This time we’re doing it to ourselves

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What gall! After blowing millions of scarce taxpayer dollars to nationalize an obsolete paper mill, after putting at risk perhaps hundreds of millions of additional dollars to acquire offshore oil equity positions (whose costs have ballooned to the tune of hundreds of millions more), and after skipping out of the premier’s chair once our aging and shrinking population had been manoeuvred into an unneeded, high-risk, high-cost and unaffordable multibillion-dollar Muskrat Falls project, Danny Williams (during the 2014 Noia conference) is reported as saying that “Nalcor is our Statoil, it’s our Hydro-Québec. … It’s our crown jewel. It’s our heritage fund. It’s the cornerstone for the future of Newfoundland and Labrador. ... We own it. It’s ours, folks. ... (and why therefore) are we getting on with criticism all the time?”

It was Hydro-Québec that first held Newfoundland and Labrador hostage to the stranded/captive nature of Labrador’s energy resources.

It was Hydro-Québec that leveraged its advantageous position, not for the benefit of others, but for the benefit of its own citizens and raked in billions of dollars in windfall profits due to the low cost/high profit margins associated with the sale of surplus energy from the Upper Churchill project.  

The captive and stranded nature of the Newfoundland and Labrador energy production and sales market allowed Hydro-Québec to keep electricity rates in Quebec low, helped Quebec rake in profits to the tune of billions of dollars and allowed Hydro-Québec to ensure that Quebec remained the principal beneficiary, not only of Hydro-Québec’s initiatives generally, but of the resources of Newfoundland and Labrador in particular.

To achieve this, Hydro-Québec did not hold its own province’s citizens captive.

Instead, Hydro-Québec held the province of Newfoundland and Labrador captive/hostage to its own circumstances, and to its own blind push to develop its hydroelectric resources.

While Hydro-Québec’s actions raised the prosperity level of Quebec’s citizens, it was Newfoundlanders and Labradorians that paid the price.

But according to Danny Williams, “(Nalcor) is our Hydro-Québec.”

If so, it is only in the worst of ways.

Having seen how holding a captive group hostage to a single market (and that by doing so, Hydro-Québec was able to rake in billions of dollars in profit), Nalcor became like Hydro-Québec only in the sense that our government and Nalcor is now holding the same group (its own captive Newfoundland and Labrador ratepayers) hostage.

While Hydro-Québec was able to maximize the benefits and profits that accrued to it, and did so at virtually no cost to its own citizens, Nalcor has placed the burden, the costs, the risks of unneeded Muskrat Falls power squarely on the shoulders of its own ratepayers (all while the benefits and the revenues from outside sales are miniscule).

By virtue of our own legislation, Nalcor has been made a province-wide (“Nalcor-only”) one-stop shop monopoly.

Our government (and Nalcor) is shafting its own citizens, forcing Newfoundland and Labrador ratepayers to pay the full costs for Muskrat Falls power, all while contractually making a neighbouring province (Nova Scotia) the principal beneficiary.

Over a 50-year period, Newfoundland and Labrador ratepayers will pay billions of dollars more than what the energy from Muskrat Falls is worth. Newfoundland and Labrador ratepayers will pay all of Nalcor’s/NL Hydro’s Muskrat Falls costs — no matter what they are.

Any profit from outside sales are miniscule compared to the costs to ratepayers.

No matter how small the so-called profit (or how large the costs to ratepayers), electricity rates will always be increased so as to ensure that all costs are covered, and that Nalcor, NL Hydro, NL Power, Emera and the banks all receive their profits — guaranteed by Newfoundlanders and Labradorians — by our own legislation.

While Hydro-Québec’s Upper Churchill business model has resulted in a great revenue loss to Newfoundland and Labrador, Hydro-Québec has always looked after its own province and its own citizens first.

They were, and are, the principal beneficiaries.

While all the costs for Muskrat Falls are borne by a captive Newfoundland and Labrador ratepayer, the principal beneficiary is not Nalcor’s own province or its own citizens. It is, instead, a neighbouring province — Nova Scotia.

While one could say that Hydro-Québec shafted Newfoundland and Labrador, this time round, it is not Hydro-Québec, but our own government (and Nalcor) that is shafting its own citizens for the principal benefit of Nova Scotia.

If indeed (as Danny claims) Nalcor is our Hydro-Québec, it is only to the extent that Nalcor will soon be able to claim that it is the second utility that has foisted a multibillion-dollar yoke around the necks of uninformed Newfoundland and Labrador ratepayers.

Hydro-Québec’s yoke keeps us working so that Quebec remains the principal beneficiary of the Upper Churchill, while Nalcor’s yoke (with Ottawa’s help) will keep us working (and paying through the nose) so that Nova Scotia will remain the principal beneficiary of Muskrat Falls.

For Danny Williams to suggest that Nalcor is “our Hydro-Québec (and) ... “the cornerstone for Newfoundland and Labrador’s future” is pure fantasy.

Any independent and objective assessment of Muskrat Falls will reveal who the beneficiaries are and who it is, once again, that will be paying the price.

And there is no fantasy in that.

Maurice E. Adams


Organizations: Hydro-Québec

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Quebec, Nova Scotia Ottawa

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Recent comments

  • Joe mcdonald
    June 24, 2014 - 05:18

    The more I listen to Maurice, the more I am convinced that Muskrat Falls is a good and sound development as stated by politicians of all stripes and by experts who work in the field. Perhaps Maurice should talk directly to them before conjuring up his doomsday theories.

    • jim
      July 04, 2014 - 16:49

      I totally agree with Joe Mcdonalds comments . I can say no more.

  • Resettlement 2.0
    June 24, 2014 - 04:26

    We have to depopulate rural areas to open up mineral deposits for production and manipulating electricity rates are an effective way to do this. Someday, we may entice Nova Scotians to move here with cheaper rates…as well, depopulation makes power available for remote mining. So does heat pumps. The business world runs on data and common sense no more than America runs on Dunkin Donuts. I'm accusing Maurice, like Vardy and Penney, of being not in it for any resolution, or even explanation, but to just perpetuate the dry-editor-letters until even someone desperately trying to understand the situation just goes all glazy-eyed and gives up. With the resources available to these gentlemen, these patriots, I believe it is time for them to GIVE UP THE RAMBO ATTACKS and get together as the A_TEAM. If not, get off the computers and go do the dishes or something equally useful and stop wasting EVERYBODIES time. Like Al Gore coming down on geo-engineering the atmosphere, the boys are distancing themselves from what ultimately will give them profit, based partially on their previous work. That is my theory. That these perpetuators of blasé dissent are indeed just a form of loosely-connected industry shill is A THEORY. It is up to this scrappy A-TEAM to prove themselves. I’m not the only non-believer in Muskrat, to be totally sicken with these guys, and their self-serving efforts and patriot-gamesmanship. I am reminded of the famous Zit Remedy song from Degrassi Junior High: Everybody Wants Something