Nalcor should be brought to task

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If there is any one thing related to the Muskrat Falls project that is, in my opinion, perverted, it is not government’s communications strategy, not government’s single-minded approach, not a poor leadership style by the premier.

Instead, it is Nalcor’s application of industry's decision gate (DG) project planning process.

The decision gate process was supposed to ensure that decisions made were based on a sound business case (and thereby be in the best interest of ratepayers).

However, Nalcor’s track record seems to have been one that has been focused, first and foremost, on ensuring that the project receives government sanction (and sufficient funds) to bring the project to a point of no return.

For the second (DG2) decision gate milestone, major project costs (such as interest during construction) were kept out of the decision making process.

For the third (DG3) decision gate milestone, certain project contingency costs were reduced from 15 per cent to seven per cent, and by so doing, project cost estimates were kept below Wade Locke’s $8 billion “not economic” estimate.

While Nalcor admits that it has long known about the problems associated with the North Spur dam, work leading to understanding the magnitude and probability of dam failure and the potential for designing an economically viable fix (geotechnical-type work) — work that should have been the very earliest engineering type work —was not completed until mid to late 2013 (six months after project sanction).

Furthermore, the cost estimate for the design and construction of a North Spur fix has still not been released, and Nalcor has reported that tenders for construction of a North Spur fix are not planned until 2014  — conveniently unknown to ratepayers (and possibly government) until well after another key project milestone (the award of a potentially “point of no return”

$1-billion contract related to the dam) has passed.

Also, information on actual cost overruns (rumoured to date to be very high) have not been released.

Accordingly, I would ask, if project financing (at reasonable rates, backed up by a federal loan guarantee) has not yet been secured, if the need for more power has not been demonstrated to the satisfaction of either an independent federal review panel or our own Public Utilities Board (PUB), if the so-called water management agreement with Quebec has not been shown to be on solid legal ground, if the decision gate process has not been properly applied, then on what basis has the Muskrat Falls project been sanctioned and on what sound, democratic/legislative basis does Nalcor have for the expenditure from the province’s treasury of a further

$1 billion (that the province does not have) and that will most assuredly be a project tipping point — a point of no return?

Our provincial government needs (now) to move towards a more rational, needs/evidence-based approach to what others have described as the most important public policy issue since confederation.

While Premier Kathy Dunderdale recently said, in part, that she would not resign because “I have been given a piece of work to do by our party…,” I would suggest that her first duty is not to the party but to her fellow citizens.

It is the people, not the party, that the premier is here to serve.

If government is to look out for the best interest of ratepayers (as the premier claims), if the people of this province are to be protected, Muskrat Falls needs further, needs-based and evidence-based (and more independent) review and oversight.

Will our premier go into the history books as one who had a misplaced sense of duty, who abrogated her first and most important duty?

Will she put the best interest of ratepayers on the back burner and leave them to a premier in waiting?

Yes, premier.

You do have a piece of work to do — and your duty is clear.

Maurice E. Adams writes from Paradise.

Organizations: Public Utilities Board

Geographic location: Quebec

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Recent comments

  • Cashin Delaney
    November 13, 2013 - 21:27

    Our political choices amount to Pepsi (with Rohypnol) again, the New Coke, or some flat Orange Crush. We have no Loyal Opposition in any case, they are all Muskrateers. (Parsons is the latest to kill the clock in the HOA) The Muskrat Falls project is driven by the propaganda of employment promises (despite the lack of local skilled labour and long-term negative effect of temporary, high-wage jobs), environmental stewardship (regardless of river damage, watershed flooding and intense construction to appease the carbon offset credit scheme) and long-term stable electricity rates (predicted in times of global economic instability, monopoly marketplace and accelerating changes in generation, and conservation technology). The 2041 group will never be right. Even if Cabot Martin was a time traveler, returning from 29 years time with a HD video of us losing in court to Hydro Quebec and Holyrood now burning truck tires and kerosene - wasn't it nice to have CBS grounding station propaganda on Guy Fawkes night. Gilbert Bennett thinks he can pin a poster on the wall and its all good. He thinks, he knows we are weak and stupid. The government of Newfoundland and Labrador advertises that the power is in our hands. A polite, energizing way of saying the average resident will be left holding the bag as our collective credit is being torqued out of our hands and pushed to the limit. Yet, we feel the austerity measures of fiscal sustainability kick in when the masses want roads or libraries. Mumbo Jumbo Inuit-Metis are trespassing on their own land, just like the Innu Nation did in Voisey' Bay in 1995. The Mishtashipu (Hamilton River, or Churchill, as recently renamed by colonial carpetbaggers) is a long way from St. John's. It is a long way from true utility, in the John Stuart Mill sensibility with transmission losses, underwater cable maintenance, and . Some might crudely state that Nalcor and SNC-Lavalin, through an incredible EPCM contract, now surplant our government, and are essentially libel for any fiscal sustainability we have in the future. The only jail-time will be served by some hippy/hillbilly from Port Hope Simpson who chopped up a light pole while the white collars continue free to wage their Psy Ops on a confused population who flipflops between hating Quebec and Ottawa as the enemy who keeps NL down on her knees. (see latest poll by VOCM - Quebec still hates us...) This nation-destroying project seems to be a debt-creation endeavor, the physical justification for a clandestine corporate-siphoning of provincial public funds, now co-signed and sanctioned by our federal government with a loan guarantee which allows Emera and Nalcor to play nice now, and pay 30 million apiece if they opt out. We are poised to be railroaded again, figuratively and literally. At least the Hells Angels Motorcycle Corporation and the Ndrangheta refrain from willfully destroying sensitive, pristine ecosystems. The foxes are not only in the hen house, they have rode off on the farmer's tractor with the deed to his land. Closing Search & Rescue? Closing schools? No money to build hospitals and no money to staff them if we did. We can't afford seasonal workers. We can't afford civil servants, only megaprojects. This is a classic resourse curse senario that the business class betrayers call a boom. Now, a big spending spree since they know they are out in 2015. What a performance!

