23 November 2009

Five years of secret talks on Lower Churchill: the Dunderdale Audio

In early September, natural resources minister Kathy Dunderdale revealed that the provincial government tried unsuccessfully for five years to get Hydro-Quebec to take an ownership stake in the Lower Churchill project.

A key component of the offers to HQ included the pledge to set aside any talk of redress for the 1969 Churchill Falls contract.

The talks were never revealed publicly until Dunderdale’s admission.

The news was all the more astonishing given that Premier Danny Williams stated repeatedly between 2001 and 2005 that he would not cut a deal with Hydro-Quebec on the Lower Churchill without some from of compensation – redress – for the inequitable 1969 contract that sees Hydro-Quebec buy virtually all the Churchill falls output for fractions of a cent per kilowatt hour.

To date, not a single conventional media outlet has reported Dunderdale’s comments.

Amazingly, not a single conventional media outlet has picked up the very obvious point about setting aside any grievance over the 1969 contract despite Williams repeated pledges to make redress a part of any Lower Churchill deal that involved Hydro-Quebec. 

That grievance is a core part of Williams’ intervention in the New Brunswick Power proposal.  On Friday, he noted the appropriateness of the Atlantic Premier’s meeting at Churchill Falls since “it symbolizes exactly what's happened to Newfoundland and Labrador at the hands of Hydro-Quebec.”

While excerpts have been posted at Bond Papers and at labradore previously, this is the first time, the audio file has been posted: Kathy Dunderdale, September 4, 2009, live on VOCM Open Line with Randy Simms (he’s the fellow pictured with mayoral chain ‘round his neck).

 

-srbp-

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21 comments:

spb said...

Yes, there is no debating the words are clear as day on that link. Thanks for providing it.

I do have to wonder if Dunderdale knows what she is talking about. This is obviously the first and only time anybody has mentioned Quebec getting an equity stake. I honestly do not think an equity stake has ever been on the table and I think Dunderdale is confused by the difference between making a fair deal to wheel power through versus allowing Quebec to buy a piece of the project.

It wouldn't be the first time she messed up her words and I think she is out of her league in this position anyway.

Edward G. Hollett said...

Well far be it from me to argue with the idea she is challenged by the portfolio.

I just find it a little hard to believe she is that clued out that she doesn't understand the difference between equity and everything else and would say, so clearly and unmistakeably that the CF contract would be put to one side.

After all she is the deputy premier and the minister responsible for natural resources.

Just because this is the first time we heard of it doesn't mean it is not true, as she said it. think of Ross Wiseman blurting out about the facilities report.

You've offered a creative reinterpretation but it winds up being the equivalent of Wally Maclean's bit on the small turnout in the Terra Nova by-election. It is small if you mean large. ;-)

In this case Dunderdale would have to be completely, totally, utterly and completely wrong to have your version be the right one.

pig said...

Citing or linking to yourself repeatedly does not a fact make.

Your reasoning, which equates an equity stake with selling the entire company, is about as non-sensical as suggesting that where a landowner is willing to sell a parcel of their land they've committed to selling their entire holdings.

There's zippo in this interview beyond the suggestion that the current NL government was willing to contemplate allowing Quebec an equity stake in circumstances that remain unknown to you and I - there's no parallel with the foolishness NB is considering.

Your tilting at windmills!

WJM said...

Your tilting at windmills!

Your spelling is as bad as PW's!

pig said...

Whoops - excuse me WJM, it's been a long day.

You're tilting at windmills!

I take it there's no objection to my point that selling an equity stake is, by definition, not selling an entire company. Stake means a portion, not the whole, right?

Edward G. Hollett said...

Sorry there, pig but did you mix up this post up with something else?

Perhaps you are confused running about trying to confute all the traducers.

Perhaps you are a little overwraught what with all the denials you been issuing.

This one is the thread in which Dunderdale admits that the government has been trying to get HQ into an ownership stake on the Lower Churchill contrary to what the current government party promised repeatedly publicly.

