A deal with us

Staff ~ The Telegram
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It is, without a doubt, the ultimate summertime government press release. Officially, it's headlined "Benefits strategy for Lower Churchill construction projects ensures opportunities for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador." Unofficially, it should probably be called "Blowing our own horn on a slow day at the office."

In all more than 1,200 words, the release outlines a deal between Nalcor Energy and the provincial government on how Lower Churchill projects, and a transmission link to the island, would be undertaken.

It is, without a doubt, the ultimate summertime government press release. Officially, it's headlined "Benefits strategy for Lower Churchill construction projects ensures opportunities for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador." Unofficially, it should probably be called "Blowing our own horn on a slow day at the office."

In all more than 1,200 words, the release outlines a deal between Nalcor Energy and the provincial government on how Lower Churchill projects, and a transmission link to the island, would be undertaken.

Here's the crux of it: "The Lower Churchill construction projects benefits strategy released today by the provincial government will ensure opportunities for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador during the construction phase of the Lower Churchill development. The strategy includes at least 21.5 million person hours of construction employment on two hydroelectric developments at Gull Island and Muskrat Falls, as well as the Labrador-island transmission link, and at least 6.5 million in engineering and project management person hours and specific gender equity and diversity programs."

(Remember when governments everywhere used to talk about "person-years" of employment? The numbers, of course, become that much more impressive when you're talking about millions of "person-hours." This announcement is also equivalent to 1.29 billion person-minutes of employment.)

Read it, and you'd no doubt be impressed with the diligent efforts on the government's part, especially the efforts of Natural Resources Minister Kathy Dunderdale. "Minister Dunderdale stated that the Lower Churchill construction projects benefits strategy is similar to benefits arrangements the provincial government has with oil and mining companies as it outlines work to be performed in the province for the benefit of industry and employees," the release says. "'The Lower Churchill construction projects benefits strategy clearly outlines the kinds of activities and procedures which will be followed by Nalcor Energy, its contractors and sub-contractors regarding employment and business benefits,' said Minister Dunderdale."

There is, of course, one substantial difference.

The provincial government was setting a benefits strategy with Nalcor, which happens to be the government's own wholly owned subsidiary.

Unlike deals with privately owned or publicly traded businesses, in this case, the government is really only telling one of its own divisions what that division will do. It is, in the end, a formality. It's hard to even conceive of Nalcor deciding to do something that the government was fundamentally opposed to, or, in fact, was opposed to in any way. That just sounds like a ticket to having the cabinet name a new Nalcor boss, an ability they clearly already have.

As for the numbers involved in the release? They are whatever numbers the government wants them to be, and will change in whatever way the government wants them to change. Negotiating with yourself lets you make your own claims, and also lets you announce everything in a way that reflects best on yourself.

The proof of this pudding - the amount of work involved in the projects, who's going to do it, and whether it will actually ever begin - is truly in the eating.

Right now, it's just the equivalent of the chef saying "We made the best pudding in the world," and the sous-chef announcing, "Yes, indeedy we did!"

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Gull Island, Labrador-island

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Recent comments

  • AGF
    July 20, 2010 - 13:03

    When I saw this news item in The Telegram yesterday I thought to myself, why do they continue to legitimize this spin doctoring by publishing it as if it has any merit? Have you ever considered the role you play in pepetuating all those meaningless press release that you so often criticize?

  • Bert
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    Did anyone think maybe the govt. sent this story to you for the mere reason that no matter how good the story was , the telegram would only condemm it or put in the Jeers section of the Cheers and Jeers section. Contrary to what you might think the govt. is way ahead of your writers in both skill and popularity.

  • Lab12
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    When will the Island understand that the Territory of Labrador wants no part of this mess. Flood out St. Johns and see how you like cheap power. Never going to happen folks, get use to it.

  • James II
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    Part of the cost of doing business for large engineering consortia is the enormous effort expended in attempting to land a lucrative contract for a major project. It isn't your standard government tender where the lowest price usually prevails. There are politicians to lobby, bureaucrats to wine and dine with no certainty of any contract at the end of the day. But of all the projects such companies chase, this one is particularly challenging, frustrating and worrisome. Why? Because at the end of the day there is no assurance that there will be a project at all. My own humble opinion is that there will not. Even Williams is on record only a few weeks ago saying that he has no firm timeline for when the Lower Churchill will proceed. The NL Government (NALCOR et al) reminds me of a guy who finds himself dating in the midst of a messy divorce. All the while he is courting his new interest, he is villifying his ex. And yet his new squeeze can't help but wonder what would happen if the ex showed the slightest interest in the one she has jilted. Nine times out of ten you'll find - as Shania Twain would say - his boots back under her bed. Indeed the more Machiavellian of exes may even throw him a bone just for the fun of seeing the look on the new girl's face. Enough dating analogies. This province's energy aspirations have suffered overwhelming, sustained abuse at the hands of Hydro-Quebec, the Quebec government and the federal government since the 1960s. That has not changed; nor will it change even if Williams finds an engineering and financially feasible solution that does not depend on Quebec. There is no reasonable prospect of success in the near future and to pursue it is a waste of taxpayers' money. It is money that could be much better spent including, perhaps, the creation of a commission to examine political and constitutional options through which NL may begin to realize its true potential. I would support Williams in that effort but not his inclination, as was the wont of those who preceded him, to chase rainbows under which the pot of gold is well guarded by more powerful interests than our own.

  • Polly
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    While this government deals in the hypothetical , provinces like Nova Scotia are inking deals : The Nova Scotia government and Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering Inc. have finalized a deal to build a wind turbine plant at the former TrentonWorks railcar factory. In a statement, the government announced it closed the transaction today with the South Korean manufacturing giant.---- The Chronicle Herald .

  • Eugene
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    An exercise in perception-engineering. Nalcor, created as a means to move public property into private hands, is shown to be 'negotiating' with the government. Next, Nalcor will be looking to the market to help 'finance' its over-the-rainbow schemes...and with equity shares given over to private investors, we'll be descending a slippery slope. N&L has already 'invested' hundreds of millions in Nalcor, to what end? From what already exists (Upper Churchill) all Labradorians, if not islanders too, should be getting free electricity. One wonders what sort of liability Nalcor will actually be, beyond what we've already paid for this 'corporate image'.

  • S
    July 20, 2010 - 13:02

    Thank you, Danny and government minions, for winning this tremendous deal. There is no doubt that Nalcor was out for itself only, planning to scr&w the people of the province out of our rightful jobs. But thanks to the relentless strength, pride and determination of this government we have been saved! Sorry? Nalcor is part of government? Oh. Never mind.