22 August 2011

Misleading the House: recall the whole recall power story

Why would Nalcor mislead the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, asks finance minister Tom Marshall with all the seriousness he can muster.

Yes folks, the fellow with one of the worst cases of pinocchiosis politica ever seen in this province wonders how people at a Crown corporation who hang out regularly with politicians some of who are infected with P. politica could catch the same disease.

Let’s leave the question of motivation out for a second and look at whether or not Nalcor and the provincial government are misleading people about Muskrat Falls.

The answer is undeniable:  yes, they are.

Take recall power as a classic example.

The province will need more electricity within the next decade, according to Nalcor.  For the sake of this post, let us assume that this is correct.

And what’s more, let’s go with the idea that the extra electricity is measure on the scale of several hundred megawatts.

Where to get that extra juice?

Muskrat Falls, says Nalcor.  Gigantic project, but we have to do it because the power is needed and it will be cheaper in the long run.

Again, for the sake of this post, let us allow all those things.

Recall power, sez someone on a morning open line show.  Bring power back from Churchill Falls.

Not enough.

Only 300 megawatts, total.  Some is already sold and used in western Labrador and the rest just isn’t enough to meet the need.  One of Nalcor’s communications people even sends the radio show host and e-mail making the point.

While the information is correct, it leaves out a whole bunch of other stuff.

And that’s what makes Nalcor’s version of recall power grossly misleading.

Under the law that is supposed to ensure the people of the province get the electricity they need at the lowest possible price, the public utilities board could recall as much electricity from Churchill Falls as the people in the province need.

Churchill Falls (Labrador) Corporation – the people who make the power – and Hydro-Quebec – the people who buy it – would get paid for their lost power.  They’d get compensation.  

We don’t know at this point how much the compensation would be but the cost would be not even half what Muskrat Halls power will cost people in this province.

Heck, your humble e-scribbler would lay odds it would not even be  even ten percent of what the Muskrat falls power is going to cost local taxpayers.

All the provincial government would have to do to make that happen is tax take back an exemption Nalcor got from the provincial government while Beaton Tulk was interim Premier.  The exemption makes sure the PUB can’t control electricity in the province.  It also ensures Nalcor doesn’t have to deliver power at the lowest cost to consumers, if the company doesn’t want to do that.

All that Nalcor would have to do is run a line from Churchill Falls to Soldiers Pond. And gee, isn’t that line what they already have planned and costed at less than $2.0 billion.


Job done.

Total cost:  not even half of the current estimate for Muskrat Falls and all the transmission lines.

No question:  Nalcor is misleading the people of the province about recall power.

But why would they do it, asks the finance minister?

Well, only the gang at Nalcor can say for sure, but let’s just recall what Fortis boss Stan Marshall said once about the problem with Crown corporations like Nalcor and expensive projects:

“Simply when things go wrong we’d like to be able to rectify them,” he told reporters.

“If you’re going to go in with a partner you’ve got to know that partner very, very well, have a lot of commonality.

“Governments … their agenda can be very, very  different than a private enterprise.”

Government’s agenda can be different from that of private enterprise.

In other words,  Crown corporations might do things for political reasons instead of sound business reasons. Muskrat Falls gave Danny Williams the political cover he needed to quit politics.  Now Muskrat Falls is the Tory party’s election platform.

Nalcor couldn’t disown this project even if they wanted to.

It’s politics.

So they have to tell only half a story, like the misleading story they tell on recall power.

Or, for that matter, like the story Tom Marshall tells about the public debt.

If Tom Marshall wants to know why Nalcor misleads people, he need only look in the mirror.

- srbp -