Nalcor, the premier and secrets

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On Nov. 18, Dwight Ball, the new leader of the Liberal Party, questioned Premier Kathy Dunderdale in the house about Nalcor hiding Muskrat Falls information behind Bill 29 — the Official Secrets Act.

Afterwards, CBC reporter Peter Cowan in a scrum outside the house said: “The premier isn’t backing away from the bill, she says she is happy to keep defending it. She’s accusing the opposition parties of misleading people by tying together Bill 29 and Muskrat Falls.”

Dunderdale’s response was: “… because it doesn’t apply to Muskrat Falls. And anybody doing basic research would know that. Anybody who understood, who took part in the debate, about the setup of Nalcor would know it doesn’t apply. And yet, day in and day out, day in day out, we have the same accusation.”

Five days before that exchange, on Nov. 13, The Telegram published an article titled, “Nalcor powers trump access laws, company told.” It provided some insight into Bill 29 and how it affects Muskrat Falls, Nalcor and Ed Martin.

The article related a recent court case where the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador provided an interpretation of Bill 29 that disputes Dunderdale’s claims that the Access to Information Act doesn’t apply to them.

The article describes how a private company tried to use the Access to Information laws to get records they believed would show that Nalcor inappropriately shared their data. The article states that Nalcor’s Ed Martin himself denied the Access to Information request. The court actually quoted Kathy Dunderdale in its decision, as she was Natural Resources minister at the time a piece of legislation called the Energy Corporation Act was written. This act provided for the creation of Nalcor Energy and in its terms provisions were included that allowed for decisions by its leadership to “prevail” on access to information decisions. In other words, whoever is in charge of Nalcor Energy has the ultimate, final say on any access to information questions posed to them.

So there you have it.

The Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador itself has provided us with the final word on the matter. Nalcor cannot be questioned by this province’s taxpayers because the Energy Corporation Act invokes Bill 29 to say so. It seems Dunderdale is the one who should be “doing some basic research.”

Apparently, all we’re allowed to do is keep paying our taxes without question, as there is a great big hole in the ground in Labrador that must be filled with all our tax dollars and every cent from our meagre resource royalties.

While health care is cut, while education is cut, while the cost of services increase, while thousands are laid off, there is no end in sight for Muskrat Falls money. And just to put in perspective how much it’s costing us, at $7.7 billion over five years, Muskrat Falls is costing us $4.2 million a day, 365 days a year, for five years.

And that’s only if it doesn’t go over budget like every other project of this magnitude has.

So, for instance, when you hear Susan Sullivan state the cuts to health care will save $22 million this year, that amounts to less than five days of financing for Muskrat Falls — yes, you read that right, five days!

When Joan Shea says eliminating adult education will save us $1 million, that would be a minuscule six hours of Muskrat Falls financing.

Think about this when the government says they don’t have $200,000 to provide clean water to your town or $1 million to fix a road so your children can get to school safely. Just remember what a tiny amount of money that is compared to the $4 million or $5 million a day going to Muskrat Falls.

And when Dunderdale and the PC’s have spent our grandchildrens’ birthright on this disaster we will have our reward — all our money is spent, most of the meagre royalties from our resources are spent and we will have electricity that cost at least twice as much as we’re paying now.

If your light bill is like mine, about $450 a month in winter, get ready for that bill to go to $900 a month or more. Oh, joy. But it is still not too late to stop this project before it bankrupts us and our children’s children.

We must do the right thing for the future of Newfoundland and Labrador and stop this now, while we still can.

Gary Pike writes from St. John’s.

Organizations: CBC, Supreme Court, Energy Corporation The Telegram

Geographic location: Muskrat Falls, Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Winston Adams
    November 28, 2013 - 09:27

    John, we are 85 percent green hydro energy here on the island, a position many parts of the world would envy. Many parts of the world are subject to having 75 percent or more with oil or dirty coal generation. The stupidity of MF is that it will cost 8 to 10 billion to satisfy Holyrood's current 10.5 percent production. And this locks all ratepayers to 50 to 100 percent increase in power costs and will take 50 years to justify, if ever. What a waste of our public finances. It shows a lack of innovation and vision and a huge gamble. I think "gamble " best describes this. If our public funds should be spent on necessary and prudent programs, a gamble doesn't fit the description of a wise use.. I admit I may be wrong in my opinion. Personally, I have converted my cottage to low energy use efficient heating which cut my heating energy by more than 60 percent, with excellent results. I did a mini pilot study, of several houses, the results filed with the PUB. When the rate hike shock kicks in, when MF comes on, most Nflders will do as I have done, they will convert to energy efficient heaters, and trigger a spiral of lower energy use, and even higher rates. Again, I may be wrong. But as to present heating technology allowing this to happen, (using best practises and most cost effective systems), I have received NOT A SINGLE suggestion( apart from you, and you acknowledge your lack of technical expertise on this) to say that is not the most viable and least cost solution. And it is what our American neighbours are doing big time, to avoid expensive energy like MF. Go figure!