I guess you will have to come back now and deny she said it, wot, that's it is all a fabrication and it proves nothing.

pig said...

No, I won't deny she said it, nor will I suggest it's a fabrication or that it proves nothing.

It obviously proves something and I don't find that something so surprising or controversial - bluffing or talking up one's game in business negotiations doesn't seem to crazy to me. Who knows what depth or seriousness of negotiations occurred in five years between NL and HQ? I can't imagine why HQ would have any interest in budging from the very comfortable position they have with the Upper Churchill. Furthermore, Upper Churchill "on the side," would they necessarily want more supply keeping prices down or stagnant and on principle would they really want to assist a competitor to enter the market? Maybe negotiations never got off the ground or went anywhere and maybe going back and forth to HQ for five years was nothing more than repeated attempts to open up serious negotiations. The province had openly tried before to negotiate with other parties includin Ont. and HQ and when it didn't get something satisfying took the whole "go it alone" position - so what if it was just a bluff? Do you really believe governments and businesses usually lay their cards on the table for all to see? Sometimes announcements make no sense unless there's something to announce and in this case it seems likely there wasn't.

I'd also say a willingness to go it alone, and a declared intention to do so, wouldn't or shouldn't preclude anyone from not going it alone provided the deal is a good one. If we were prepared to take partners before what's wrong with re-visiting the possibility?

I don't know what your readership is in terms of numbers or whether or not they care but the mess of self-referential links and quotes you offer to support your arguments is kind of annoying. I'd ask you to have a heart and link to original sources if they actually exist.

Edward G. Hollett said...

Oh piggy, dear little piggby what a curious pile of stuff.

let's deal with the silly bit first, namely the supposedly self-referential practice of referring to previous posts. The only other person who brought that up is Ward Pike. perhaps he's a friend of yours. perhaps you are Ward.

in any event, anyone who actually follows the posts will see that they go back to my early comments and those contain even more detail.

However, since you don't bother with anything but your own fabrications and inventions, I can appreciate that they are tedious for you.

Just skip them out and post whatever you are going to post since you really will tend to make it up anyway, along with your name.

Interesting, by the way, that you post so that no one can tell who you are but you pontificate and lecture on the proper way to do things.

You have all the hallmarks of a rather familiar partisan plant.

Nonetheless, let's get rid of you nonsensical comments (see? it is one word!) one by one:

1. "Who knows what depth or seriousness of negotiations occurred in five years between NL and HQ?"

Listen to Kathy again very carefully. She and Danny tried repeatedly but they couldn't get a nibble.

2. "I can't imagine why HQ would have any interest in budging from the very comfortable position they have with the Upper Churchill."

Again listen to the thing again if you have to. She said they would put the CF redress - government policy supposedly - "to one side".

Not "on the side".

"To one side" meaning to forget about it as an issue.

It seems fairly obvious that the CF had nothign to do with it at all.

3. "Furthermore, Upper Churchill 'on the side,' would they necessarily want more supply keeping prices down or stagnant and on principle would they really want to assist a competitor to enter the market?"

If Kathy and Danny were trying to get HQ to take an ownership stake, they wouldn't be assisting a competitor.

4. "Maybe negotiations never got off the ground or went anywhere and maybe going back and forth to HQ for five years was nothing more than repeated attempts to open up serious negotiations."

That's what she said.

They tried but HQ wanted nothing to do with it.

5. "The province had openly tried before to negotiate with other parties includin Ont. and HQ."

You should get paid for your inventions. Who knows? maybe you do.

There was a proposal from HQ and Ontario in response to the RFP put in 2005.

There were no talks.

The "go-it-alone" option came after all the proposals were evaluated.

6. "and when it didn't get something satisfying took the whole "go it alone" position - so what if it was just a bluff?'

What was a bluff? The go-it-alone, the equity stake or your comments?

At least one of them was.

pig said...

