“We are potentially paying 6.4 Billion for 170 MW of firm power, which will just be enough to meet the Emera commitment,” notes JM in discussing one scenario in his latest commentary The Water Management Agreement and Peak Load Delivery to the Island.
The scenario JM is referring to involves irregular production by Churchill Falls of 20 days at full capacity and 11 days at a minimum level. Nalcor laid it out in one of its presentations to the PUB:
This adds a significant new technical dimension to the ongoing water management agreement controversy.
For posterity, here are Simon Lono’s 10 reasons to oppose Muskrat Falls. He tweeted them on Wednesday, November 28.
Your humble e-scribbler buggered up the list from Twitter so Simon sent along the correct versions, now updated (4 December)
If you want to read a strongly worded condemnation of a provincial politician, take a gander at the Telegram’s editorial on Yvonne Jones from Tuesday’s paper.
Jones told the provincial government last week that her vote in the House of Assembly on Muskrat Falls was up for sale. Word got around the province pretty quickly. And the Telegram dutifully pointed out that Jones’ pork-barrelling was from another time, a time perhaps best left behind.
The editorial tuts the appropriate tuts at Jones’ style of retail politics, but there are a few other points the Telegram didn’t make about the episode that are worth laying out.
A couple of decades ago, Greg Malone made a living lampooning an actor who decided to get into politics.
Now the actor and comedian has decided to try his hand at history writing.
No small irony.
There is not a single thing – not a single, solitary, living thing – in Greg Malone’s book on the supposed Confederation conspiracy that professional Jeff Webb didn’t write about - and dismiss - already.
Save yourself a bundle.
The MFers seem to be testy these days.
They like to challenge people who aren’t keen on Muskrat Falls about something called facts.
Facts, as you will quickly discover, are what the MFers call anything Nalcor has used in its marketing campaign to sell the project.
Things that Nalcor doesn’t include in its marketing are not “facts” for the people who love Muskrat Falls.
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Last week Premier Kathy Dunderdale told the House of Assembly something that was patently not true.
She said that the public utilities board had endorsed the Muskrat Falls project.
She did not mislead the House, as some suggested. To do that, Kathy would have had to know something the rest of the members didn’t.
In this case, they all knew the rights of it. Kathy just frigged up.
A chance re-read of the Labrador Hydro Project Exemption Order last week led your humble e-scribbler to a surprising discovery.
The powers granted under the Electrical Power Control Act, 1994 to the public utilities board to manage electricity production in the province are intact.
That means that the lowest cost source of electricity for the province is readily available at Churchill Falls.
According to the Ottawa Citizen’s David Pugliese, the prime minister’s office directed defence minister Peter MacKay to “find a new role for the Canadian Forces at Goose Bay”.
The PMO sent letters to MacKay in January and again in June.
“As part of this process, you will need to include options and recommendations to establish a clear sovereignty protection mandate for 5 Wing Goose Bay,” Harper told MacKay in his June letter.
Few people have the depth of experience in the province’s energy policy and history than does Cabot Martin.
From the mind-1970s until the early 1990s Martin was a senior advisor to the provincial government. He was part of the team that negotiated the 1985 Atlantic Accord and negotiated the Hibernia agreement. Since leaving government Martin has continued to be heavily involved in the province’s oil and gas industry.
Martin released commentary on Friday on the provincial government’s recent paper that dismissed natural gas as a viable alternative to Muskrat Falls. For those who want to go back a bit, Martin also delivered a presentation to the public utilities board.
The House of Assembly on Thursday was sounding a wee bit like a cheesy remake of Austin Powers.
Liberal leader Dwight Ball asked for an updated cost of Muskrat Falls electricity delivered at Soldier’s Pond. He asked twice in a row.
Twice Ball asked for the new number and twice natural resources minister Jerome Kennedy refused to answer.
In this photo, beleaguered federal Conservative cabinet minister Peter Penashue rises to vote against a Liberal bill that would strengthen penalties for violations of the Canada Elections Act.
For those who can’t quite make him out, that’s Penashue slightly to the right of the clerk calling out the names of members as they stand to vote.
Penashue is currently embroiled in a controversy over irregularities in his election expense filings.
Kathy Dunderdale told the House of Assembly on Wednesday something rather curious about the public utilities board review of Muskrat falls last spring:
Mr. Speaker, we did refer the question to the Public Utilities Board. The questions we asked: Do we need the power; is Muskrat Falls the least-cost alternative? Mr. Speaker, when the PUB produced its report it concurred with Nalcor – and it is in the executive summary right in the front so you might want to read it. It concurred with Nalcor and MHI that based on Decision Gate 2 numbers that we did need the power and indeed it was the least-cost alternative.
