Mind the gap

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Friday, there was a brand new item thrown into the Muskrat Falls blender. It was the “good news” announcement of a federal loan guarantee for the project — or, to those who question the project, a conditional sort of guarantee that could hardly serve to guarantee much of anything.

The federal government has agreed to guarantee financing for the project if Nova Scotia stays involved (a full decision on that involvement doesn’t have to come before 2014), if the Newfoundland government spends its equity money up front with any loans coming later, if the deal stays as one that’s beneficial to Canadian taxpayers, and if and when the actually legally biding documents that embody the terms everyone agreed to are drawn up in a way that meets everyone’s satisfaction.

In other words, it is an agreement to agree, with more than a few “out” clauses.

Just the kind of backing your banker would like to see before giving you preferential terms on your next $7.4-billion mortgage.

Provincial Natural Resources Minister Jerome Kennedy triumphantly described the term sheet like this in the House of Assembly: “Mr. Speaker, without the premier’s leadership to advocate on behalf of the people of Newfoundland and Labrador and her vision on the Muskrat Falls project to achieve energy self-

sufficiency for our province, there would be no loan guarantee. Our premier stood steadfast during these negotiations and her commitment to ensure that the principles of the loan guarantee be done in the best interest of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians never wavered.”

But leave all that aside for a moment, and think about some other numbers.

Polling done for The Telegram by MQO Research and released on Saturday shows that 59 per cent of residents of the province strongly or somewhat support moving ahead with the Muskrat Falls project, but a staggering 77 per cent say their knowledge of the project is fair or poor. That’s a remarkable knowledge gap, especially for a project that Premier Kathy Dunderdale described to the Halifax Chronicle-Herald as being the most scrutinized project in the nation.

“There’s no project in the history of this country that’s undergone the scrutiny that this one has gone under,” she said,

With numbers like that, the subset that is solidly supporting the project has to cross over to some degree with the subset that admits limited knowledge of the project — in other words, there has to be a substantial number of people who both support the project and, at the same time, know very little about it.

That’s a troubling situation to be in, especially when you consider another number from the poll: 56 per cent of respondents felt there should be a referendum on whether or not the project should go ahead.

That means there are a fair number of people who want the opportunity to vote on something they admit they don’t know much about — hardly a recipe for good decision-making.

Here’s a hard truth: until you’ve taken the time to know what you’re talking about, you probably shouldn’t be trumpeting — or voting on — either its perceived benefits or its perceived flaws.

Organizations: The Telegram, Halifax Chronicle-Herald

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia

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Recent comments

  • Winston adams
    December 04, 2012 - 20:30

    Maurice , your view of no energy deficit includes the continued use of Holyrood as a source of generation for our winter loads. I think most beleive this is not a good idea. Do you not beleive global warming needs to be addressed, on all levels? You correctly point out that Holyrood is only 8 percent of our CO2 omissions and doesn't justify an 8 billion expense. So you propose to keep Holyrood in use. Efficiency and wind can offset Holyrood, but you haven't embraced an effective efficiency plan as other jurisdictions have. So your vision seems to have a deficit. And MHI has recently substancially increases acceptable wind levels. This can be very cost effective when combined with efficiency. Your vision seems to have a wind deficiency as well. That is you have not quantified these sources, and if not , where is the plan for the vision. John Smith does not have much in original suggestions, and I don't agree with much he says, but Holyrood polution is a serious issue, but you fail to acknowledge this, in my opinion , to your discredit. Guess you don't think much of using efficiency and wind and small hydro to fully offset Holyrood. Instead you continue to promote Holyrood's continued use, based on economics, and that this polution is, to you acceptable.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    December 04, 2012 - 11:11

    JOHN, check www.vision2041.com and you will see that we have no energy deficit til 2041 (and potentially well beyond that). We are being mislead by our own elected officials. PERIOD.

  • david
    December 04, 2012 - 10:03

    This term sheet is a good and proper one for the people of Canada, which is exactly the constituency it is designed and meant to protect from financial loss or ruin. Too bad we don't have anyone working on behalf of the people of Newfoundland's interests with any such caution or prudence ---- Keep digging, b'yes!! Faster!! Chicken Little says we'll freeze in the dark any day now, and there's no time to talk or think!

  • Coco
    December 04, 2012 - 10:01

    Politicians feel obliged to vote against their constituents' wishes in favour of their party's demands and they spend too much time working on behalf of their parties instead of their constituents. Satisfaction with democracy is at an all-time low. See survey at http://www.samaracanada.com/home

  • John Smith
    December 04, 2012 - 09:26

    We elect govenment officials to make decisions...that's what they get paid to do. The team at Nalcor get paid to supply electricity, that's what they do. Nalcor came to the government, stated that we will be in an energy deficit by 2017, and that the best option is a dam at muskrat, and a link to the island. All the other parts of the deal, the link to NS, the deal with Emera, the loan guarantee, all came afterwards. the bottom line is that we will need the power, and Muskrat is the lowest cost option...period. As far as information, there is an unbelievable amount out there for those who want to read it. The PUB had 2 million additional dollars, 9 months, 15,000 pages of information, and hundreds of exhibits(still available online), yet they could not reach a conclusion. They did go out and find an independant company to do a review...MHI...but they came back in favour of the project...so of course that had to be thrown out, or dismissed because they are all in on it.For those who want a referendumb I would point to the three polls....60% or more in favor of the project.

  • Calvin
    December 04, 2012 - 09:23

    By the same reasoning, of the 41% who do not support the project, 77% of them have no knowledge of the project, they are just opposed for no reason..... shoddy article if you ask me, seems like The Telegram is using statistics to try and influence peoples view on, well, statistics.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    December 04, 2012 - 08:30

    You just made the case for a PUB review ---- and then a referendum (which is the option supported by 57% of those responding to www.vision2041.com poll).

    • What Poll
      December 04, 2012 - 09:42

      You mean the biased and inaccurate "poll" conducted on your blog. Are you really going to try and pass that "poll" off as something reliable?