06 September 2011

We can always sell it…

You can tell the gang pushing Muskrat falls are having trouble meeting the arguments against their scheme to jack up power rates and the public debt.

They are now talking about selling it off.

Yes, you got that right.

Selling it off.

Someone named T.E. Bursey wrote an opinion piece for the Telegram that appeared last Saturday.  He wrote:

Others have complained our portion of the $6.2 billion cost will add significantly to our public debt, which is true, but what is not mentioned is the financial community consider hydro assets to have a long-term resalable value in addition to revenue generation.

Now for starters, T.E. Bursey talks about “our portion” of the debt.  The taxpayers of the province are on the hook for the whole shooting match, give or take. Given the likelihood of massive cost over-runs, $6.2 billion would be the very smallest amount taxpayers of the province will owe.

But look at that bit at the end.

Long-term resalable value.

T.E. Bursey thinks Muskrat Falls is a wonderful idea, so wonderful in fact that if it turns out to be a gigantic bust we can hock it.

After all that’s the only reason you’d consider selling it again.

Or, in the way T.E. Bursey is talking about it here, if the provincial government and Nalcor couldn’t keep up the payments on the Great White Retirement Elephant, the creditors could hock it and get their cash back.

Oh yeah.

Selling it off in the event we went bankrupt.

There’s a thought to warm your heart.

Sounds familiar though.

Someone very famous talked about fattening up Nalcor and then selling off the assets for cash.  He said it April 2008 in the House of Assembly but the local media didn’t report that for the rest of the world to know:

…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.

- srbp -


Peter said...

Back story, Ed. Again, you're not giving the context. Williams spoke to reporters after that comment and essentially retracted it. You can say it was a Freudian slip, and I might not even argue wirh you. But you are not giving the whole story.

Edward Hollett said...

Back story, Peter, is always the killer for some people.

As you recall this comment in April 2008 was highly contentious a couple of years ago on Geoff Meeker's blog at thetelegram.com. I have a post linking to a Meeker post from October or November 2009 but the link died after the shake-up at the Telly site.

I'll keep looking and when I find it, I'll link to it again.

My recollection will have to stand unless and until the full discussion at Meeker proves my recollection faulty I find the full discussion.

In the meantime, as I recall, Williams did not disavow, recant, retract, amend or otherwise alter what he said in the House. he has taken no steps at any time to change the public record even to something as simple as saying he misspoke in the heat of the discussion.

As I recall, in the course of the discussion at Meeker's blog, one of the people who was at the scrum that day in April produced an article from 2005 in which Williams said much the same thing about selling off bits of Hydro if the price was right.

As I recall the account of people who were at the scrum in April 2008, Williams persuaded the gallery not to report his comments not because he did not say them but because he had said them so often they were not news.

As far as I know, Williams never, ever recanted, retracted, modified, altered or otherwise rejected the comments he made in April 2008.

Now this may cause some difficulty for people who think he said something else or who believe some other policy themselves. But as far as I recall, Williams said what he said and never altered it.

Peter said...

My recollection is that Dave Cochrane and other reporters talked to Williams afterwards (not sure at whose initiative) and the premier was asked if he meant he foresaw selling off Nalcor. He said he only meant certain assets could go on the block, but not the whole shooting match. That's pretty vague, but he did at least try clarify that what he said in the house was not quite what he meant.
He did not correct the record in the house, but is that unusual? Maybe Wally could dig up a dozen or so examples of premiers officially eating their words over off-the-cuff policy comments.

Edward Hollett said...

You contended at the start that my comment was wrong because I had failed to give the back story. you claimed that "Williams essentially" retracted his comments in the House.

You've now changed your contention to the one that stands by the comment about selling it but quibbles only about how much Williams was willing to sell.

Big deal.

Whether that meant he might sell 9%, 19% or 99% of the Hydro corp or 100% is irrelevant. He talked about selling assets and that is the parallel I drew to T.E. Bursey's comments.

Bursey didn't distinguish between selling some of the power lines, a couple of turbines, one dam, two dams or the whole shooting match.

But he did discuss - as Williams did - selling off an asset.

That was the key point when I posted it and it remains so.

Back story is important and can shag up comments when people get them wrong. You've made the point succinctly.