Another fine mess we’re into

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By Tom Careen

On Nov. 30, 2009, Ed Martin, president and CEO of Churchill Falls (Labrador) Corp. Ltd. (CF(L)Co), Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, and Nalcor Energy wrote his counterpart at Hydro-Québec and called upon him to renegotiate the pricing terms of the Churchill Falls power contract for the future.

Martin did not receive a reply.

On Feb. 23, 2010. the lawyers for the plaintiff — CF(L)Co —  filed a motion to institute proceedings against the defendant — Hydro-Québec — in Superior Court, District of Montreal.

The case will be heard this September.

In November 2010, there was an announcement by then-premier Danny Williams, with his caucus, cabinet ministers and the technocrats Wade Locke, Gilbert Bennett and Ed Martin in rapt attendance, that Newfoundland and Labrador had a deal with Nova Scotia’s Emera and would be proceeding with construction of two dams and a powerhouse at Muskrat Falls, building transmission lines to the island of Newfoundland and Churchill Falls, and not one, Mr. Speaker, but two — count ’em if you can — two subsea cables.

The almost farcical goings-on since Danny the Unforgettable relaced his skates, retired to the arena of his childhood dreams and unceremoniously dumped the hot, hot, hot potato of Lower Churchill River development in the lap of his maladroit successor would make one think the odious epithet, “Goofy Newfie,” had some merit and basis in fact.

Upwards of a billion dollars has been spent so far and each day brings more disquieting news.

There is no firm deal with Emera beyond the ballyhooed term sheet. Nova Scotia’s Utility and Review Board (UARB) has put forward a condition to be met before approval is given by the UARB that is reminiscent of Hydro-Québec’s 11th-hour demand for an automatic renewal clause in the Churchill Falls power contract.

There is the clay-filled North Spur at Muskrat Falls. That doesn’t seem to daunt our present day Tower of Babel builders or those who would peg their tents on shifting sands.

The supposed natural dam’s potential for calamity, both physical and financial ruin, scares this old heavy construction worker, well, spitless.

Did anyone think Hydro-Québec would say or do nothing when its policy has been and will remain to hang on to the Churchill Falls contract, and especially to the 25-year renewal clause, until the bitter end?

Since the Privy Council decision of 1927, Quebec’s balm for its bruised ego and affronted self-image is that Newfoundland was a liar, cheat and thief (and so, much admired by the English) and stole Labrador de chez nous.

According to the French Canadian version of Canada-Newfoundland history, Newfoundland was an even bigger whore to hit London than Hermann Goering in the Battle of Britain!

Not a labourer with pick and shovel, surveying crew or helicopter jam-packed with cabinet ministers should have gone anywhere near Muskrat Falls (or Gull Island) until CF(L)Co’s motion of Feb. 23, 2010, had wound its way through Quebec Superior Court and, if need be, the Supreme Court of Canada.

Were the plaintiff to win in court and be awarded even half what Hydro-Québec earns for Churchill Falls power in export markets,

then Lower Churchill development could be self-financed from the cash cow of Churchill Falls.

That would be much better than pleading with stepmother Ottawa to co-sign the loan papers, wouldn’t it?

I understand Martin’s career experience has been in the oil and gas industry.

Our offshore, comprising five coasts, should have been enough to keep him or anyone busy. (If we had the guts and foresight, there is a sixth — the coast of Baffin Island on Davis Strait and Baffin Bay.)

Martin ventured into the Churchill River and, so far, has managed to run our ship (of state) aground on every shoal and bar, struck every sunker, both charted and uncharted, got rammed and holed by every submerged tree trunk adrift in the current, and still he orders, “Full speed ahead, Mr. Bennett.” And, “More fuel. More steam. More smoke, Doc Locke.”

It is as if the debacle at Churchill Falls never happened to us.

Has no one studied Brinco’s history? It is reckless to continue construction, spending huge sums of money and to tender equipment and service contracts under the current clouds, yes, the plural clouds of uncertainty.

Muskrat Falls must be put on hold. If it is still necessary to build a monument and legacy project to Danny Williams, may I suggest the provincial government claw back a couple of hundred million dollars from Nalcor (if anything is left in the till) and create a law school at Memorial University dedicated to and named for Danny Williams.

At any rate, a law school would be much cheaper to build and run than the $9 billion to $10 billion cost for Muskrat Falls. And the edifice (temple?) to Williams’ glory would be sited right in the middle of St. John’s rather than in distant Labrador.

