.

This debate will unfold as expected, without expert testimony and with an already-guaranteed majority voting in favour.

We just shouldn’t confuse it with what it clearly is not.

Any suggestion in the future that the project will have undergone a full House of Assembly debate will be revisionist history at its worst.

It’s, at best, an ad-hoc solution for an admittedly tangly problem.

And because of that, it’s pretty much a waste of the motion’s already-limited time.

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5

Thanks for voting!

Top of page



Recent comments

  • dines
    November 22, 2012 - 07:55

    A debate on a project all ready green lighted! THat sounds like the torys wanting to waste our time and money even more.

  • Ed Power
    November 21, 2012 - 17:15

    Government by Monty Python.

  • Friend
    November 21, 2012 - 15:44

    I don’t know Maurice. Handling all that money may have gone to their heads and caused them to be prejudiced against the underclass. If all the bullying is any indication, they may have acted on their emotions instead of doing their jobs. ‘Someday In The Future’ is a nice little fairy tale we’ve heard so often it’s engrained in our culture. The real truth is, tomorrow never comes to Newfoundland and Labrador.

  • John Smith
    November 21, 2012 - 12:50

    The question should be why did the LIberals scuttle the debate? The PCs have bent over backwards to appease the know nothing naysayers...and it has cost us a fortune...they went to Navigant, MHI Ziff energy, the PUB etc..etc...none of which was required....but they did it anyway....Yes the question should be what are the Liberals hiding? Their own inept,lack of insight and perception? Naw...they have people like Andrew Parsons and Dwight Ball running the show....everyone knows they only have our best interests at heart...LMAO

  • Cyril Rogers
    November 21, 2012 - 11:14

    When painted into a corner, the government did what all bullies and liars do...... they tried to blame the victim, in this case the Opposition. They don't know the meaning of compromise and they certainly don't want any real examination of their pet project, knowing full well it will never stand up to serious scrutiny. So, more meaningless polls, more baffle gab, more window dressing, all to defeat any real attempt at a democratic process. Given their huge majority, they will win the battle but ultimately we will be the big losers and the PC's will be annihilated for selling out our province and our people. Unfortunately, we will be stuck with Danny's legacy. So much little to show for it!

    • Lost in Translation
      November 21, 2012 - 14:52

      Have some cheese with your whine.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    November 21, 2012 - 10:58

    In support of my 09:14 post, check out

    • Why
      November 21, 2012 - 14:49

      And you think a long rant by a columnist in the Independent somehow supports your position. Okay then.

  • Calvin
    November 21, 2012 - 10:21

    One other thing, this 2041 view is out to lunch. Do you think when we get the upper churchill back that the power generated there will be ours to use? No, it is already being used, all we are going to get back is the revenue from selling the already spoken for energy, that is it.

  • Winston Adams
    November 21, 2012 - 09:22

    Maurice, to phase down the operation of Holyrood, the only way is with a robust energy efficient program aimed at our heating systems. MHI has said we can triple our wind from 54 to 162 MW and we have 77 MW of island small hydro. Efficiency is a much bigger component and necessary and self fiancing at a cost of 1.5 billion. The wind and small hydro costs 638 million. A robust efficiency program is a big deal and and roll back demand at 40 MW per year. Why don't you take Nalcor's forecast and superimpose on their chart the result with this approach? then do the same, assuming all new housing has efficient heating, but reducing Nalcor forecast allowing for the difference this has , because this will reduce the Nalcor forecast significantly, but will also reduce the number of conversions per year for existing houses. Such charts will clearly show the result and how many decades it will be before we will need additional large new generation like MF. Likey not before 2041.

  • Kev
    November 21, 2012 - 08:44

    I hope Danny Williams, Kathy Dunderdale, Ed Martin and the rest realize that when history is through with them, their names will be mud.

    • Corporate Psycho
      November 21, 2012 - 20:27

      Danny doesn't care. He will make another billion.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    November 21, 2012 - 07:31

    This is nothing less than an insult to the people, to the ratepayer, to the taxpayer, to the voter --- to democracy itself........ What kind of government has such (and demonstrates) such, contempt for its citizens -- for its citizens right to 'know'? ...........What kind of government squirrels away and then allows Nalcor (the so-called people's agency) to spend, without legislative sanction, 10's and 100's of millions of the citizens' one time oil revenue dollars on a manufactured, non-existing energy need --- all to satisfy the greed, the ego, the hubris of politicians, of mining companies and of Danny and the dinosaurs 19th century mega-project solution --- a poorly thought out, unneeded non-solution looking for a non-existent problem.

    • Frank
      November 21, 2012 - 08:07

      Your political leanings are starting to shine through at last! Time to give up on the Danny bashing and find a new hobby!

    • Too Funny
      November 21, 2012 - 08:11

      " What kind of government.." Every government has done what you describe - Liberal and PC (the NDP would too if they could ever win). That have done it before, they are doing it now and they will do it again. And voters will wail and complain and then turn around and vote for another group that will do the same thing again.

  • Calvin
    November 21, 2012 - 07:17

    Time to move on here people, this is getting old. This project is going to go ahead, and if the Liberals or NDP land in power in the next election, they will claim they turned the project around, when all they actually will do is see it through to completion. If this project is a mistake, it is the best mistake Newfoundland & Labrador will ever make.