The PUB said that Muskrat Falls was the least cost option and that the province needed the electricity.
It’s in the executive summary.
Go read it, she said.
Okay, let’s do just that.
The biggest one was the idea that maybe the fishery around these parts is regulated too heavily:
It all raises the question: Is the industry in this province too tightly controlled? There cannot be anywhere else where the fishing industry at sea and on land is so strictly controlled and loaded with rules and regulations. There’s just can’t. It’s at a point now where fishermen almost have to take a logbook to the bathroom with them to record the colour and consistency of their urine.
Federal regulations. Provincial regulations.
So what do you think? There’s a spot for comments on Jamie’s post at The Navigator blog.
The public utilities board is good.
The public utilities board is bad.
Confused aren’t you?
Well, there’s no surprise when Premier Kathy Dunderdale and natural resources minister Jerome Kennedy say two completely different things about the same PUB on the same issue.
Bob Cadigan is president of the association that represents the province’s offshore supply and service companies.
He thinks that there’s more interest in exploring offshore Nova Scotia than Newfoundland and Labrador because of the way the Nova Scotia offshore regulator handles exploration data.
As the Telegram reported on Tuesday,
Cadigan said the data — like geochemistry and seismic testing results — is more difficult for curious companies to access in this province. For example, much of the seismic data here is only available on paper and not digitally, he said.
In other cases, individual oil companies completed the testing and keep the results to themselves for as long as they are allowed.
Difficulty in obtaining information about an area can limit interest in making a bid and committing to exploration work in the area, Cadigan suggested.
Okay. That could be the problem.
And then again, maybe not.
One of the hardest things to do is keep track of the numbers the provincial government uses to justify their plan to double the province’s debt and force taxpayers to pay it down through their electricity rates.
Muskrat Math is unlike any other type of math because the numbers the government uses never add up.
Take events in the House of Assembly on Monday as a good example.
Provincial Conservative Keith Russell is at it again, back in the news over allegations about his behaviour.
As CBC reports, Hockey Newfoundland and Labrador is considering a multi-game suspension for Russell for a couple of incidents on November 10 and 11.
Russell was reportedly coaching a team in a children’s tournament on the 10th when he got into a verbal altercation with officials. They punted him from the game.
Russell came back the next day and again berated officials, according to the CBC report:
A woman who was there said Russell used foul language and upset children who were playing hockey.
The game had to be stopped twice before Russell was escorted out of the building.
I don’t buy into the mumbo jumbo about the trail leading to the Muskrat Falls site as being sacred ground. You can romanticize and sensationalize that particular piece of land all you want, but it is a resource.
In 2011, the Nunatsiavut government punted Russell from his position:
Quite simply, Mr. Russell was not fulfilling his duties and responsibilities as a minister. The matter was raised with him previously, on several occasions, and I was assured by him that he would make a more concerted effort to work co-operatively with officials within his department and with the Nunatsiavut Executive Council. It is incumbent on all ministers to be actively involved on a regular basis with their respective departments, and to work with other members of the Executive Council to ensure the Nunatsiavut Government functions efficiently and effectively. By his own admission, Mr. Russell was not actively involved in the functions and operations of the Department of Health and Social Development, and had very little to no contact with senior officials within the department. He made that fact known to me and the First Minister, as well as other members of the Nunatsiavut Assembly and numerous officials. I had taken the liberty of raising the issue with Mr. Russell in hopes that the situation would change. Unfortunately, it did not, and we were forced to take action accordingly.
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United States senator John McCain (Republican – Arizona) thinks that Parliament should hold hearings into the prospective purchase by the Chinese national oil company of Alberta-based Nexen.
“I think it’s also a role for the legislative body to hold hearings, to get witnesses and say, ‘OK what is this all about?’”
Two benefits that come with public hearings are media coverage and public education -- but when cabinet makes the decision behind closed doors, that exposure is lost, he said.
That pretty much says it all.
Some people want a referendum on Muskrat Falls.
In an enthusiastic support of democracy, some other people don’t want to have a referendum on Muskrat Falls because the punters are not sufficiently enlightened as to the details of this major issue to make an intelligent-enough choice.
Those same punters are able to pick governments in general elections, though.
What does Kathy Dunderdale think?
Kathy Dunderdale defended the Muskrat Falls project at a speech on Wednesday night, according to cbc.ca/nl’s story.
That’s an odd phrase given that Dunderdale was speaking to a Tory party fundraiser, as the headline noted. That would be the textbook definition of a friendly audience for any talk about Muskrat Falls.
But if you look at the record of political donations you can see some rather interesting things.