So we both agree no real negotiations happened. When I said "on the side" I had meant forget about it. They could have been assisting a competitor of varying scale depending on whatever stake had been worked out and what arrangements could have been made regarding the transmission and sale of the power - was the Lower Churchill project intended to be producer and vendor or just producer or what?

I was referring to what you correctly call proposals - you didn't need to gloss over the point that NL was open at some point to have a partner in some form so why wouldn't it consider it again, if the "go-it-alone" option didn't seem to be working? What's the big deal?

I'm pretty sure the possibility of the equity stake wasn't a bluff. I would say the "go-it-alone approach" was likely a bluff. But I would like to know how my comments could operate as a bluff exactly? What could I have been bluffing about?

As for your apparent belief that repeatedly quoting and linking to yourself somehow creates fact or truth it doesn't - it's unhelpful is all. Offering a link to your own or someone else's critique which links to various other items doesn't give the reader a pinpoint sense of what they're supposed to be looking at. I'm not lazy or stupid but simply appreciate being directed to the original source if you're trying to make an argument about something.

Anyway, the mainstream media weren't wrong in finding there's no story in Dunderdal's comments. It's news but it's nothing controversial or surprising. The government wants to build the Lower Churchill and sell power - they don't care and I'm sure most people don't either how it gets done as long as its an attractive deal or arrangement for the province at the end of the day. If that means with or without HQ so be it.

Edward G. Hollett said...

"was the Lower Churchill project intended to be producer and vendor or just producer or what?"

Evidently you are having difficulty keeping track of things if you have no idea what the LC project is all about.

In the meantime, I find it odd that you would think there is no story when a politician makes a commitment repeatedly and then secretly tosses the commitment away.

Anony-partisans are always funny for their ability to just imagine away any difficulties.

pig said...

I know what the LC project "is" about - but what would it have been about if HQ was a part owner? That would have or could have changed many characteristics of the LC as a project or company or whatever? I assume it could have taken some corporate form similar to CLFCO. No need to get snarky friend.

I'm not imagining away any difficulties. What commitment was made? Was it a campaign promise to "go-it-alone" or simply to develop the Lower Churchill? Do you think the populace cares how things get done exactly or that they just get done effectively? The commitment you speak of was never anything more than rhetoric and bluff - "going it alone" is not what the province is interested in, it's getting the Lower Churchil built and selliing power.

Anony - check. Partisan - how so? Just because I think you've wasted a lot of time fluffing up your blog with youtube links, self-referential quotes and links, and silly opinion prose? No - I'm just getting at the point that you're not getting at any point worth talking about.

There's nothing wrong with devoting all of one's spare time to criticising the current government and its leadership cult but if you're going to do so you may as well make it valid and useful.

WJM said...

I take it there's no objection to my point that selling an equity stake is, by definition, not selling an entire company. Stake means a portion, not the whole, right?

Only if there's no objection to the broader point that there's no real moral difference between reducing your public debt by selling off energy assets in New Brunswick, and reducing your public debt by selling off energy assets in Dannystan.

It's either morally culpable in both provinces, or morally innocent in both.

Which do you think it is?

WJM said...

I'd also say a willingness to go it alone, and a declared intention to do so, wouldn't or shouldn't preclude anyone from not going it alone provided the deal is a good one.

When and where has anyone ever been willing to — snicker — "go it alone"?

Our Dear Efforts to get HQ to buy in started before, and continued after, Our Dear Phoney Go It Alone declaration... to say nothing of Our Dear Efforts To Get Ottawa To Subsidize The Whole Thing.

Go It Alone, indeed.

WJM said...

I was referring to what you correctly call proposals - you didn't need to gloss over the point that NL was open at some point to have a partner in some form

Going It Alone — Together.

Edward G. Hollett said...

Indeed with Hydro Quebec involved, the Lower Churchill project might have been converted to a piggery, evidently.

I am not sure which is more amusing: your inventions or your pompous criticism from behind the coward's cloak.

pig said...

