09 May 2012

The Poster Child for Useless #nlpoli

One of the rationales the provincial government has used to justify Muskrat Falls is the idea that the island will have electricity shortages starting in 2015 and by 2020 there’ll be blackouts, brownouts or some sort of unspecified catastrophe.

If you missed it, here is one official version, from The Economy, 2011:

After years of planning and analysis, Nalcor’s subsidiary, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro (Hydro), determined that developing Muskrat Falls is the least-cost solution to a looming electricity shortage in the province, which is expected in the next five to 10 years.

In 2015, Newfoundland and Labrador will reach a capacity deficit when, at peak times, capacity needs may not be met. By 2019, the province will experience an electricity deficit, where the province’s overall electricity demand is greater than what is available.

It’s the worst kind of fear-mongering but it is what they’ve been saying. 

The solution to that looming crisis is pretty simple, according to the provincial government.  Again, here’s what The Economy 2011 lays out:

Hydro assessed the options for new generation sources to avoid the capacity and electricity deficits. The Muskrat Falls project, coupled with a transmission link project to the island, was determined to be the least-cost option.

So with all that as prologue, consider this question posed by Dean MacDonald stand-in Dwight Ball in the House of Assembly on Tuesday:

… what is the government’s plan to those energy blackouts that residents will experience between 2015 and 2018?

You can guess what the answer was from natural resources minister Jerome Kennedy.

Mr. Speaker, the answer to the question is quite simple. What will prevent the brownouts and the blackouts between 2015 and 2020? Muskrat Falls.

If you are not either banging your head against the table or crapping your pants with laughter at this point, then you are just not paying attention.

This is funny stuff.  You could not possible script a more ridiculous line of questioning at this point in the public debate over the hydro-electric megaproject.

You could not make this stuff up.

Given the Premier’s penchant for telling us that Nalcor is filled with geniuses of other-worldly origins, one might more sensibly ask how it could be that the rocket scientists at Nalcor managed to let the island get into the state where we are on the verge of catastrophe.

After all, that is the logic of their argument.  In 2010, they noticed that the power needle was flirting with the edge of the red zone and the Big E. 

How in the frack could they have missed so obvious a thing?   After all, it is their job to keep an eye on that stuff.  They are supposed to make sure the people who pay their bills have a stable, reliable and low cost supply of electricity.

Now, as a politician, you’d ask the aggressive question because it shows pretty clearly that what Kathy Dunderdale says about Nalcor and  their actual demonstrated managerial competence are two different things.  After all, an opposition political party is supposed to ensure that the government accounts fully “for the management of the public affairs of this province…”.

By contrast, Dwight Ball asked questions  on Tuesday that would normally come from a Tory backbencher sucking around for a promotion to cabinet. For the leader of the Opposition, the questions  were amateurish and reeked of incompetence.

The other questions that Ball asked on Tuesday, like pretty well everything he’s done so far this session, have shown Ball to be the poster child for everything that is politically useless and ineffective. With only one exception, the rest of his caucus have been no better.

Small wonder that the Tories spend all their political energy attacking the province’s New Democrats. The Tories know that the Liberals are more a political threat to themselves than they are to anyone else.