After all this time, some of you will find it interesting to go back and look at some slides from the original Nalcor “technical briefing” on Muskrat Falls delivered in November 2010.
The ”last saved” date on the deck is 25 November 2010
Compare it to the briefing Nalcor gave to the public utilities board, for example, in July 2011. Notice how much changed.
Last December, the federal cabinet appointed intergovernmental affairs minister Peter Penashue’s campaign manager in the 2011 to a plum seat on the joint federal-provincial board that regulates the province’s offshore oil industry.
It was a pure pork-barrel appointment since Reg Bowers has absolutely no background that might have made him qualified to sit on the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board. A series of appointments by his provincial Conservative friends doesn’t count.
Bowers landed a sweet gig: six years, subject to reappointment. Hob-knobbing with international oil industry types.
Flip ahead a year and Penashue has tried to distance himself from the controversy. A letter from Penashue to constituents released on Tuesday notes that Bowers was responsible for campaign administration. Penashue says he made it clear that the campaign would follow Elections Canada rules.
“No one is more surprised than I am at the allegations that have arisen since the campaign,” wrote Penashue. “No one is more disappointed. That’s why there is a new Official Agent in place to examine all of the paperwork and to work with Elections Canada to correct any mistakes.”
There have been enough questions about Penashue’s campaign finances since last summer for him to have relinquished his cabinet job until Elections Canada finished its probe into the campaign. The fact he hasn’t done so is one thing.
But In his letter to constituents, Penashue pointed to his official agent during the campaign and his responsibility, as a function of the position he occupied, for the state of Penashue’s campaign accounts, finances and documentation.
Something was clearly amiss in Penashue’s campaign. The problems with Penashue’s campaign may well have resulted from nothing more exotic than incompetence. But that incompetence should be seen plainly enough by now, on the face of it, to cause the federal cabinet to request Mr. Bowers’ resignation from the offshore board. If he doesn’t to leave voluntarily, then he can be removed.
Peter Penashue’s letter laid the groundwork for it.
Let’s just get on with it.
to crummell: to have one's opinion completely reversed in a nanosecond by the whim of another.
There may well be others that will turn up in the wake of Tory Dan Crummell’s 180 degree reversal on Peter Penashue on Friday.
But no matter what witticisms crop up, Dan Crummell defined himself rather neatly, if unflatteringly, last week.
Your humble e-scribbler saw a couple of comments last week that said the NDP town hall on Muskrat Falls was a good argument against having a referendum on the megaproject. Some people were quite badly misinformed, so the commentary went, not just about Muskrat Falls itself but about the province’s electricity supply and demand.
Those observations are surprising. They are surprising because we’ve had two whole years of relentless marketing by Nalcor about their project. They are surprising because the provincial government has been trying to develop the Lower Churchill continuously since 1998. There isn’t a single year since then when the provincial government, Nalcor and before that Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro have not been trying to find some way to get this thing done.
That’s almost 15 years of relentless public discussion. And still people don’t know basic information.
Absolutely gobsmacking, that is. Unless you think about public discussions over the past decade or so.
The Telegram’s Pam Frampton has a neat column this weekend on Jerome Kennedy, Muskrat Falls, and the provincial government’s problems with explaining to people in simple terms why Muskrat falls is a good idea.
Frampton nails the biggest problem simply enough:
The problem with the government’s Muskrat Falls message till now is that it has been a moving target. One week the project was all about clean energy, the next it was job creation, then it was all about being an affordable energy source, then it was a means of foiling Quebec, then it was a lure for mining companies.
Then she notes the critic’s arguments and the fact they they were,as Frampton, puts it often “shrilly spun” by government officials and others.
Kennedy tried to put a new face on government’s messaging during his appearance at the Telegram’s editorial board. as much as Kennedy seemed to change both his tone and his content, none of that stopped Kennedy from spinning - to use Frampton’s word - either his own position or that of the critics.
Lots of people in Newfoundland and Labrador fought for and continue to bitch about the recreational cod fishery.
They bitch because they cannot fish anytime they like. They bitch because other people in other parts of Canada don’t have the same restrictions on their recreational fishery.
Well, take a look at another place on the eastern seaboard where marine species are under heavy pressure both from commercial fishermen and, as it turns out, the recreational types as well.
Darin King failed miserably in his first encounter with the opposition parties.
He didn’t have to.
“I can give you a couple of examples myself that I’ve done. One is, ‘No debate! No debate!’ Then a week later, ‘OK, let’s have a debate now.’ That’s not good communication.”The Telegram editorial on Wednesday then mentioned the provincial government’s general message to critics of the Muskrat falls project. The editorial paraphrased it as “You’re all idiots, you don’t know what you’re talking about and you’re all wrong.”
