It was a field day of fine print. Tuesday, the provincial government finally announced that over 1,500 pages of legal text between this province, Nova Scotia, Emera and Nalcor — 13 agreements in all — had been signed. The pile of paper makes up the binding legal agreements that the parties involved in the original Muskrat Falls deal say “reflect the core principles of the term sheet” signed in 2010 to launch the project.
“Reflecting” is, of course, an interesting choice of language.
The devil is in the details — and will no doubt prove to be challenging reading.
But here are a few early thoughts on Tuesday’s low-key signing.
First, you don’t get much more low-key than calling your news conference on the day before what’s supposed to be Regatta Day.
Second, while the first term sheet event in 2010 featured provincial premiers and plenty of fanfare, this signing, “reflecting” the first signing, had
Signing the legal agreements was, of course, one of the first deadlines officially set for the Muskrat Falls project — and one of the first deadlines missed. Originally, under the deal announced by then-premier Danny Williams, the principals would have a year, until November 2011, to convert the term sheet — traditionally, a non-binding document spelling out the main facets of the deal — into formal agreements.
Everyone involved missed that deadline, and pushed it ahead by two months to the end of January 2012. Then they missed the new deadline. At that point, they announced that everything was going well, but that they didn’t intend to set any more deadlines.
But back to the attendance, or non-attendance, of VIPs.
There were no premiers this time: instead, it was energy ministers who were on hand for the signing in St. John’s in the morning, and in Sydney, N.S. in the afternoon.
Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter is presumably returning from the 36th annual Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers in Burlington, Vermont. (He did tweet “Great deal!”)
Premier Dunderdale wasn’t at the signing, nor was she at the governors and premiers meeting. (Our province sent Innovation, Business and Rural Development Minister Keith Hutchings. It’s an interesting choice: one of the main topics is renewable energy, a concept you’d think we’d be selling from the top down.)
Perhaps it’s fair enough that this latest announcement was a little lower on the hype scale: perhaps, if it was once again a big show, we’d be arguing that the players were trying for political points by reannouncing the last announcement.
One thing is for sure: deadlines and budgets in megaprojects are often missed, and the length of time it’s taken to find legal wording to adequately “reflect” the original deal is not inspiring.
With the legal agreements alone taking more than 50 per cent longer than first expected, there’s plenty of reason to wonder whether the partners will do any better with their other “project deliverables.”Low-key