Now, if only Jerome Kennedy was to have himself appointed dean of the new law school, it would put an end to that man’s disastrous, blunderful trip into provincial politics.

Tom Careen writes from Placentia.

Organizations: Hydro-Québec, Utility and Review Board, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro Privy Council Quebec Superior Court Supreme Court of Canada.Were

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Muskrat Falls, Nova Scotia Churchill River Montreal North Spur Quebec London Britain Gull Island Ottawa Baffin Island on Davis Strait Baffin Bay Placentia

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Recent comments

  • Lucien Beauregard
    August 12, 2013 - 23:35

    Let's suppose that Muskrat Falls project is stopped right now. Let's suppose that CFLCo lose in Quebec Superior Court, Let's suppose CFLCo also lose in Canada Suprem Court, What will you do next. ? Waiting that Churchill Falls Power Contract comes to his end in 2041 ! Most of us will be dead by that time ! Don't you want that unfair contract to be reopened while you are still alive ? There is only one solution: Tell Quebecers that the power lines will be disconned for ever if the 1969 Contract is not reopened before trial ! Stop blaming Danny Williams, stop blaming Dunderdale, stop blaming Nalcor, stop blaming Quebecers. just ask your self what you can do ! Stop being passive, be proactive !

  • Eli
    August 12, 2013 - 19:33

    Careen for King! Regretfully thick-headed PC's won't see the wisdom of your letter Mr. Careen.

  • Tony Rockel
    August 12, 2013 - 10:28

    Excellent letter! "Confederacy of dunces" does not even begin to describe our illustrious PC government and its bunch of bumbling Nalcor cronies-- unmitigated noodles, all of them!

  • James G. Learning
    August 11, 2013 - 17:38

    Funny there was nothing positive in this article as to the MF Project. The one thing I will respond to at length is the monument to Danny Williams. Indeed this could be a monument to Williams stupidity. As a Labradorean I sure don't want to ever see that name on a plaque at MF. This I'm sure would bring out the worst in many Labradoreans. I commend Mr. Careen on this article, to the point.

    • david
      August 12, 2013 - 08:24

      Muskrat Falls isn't a monument to Danny Williams. It is Danny Williams' very belittling and sarcastic monument to the citizens of Newfoundland.

  • Kev
    August 11, 2013 - 15:52

    Baffin Bay? Are you serious? And you complain about Quebec re Labrador?

  • Gerry G
    August 11, 2013 - 11:54

    You're on the money. If this foolishness is not stopped we will be indentured to Nalcor for 50 years.

  • Ben Turpin
    August 10, 2013 - 19:13

    Voltaire's Bastards: The Dictatorship of Reason in the West by John Ralston Saul explains the cast of characters you labaste; heroes and technocrats. A unified analysis supported by history reveals what our ruling class cannot acknowledge. Necessity is the plea of the tyrant and also the creed of slaves. Damn and curse the ones who would dare stand and moderate. I propose a deal with the PC party. Please do not exterminate all of our moose, and we'll let MF continue. Give us two extra weeks of cod food fishery and we will do gull island. If you build a wicked spot for Bruce Springsteen to play, we'll allow Old Harry to be produced. You can frack the west coast if you build a hospital there. Build a school for southlands/mount pearl and you can build a reactor in Rigolet. A ferry for southeast bight will get you all our common heritage of mankind UN rights.

  • Craig
    August 10, 2013 - 09:57

    The most fitting reminder of the Williams years would not have anything to do with a law school and it would be far less expensive. The boom in revenues from offshore oil was basically wasted by Williams and now Dunderdale. Given that Muskrat Falls (Danny's brain fart) will put this provinces reputation and credit rating in the tiolet all we need to do is rent a port-a-pottie, place it on the front lawn of the Confederation and name it Danny's Place!

  • Maurice E. Adams
    August 10, 2013 - 09:12

    Great piece of writing Mr. Careen...... And there was no reason for Nalcor to think that HQ would not rely on their Churchill Falls Power Contracts, since HQ wrote a letter (dated December 2009) to our PUB concerning the proposed Water Management Agreement. The letter said in effect that HQ would rely on its CF(L)Co-Hydro Quebec Power Contracts and section 5.7 of NL's Electrical Power Control Act ( www.vision2041.com/wma.html ) refers.