Most of you are likely dissecting the American presidential election or hopped up to talk about the House of Assembly. Well, there’s plenty of time for that.
Consider this post a minor diversion, more about the backstory than about the discussion of what just happened. We’ll get back to some new and more involved subjects on Thursday.
The company gave $1500 to Keith Hutchings, who ran for the Conservatives in Ferryland.
Dean MacDonald is president and chief executive officer of Tuckamore Capital.
In 2011, MacDonald was being courted behind the scenes to take over the leadership of the Liberal Party from an ailing Yvonne Jones.
At the time, Jones denied it publicly, as reported by CBC. The same CBC story quoted MacDonald as saying that “as a Liberal I will be helping Yvonne in any way I can in terms of candidates, fundraising and all the things that go on with an election.”
The Tuckamore donation occurred during the campaign.
Last winter we took a look at the idea of cost per vote. Basically, you compare the amount of money a campaign spent with the number of votes it got.
It’s a way of measuring the efficiency of a political campaign. The lower the number, the more efficient the campaign is.
Here’s a chart showing the cost per vote for the three major parties in Newfoundland and Labrador in the four general election years 1996, 1999, 2003, and 2007. The calculations added the annual contributions for each party and the specific contributions for each general election during the year of the general election and divided the sum by the number of votes cast for each party.
The chart doesn’t include 2011 since Elections NL hasn’t released the annual contribution figures for that year yet.
The water management controversy flared briefly at the end of last week thanks to Geoff Meeker’s blog at the Telegram and a couple of interviews by the 2041 Group and Nalcor’s Gil Bennett.
This is one of those issues where a lot of people either tune out early on because it appears highly technical and complicated. Actually it isn’t. The topic only appears complicated.
It only appears complicated because of the very convoluted, long-winded, and very unhelpful way the cats at Nalcor talk about the water management agreement. They go all techie.
Once you get a handle on the whole water management thing, it’s quite easy to understand and it’s quite easy to see where the possible problems are.
Ontario has been interested in Gull Island since at least the 1990s. We didn’t need Kathy Dunderdale to say that again as part of the advertising show she is mounting before finally admitting Muskrat Falls is a done deal.
As recently as 2005, Dunderdale and her friends turned up their noses at Ontario’s offer to help develop the Lower Churchill at no cost to local taxpayers. The result: No development.
Instead of building the Lower Churchill for export - profit for taxpayers -Dunderdale and her friends are forcing taxpayers to empty out their public bank accounts of billions in oil savings and then borrowing billions more in order to give cheap electricity to multi-billion dollar mining companies.
Then those same taxpayers will pay themselves back through their electricity rates over the course of 50 years.
Whoever could imagine such a ridiculous idea? Especially in a province where the overwhelming majority of the population pays very little, if any, tax.
“I know why you did it.
I know you were afraid.
Who wouldn't be?
… There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you, … .
He promised you order, he promised you peace, and all he demanded in return was your silent, obedient consent.”
Anyone with half a clue knows that you cannot develop a reliable, efficient electricity system built on type of generation only.
You need a mix so that the advantages of one type offset the weaknesses of another. All hydro is hard to do if you need steady supply because it tends to vary with the water flow. Wind is even worse for that. Oil and coal are good for steady supplies but they tend to be expensive, dirty or both. Natural gas is very cool, especially these days, because not only is there lots of it but it is very inexpensive and can deliver electricity pretty much on demand.
Only in Newfoundland and Labrador do we have access to trillions of cubic feet of natural gas already found, trillions more likely to be discovered, and a provincial government that doesn’t want to develop it because the natural gas is not expensive enough to use.
One of the things everyone is learning this week is that a consultant who accepts all the assumptions Nalcor used to arrive at its conclusion in the first place will - inevitably - reach the same conclusions.
Some people will think that the second report proves that the first conclusion was right.
Unfortunately, such is not the case. It merely means that – inevitably –such an approach will repeat the same mistakes, errors, and flaws just as readily as it might get something right.
Think of it as a case of GIGO: garbage in, garbage out.
Expect to hear a lot more in the next couple of days about a comment Jerome Kennedy made on CBC Radio’s Crosstalk on Wednesday.
The reason is that back in the spring Kennedy said this to CBC about the opposition parties and debates:
"The problem right now is that I'm not sure these opposition parties are going to provide quality debate on anything," Kennedy said at the time.
Now his tune is different:
…And at that point, I was more critical of critics that I am today," said Kennedy.
"And I became very open to the debate as a result of the PUB's failure to make a decision."