Selling off an entire company, that is both profitable and has a self-sustaining debt, is a far cry from retaining the company and selling off an asset to pay off debt. I would say selling the farm is morally culpable while selling off a parcel of it is not - what do you say?

Yeah I agree that going it alone has never really been much of an option for various reasons. Not impossible just much less likely.

pig said...

Indeed with Hydro Quebec involved, the Lower Churchill project might have been converted to a piggery, evidently.
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Is that all you've got to say? No conversation just embarrassing attempts at wit?


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I am not sure which is more amusing: your inventions or your pompous criticism from behind the coward's cloak.
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What inventions? List them and try not to be too cryptic! I think the coward's cloak is a little amusing too - too bad it's less than voluntary.

I think what's amusing is that you've wasted a lot of time gleefully exposing the story that isn't a story. No, actually I take that back, it's not really amusing but just unfortunate.

Edward G. Hollett said...

"Selling off an entire company, that is both profitable and has a self-sustaining debt, is a far cry from retaining the company and selling off an asset to pay off debt.'

I am sure the people of new brunswick are pleased you are so generous with their cash as to support their continued payment of high electricity rates to ensure the debt is "self-sustaining" and that the company remains profitable.

As for the asset sale question, you do seem to enjoy ignoring th actual comments (all the while moaning about links to the places where you can find what was actually said.

The current government policy is based on equity stakes (and involvement in energy resource development as a key means of control.

There is NO reference whatsoever in the energy plan, any of the campaign platforms or indeed in any government document to the notion that Hebron will be acquired, likewise White Rose and so forth and then flipped for cash at some point.

At the same time, we have the Premier's own words that:

"This particular government wants to strengthen Hydro, wants to make it a very valuable corporation: a corporation that will ultimately pay significant dividends back to the people of this Province; a corporation that perhaps some day may have enough value in its assets overall as a result of the Hebron deal and the White Rose deal, possible Hibernia deal, possible deals on gas, possible deals on oil refineries and other exploration projects, where hopefully we might be able to sell it some day and pay off all the debt of this Province, and that would be a good thing."

This is the statement. David Cochrane's "clarification" is merely to restate the same thing in slightly different words. Some or all of the elements of the company are available for sale.

These two notions are fundamentally incompatible.

In the current context, the notion of selling some or all of the energy resource assets would put the Premier's comments on NB Power in a very different light than the one in which they are currently being seen.

Likewise, Dunderdale's comments put the Premier's comments about HQ in an entirely different light.

Perhaps that is why you find it so distressing to see them put in public repeatedly.

After all, if they actually meant nothing - as you suggest - I would merely be wasting my time and my small audience would be bored with the links back to the posts which cover a wide range of energy policy issues with the supporting evidence linked.

The amount of energy you are expending seems disproporationate to the supposed value of the remarks.

Edward G. Hollett said...

Your anonymity is "less than voluntary". Is that like being slightly pregnant?

"I think what's amusing is that you've wasted a lot of time gleefully exposing the story that isn't a story.'

If it isn't a story then it is my time that I have wasted and none other need be as concerned as you evidently are.

What's more amusing is the amount of energy you've spent in the past couple of days posting comments here. There is a reason for your interest and it fairly obviously has nothing to do with the issue itself.

Mark said...

"Citing...to yourself repeatedly does not a fact make."

Unless you're the Premier.

Edward G. Hollett said...

Hey Mark, Hisself only refers back to Hisself when the quote still applies.

It took me a second to figure out what @pig was on about.

It wasn't the quotes in the body of the post which are the ones that lead back to information supporting that post. He/she was annoyed at the "related" links back to previous posts that cover related material and which show there is a lot more to this issue than one Dunderdale interview.

And hey, as I pointed out, people without a vested interest in the subject under discussion won't offer the gratuitous advice on "how to post better." If they comment on anything at all it will be on the issue at hand.

That sort of free "advice" - just like the one about being "too negative" - only comes from one type of source.

And that plus the secret identity is fairly obvious that the person offering the free advice has somwething to hide.