Rewriting history

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When, in a letter to the editor, I drew attention to Premier Kathy Dunderdale’s ridiculous and outrageous public statement crediting the building of the $1-billion Upper Churchill project to Nalcor and its current managers, a Telegram headline seemed to suggest she was merely ignorant of the history of the massive power development that has haunted our politics and politicians for half a century.

However, I really didn’t believe it was quite that simple.

Now since she appears to have gone and done it again, I am absolutely convinced I was right.

Last week, to participate in a timely discussion of what was labelled “post-truth politics,” CBC Radio Sunday Edition moderator Michael Enright welcomed moral philosophy professor emeritus Harry G. Frankfurt of Princeton University, author of the published essay “On Bullshit,” and columnist Dan Gardner of the Ottawa Citizen, who has written on the same subject.

Their conclusion: today’s politicians are less concerned with reality (i.e. truth) than with manipulating the minds and beliefs of their audiences. So, they engage in spreading what is sometimes known as “bs.”

“If you don’t know what to say, then you make up something,” commented Frankfurt, recalling that as far back as ancient Greece young men were actually schooled in winning political arguments in this very manner by the Sophists, and it is common today.

The discussion focused, for example, on the Conservatives in Canada coming out against an NDP policy to favour a carbon tax, and when that party denied it and demonstrated the claim was false — guess what?

Rather than abandon it, the Harperites actually intensified their campaign!

Does Mrs. Dunderdale making up the story that Nalcor — formed only four or five years ago — built the $1-

billion Upper Churchill in the 1960s, rather than the private company Brinco, somehow strengthen the case for Nalcor doing Muskrat Falls?

Does her predecessor, Danny Williams, in effect denying the existence of Brinco, somehow lend credibility to the administration of the public business?


Rather, it makes them both look silly and causes may people to wonder just how desperate they are to salvage what has been a doubtful, excessively expensive proposition from the start — and why.

William R. Callahan

St. John’s

Organizations: CBC Radio, Princeton University, Ottawa Citizen Conservatives NDP

Geographic location: Canada

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Recent comments

  • Concerned
    November 16, 2012 - 16:10

    John Smith, are you sure your name isn't Danny???? Don't forget, you can't take a good man down.

  • Cold Future
    November 16, 2012 - 09:24

    John, Do you know if the interest during construction is carried in the DG3 numbers (following standard practice) or not? As long as the interest is included, we know that the premium we will be paying for the project is the cost to go around Quebec ( range of $ 3 to $4 billion)-a bitter pill but swallowable. Any increased cost associated with risk or costs left out, turns the pill from mild sedative to cianide!

  • John Smith
    November 16, 2012 - 08:50

    What is silly are people like Mr. Callahan...grasping at straws...again. What Ms. Dunderdale was referring to was the entity that became Newfoundland Hydro....and the fact that they were intimately involved with the upper churchil project from the beginning...and are still the people who are keeping the power flowing from the facility.NL Hydro was folded into most of us know.Then you have individuals like Cold Future...who make wild, unsubstantiatiated claims that are nonsensical and assinine. Why don't you just say it will cost 20 billion...or 50 billion? Why not a trillion? Sure...Muskrat falls will cost us a trillion dollars...that shoud be the new rallying cry of the know nothing naysayers....what a sad pathetic, angry group of people....

    • No Fan of MF
      November 16, 2012 - 10:33

      People should read Philip Smith's book on the Upper Churchill. Mr. Callahan is correct in his commentary. Newfoundland Power Commission, or hydro or other entities had little involvement in the construction of the Upper Churchill. They had a rep on the Board of Directors, and that was limited to a small oversight role. But it was finished ahead of schedule, and on budget. But there was a difference. Brinco had 2 large projects to practice on. The Bay Despoir project, and the Twinco project both allowed Brinco to develop the expertise to take on the much larger UC contract. The project was also taken on a lump sum basis. Brinco had some skin into the project. They had to deliver, to stay solvent. Nalcor has not undertaken anything ever remotely this size of Muskrat. They depend on SNC who as a EPCM contractor are working on a reimbursable basis. Ask SNC would they ever take this on a lump sum basis? Ask Nalcor to take it on a lump sum basis? I would feel much more comfortable on the project if it was lump sum like the Brinco deal. But if this project was in the real world, the lack of any firm markets who are willing to pay the LUEC of 239 $/MWHr would mean that this would not have passed DG2, let alone DG3. We live in fairytale land. It is a special place where money grows on trees, electrical demand grows 50% when the population stays the same, and market appears willing to buy power at 2 times the North American benchmark. In fairytale land I am also 50 pounds lighter. The probability of me loosing 50 pounds is about the same as Muskrat coming in on budget.

  • Dirty Water
    November 16, 2012 - 08:37

    Thats why they didn't want to have a debate. MRF is so politicial that it could never stand up to the logistics of a bussiness dea in the house and make the governmnet look even worst. If they didn't spend that 2 million on the PUB maybe martin and benniet could of have a nice little bonous for taking a unviaiable project thats been on the shelf for 40 years and the only way to make it work is a take/pay for 60 years and give away thge extra 60% of the power. I guess thats what we get when run the province as a bussiness, no democracy, no say and pay through the nose to increase the weaLTH OF ABOUT 1% OF OUR PROVINCE.

  • Cold Future
    November 16, 2012 - 07:02

    Muskrat at $8 billion ($7.4 +$0.6 (loan guarantee included)) is a high risk and unconscionable gamble; but it has been reported recently that these numbers do not include the interest during construction which could amount to $ 4 billion extra cost (50%). If that is so, ugly and scary just became beyond words. The comparison with the marketplace competition (Quebec's Romaine) changes from the order of 2.5 to 3 times higher cost to 4 to 5 times higher- Please God tell us it ain't so.