  • Winston Adams
    November 28, 2013 - 08:49

    John, the Muskrat Falls scheme is built upon deception. It started with the suggestion we were soon headed for blackouts. Now that all the events are going against the economics of this scheme, you use the tactic of fear.... "war could happen that would drive oil to 300 dollars a barrel in 2 seconds"... it shows how desperate you are in your argument. As to the critics of MF being "cohorts" of mine, I personally know one critic and said hello to one other. The many critics I know only through the media, who have the courage to identify themselves, unlike you, who hide your identity, or qualifications or associations with your cohorts. Cohorts....."persons banded together, a band of warriors"...hardly applicable to me and other critics who seek freedom of speech and a free press to voice opinions. An a engineer with experience in power systems, my opinions are mostly technical, proposing energy solutions that work and are less than one quarter the cost of MF, and keep energy costs low for residents. John, you had gone silent after the sanctioning. Your reappearance suggests continuing rocky roads ahead for this project.

  • Winston Adams
    November 27, 2013 - 12:16

    John, there are a lot of "IFS" in the MF scheme. That's why it is so risky. The bulk of the population got scared when it was stated we risk power blackouts in the near future. All anchored in big ifs that are not reasonable. You know new England is reducing electricity use about the equivalent of a MF output every year going forward, through better use of efficiency for end users, and about 1/4 the cost of MF. Are they dumb? As to your reliance on "Ifs", it reminds me... back in the 50s my neighbour , an old witty man, missed the previous lodge meeting of the Orange Lodge. At the next meeting they proposed to pass a resolution discussed the week before. Uncle Joe objected, saying he knew nothing about it. The master told uncle Joe that if he had been to the last meeting he would have known all about it. Uncle Joe rose to his feet. "If I had been to the last meeting! If I had been to the last meeting!. Yes, and if I had been born in England, I could have been Winston Churchill" . John,Wishing for war and 300 dollars for a barrel of oil to justify this 8 or 10 billion project..... when we are already at 85 percent hydropower here on the island, its just insane... at this particular time frame, with no outside customers willing to pay a quarter of the cost of production, and island customers getting a rate shock coming soon, and our demand and power usage about flat, making MF unnecesary. You can't sell this on the basis of being green energy, but it is certainly red on the balance sheets.

  • Tony Rockel
    November 26, 2013 - 10:35

    More propaganda from KD's attack-weasel. Ho-hum! Yawn.

  • Winston Adams
    November 26, 2013 - 08:29

    John, lets check your "facts". Holyrood production has decreased from 30 percent of our total a decade ago to only 10.5 percent of our total last year. We got a roll back on our electricity cost this summer because holyrood oil cost less than it was estimated. It was expected, by Nalcor that oil would keep escalating, so that with increased costs each year, there would be no "shock "rate increase when Muskrat came on and we get the blended rate(that the high cost muskrat power would be offset by big oil savings at Holyrood). But it is not working that way. And we will get the shock rate, likely 40 to 100 percent increase all at once. Go to vision 2041 website and see the charts for Holyrood production and see what is happening. Much is going wrong with the plan.

    • John Smith
      November 26, 2013 - 11:16

      ...the only plan that's going awry, is the one that would have the project delayed, or stopped because of politics. The usage of Holyrood goes up, and down dependant upon a number of much snow, how much rain etc. Winston do you know that the price of oil in 1997 went as low as 11 dollars a barrel? Today it is 111.00 a barrel? If a war erupts in the middle east it could go to 300.00 a barrel in 2 seconds? Do you want to be held hostage to that? I know I don't...our bills will soon reach the 80% increase mark since the mid 90s . Muskrat looks at how much we would need to spend on oil at holyrood over the next 50 years you know how much that will be? Billions, and Billions, without the cost of replacing the plant. So keep on trying...but you and your co-horts have failed...thank god...

  • John Smith
    November 26, 2013 - 07:42

    Wow...there are so many lies, miss truths and fabrication in this pile that I don't know where to start. First of all, Bill 29 does not apply to Nalcor....period. We pay Mr. Martin a great deal of money to make decisions, and among those decisions is what information is available to companies dealing with Nalcor. We own Nalcor, and this company is trying to hurt our company, and Mr. Martin, our employee is trying to protect our company. Our power bills have increased by 77% since 1998...that's why you are paying so much. It is rate payers that will pay for muskrat, not taxpayers, the same rate payers that paid for Bay d"Espoir, Cat Arm, Holyrood and other generation facillities. We pay nearly 12 cents a KWH now for power, and when you factor in the extra costs for oil tacked on every year, it is closer to 15 cents...when muskrat comes on stream the blended rate will be around 15 cents at soldier's that's another lie. Why do those opposed to this project always have to make up lies to get their point across? Why can't they provide hard facts? Nalcor has to produce hard facts, government has to...but the naysayers can say anything they want....with no basis in reality, and have it printed in our only paper...thank god no one ever listened to these people, and the project got the green light, because with oil now at 111.00 dollars a barrel that 77% increase is growing everyday...

    • Ken Collis
      November 26, 2013 - 08:30

      If you would be so bold, John Smith, why not tell me your real name. I would love to meet you because I have a bridge in Brooklyn for sale that I know you would love. Unless of course, your name is Ed Martin. Then it's you that is selling a bridge.