04 July 2011

You say potato, I say road apple

Kathy Dunderdale thinks it’s all much ado about nothing.

Dunderdale commented in response to a Telegram editorial that noted a set of reports prepared for Nalcor on the Muskrat Falls mega-debt project were not as Dunderdale as previously described them.

All pish-posh and trivial.

“Semantics”, she called it, as if the meaning of words  - what semantics is really about - was a trivial thing.

In the House of Assembly this past spring, Dunderdale met questions about the cost of the project with claims that the project had been blessed by what she called “independent audits”.  Take this exchange with Yvonne Jones on March 29 as typical:

MS JONES: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I ask the Premier today: Will you tell us how it is possible to build a steel transmission line across the Province today for less money than it would have cost thirteen years ago?

MR. SPEAKER: The hon. the Premier.

SOME HON. MEMBERS: Hear, hear!

PREMIER DUNDERDALE: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

More than that, Mr. Speaker, we have had two independent audits of the methodology used by Nalcor to ensure that the process is as good and the information as good as can be had at this point in time.

The Telegram got hold of a copy of one of these “independent audits” and found that the thing wasn’t independent.  One of the people involved worked or had worked for Nalcor on the Muskrat project.

What’s more, the thing wasn’t an audit.  The Telegram quoted directly from the report where the authors say “this is not an audit”.

That isn’t all.

The thing also wasn’t a review of the financial aspects of the project that addressed the validity of the projects cost projections.

And it also wasn’t a review of the premises on which Kathy and Nalcor’s Ed Martin are justifying the project.  These guys doing the review didn’t look at the long term trending in energy prices, the possible implications of high oil prices on electricity costs, replacing Holyrood or alternatives to building this project at this time in this way.

What they were doing is checking to make sure the crowd at Nalcor hadn’t forgotten anything as they headed down the road to a destination they’ve already committed to hitting.

This a perfectly legitimate function and good on the Nalcor crowd for consulting experts in doing things in which the Nalcor team has pretty much zero experience.

But – and this is a big but – there is a huge difference between what Kathy Dunderdale said the reviews were, what she apparently implied they were and what they actual were. The difference in meaning is like finding out, as the hapless burghers of Ontario found out when they flicked Ernie Eves’ Conservatives from office, that they weren’t in good financial shape as they’d been told.  Instead they were in the hole to the tune of five or six billion extra.

- srbp -