  • Maurice E. Adams
    November 12, 2013 - 10:56

    Stephen --- all NL ratepayers are getting the shaft here, especially our children and grand children. ---- To make this unneeded project palatable to today's ratepayers, costs (high rates) are being back-loaded to our children and grand children, who will pay more than $1 billion a year to Nalcor (and the annual debt servicing and operating costs alone are then around $250 million a year)

  • Maurice E. Adams
    November 12, 2013 - 09:43

    Point well taken James, and I do not disagree.

  • Cyril Rogers
    November 10, 2013 - 09:22

    Maurice, I agree with your assertion that NALCOR's deeply-flawed DG process was a partial coverup and key information was denied or swept under the rug. They were allied with government though, in that regard, and could not have do it without the complicity of government. Hence, we saw the limited scope of the PUB hearings and, in my opinion, the passage of Bill 29, in order to expedite their deceptive analysis. Any person reading the Premier's response to Russell Wangersky's "20 Questions" would immediately be struck by her ability to use thousands of words to tell us nothing. Her response to his questions is the same banal and trite nattering that caused many of us to question her understanding of this project in the first place. In partnership with NALCOR, the provincial PC administration is leading us down the garden path.

    • John Smith
      November 11, 2013 - 08:07

      Well Cyril, if you know so much about the project why don't you let us in on the cover up? What are the details, what is the issue?You assert that Ed Martin, Nalcor, and the PC government have thought up this project, this 8 billion dollar project, for fun? Just to dupe their own province? Give me a break...

  • John Smith
    November 10, 2013 - 09:21

    Funny thing about the naysayers like maurice....they always use words like...rumour, or I heard from a good source, or someone told me...Nalcor and the government can't use those words...they have to use factual data. Look at the 20 questions here in this paper...those are the facts, from people who know....not people who are totally out of the loop, and have nothing better to do than surmise, and muddy the water with innuendo...

    • Tony Rockel
      November 11, 2013 - 02:52

      Ho-Hum! More of the usual "facts" from Kathy's lapdog.

  • James G. Learning
    November 09, 2013 - 21:38

    Excellent questions as usual Maurice. As for the logic of these D gates, it makes no sense. Either it is a good project or it is a bad project. As for the point of no return, this is not realistic, when you run out of money, you run out. Only in space travel do you get enough momentum to carry on indefinitely, finances don't work that way. The NL Government of all entities well know that from 500 years of failure. First as a colony, then as a country, Now as a have Province. Ignoring the basic precepts you have listed here is the fatal mistake. Those of us here at ground zero look at this destruction everyday and think. How in the name of God can they not see what you and others explain clearly?

  • Stephen  Redgrave
    Stephen Redgrave
    November 09, 2013 - 19:47

    The problem is not what Nalcor's long term goals are, but rather "what can the government do for me right now?" Realistically--we need this new infrastructure for the sake of our children and grandchildren. Everyone needs to participate in making our province as strong as possible based on decisions already made. Alberta didn't get rich sitting on their hands and they sold out far too cheep--fortunately we learned from Ralph Kleins mistake, well... Danny learned. The time for bickering is over--The financing on the whole Muskrat falls deal spans more than a generation --it's for them, not us.

  • EDfromRED
    November 09, 2013 - 09:50

    Muskrat Fall's: A Make-Work Project for engineers and executives. The taxpayers of this province are funding brazen schemes for millionaires to become multi-millionaires,and multi-millionaires to become multi-multi-millionaires. While our seniors are told "Let them eat spaghettios" , Health care, Justice and Education is cut. Crime is out of control, and our Government treats us like unwashed peasants who don't know what's best for us. I wonder how many of the PC's who are destined to be turfed next election already have cosy Muskrat Fall's related jobs lined up?

  • Lloyd Pardy
    November 09, 2013 - 08:31

    "While Nalcor admits that it has long known about the problems associated with the North Spur dam..." And if they didn't know, then they should have because the problem of 'quick clay' or 'sensitive clay' has been know about in that area since 1965. I agree with your 'read' that Nalcor and the PC Government have been more focussed on getting this project to the 'point of no return' more than it has on the best value for money for the rate payers/tax payers of this province. Well said, Maurice.

  • Dolf
    November 09, 2013 - 06:42

    That flippant "piece of work" has already sunk us in dept. So much for the first female premier.