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.