17 August 2012

Radio Free Nalcor #nlpoli

Talk about putting on the full court press to try and squeeze out every favourable bit of commentary for a project that remains mired in controversy and doubt.

Nalcor is running a couple of days of media trips – free of charge – to the falls itself where Nalcor has already started working on a project it claims they haven’t got approval to start work on yet.

And if that wasn’t enough, and surely purely by total coincidence Conservative strategist Tim Powers is a co-host on VOCM’s Back Talk.  The station is owned by Steele Communications, incidentally, whose boss sits  - by complete happenstance - on the board of directors of Nalcor’s oil and gas corporation.

Some people will remember Powers as the guy whose Ottawa lobbying firm  - Summa Strategies - has the contract to lobby the federal government on behalf of Nalcor and the Lower Churchill project.  Powers himself personally represented the account until last year, when he signed it over to a couple of his colleagues.

Two hours of free publicity for Nalcor’s favourite cause every day.  That’s pretty sweet.  Imagine if VOCM charged Nalcor for the time.  The show isn’t as popular as Randy Simms Open Line show but surely VO can get a decent price for 30 seconds of advertising.

To make it even better, Tim’s free advertising appearance on live, province-wide radio and the free media tours just happens to coincide the same period when the government’s polling firm  - Corporate Research Associates - is in the field for their quarterly poll.  You can hear the geese honking in midtown Manhattan.

What was particularly funny this week was listening to first Jerome Kennedy and then Tim – purely coincidentally of course – trying to spread the story that in 2041, the Churchill Falls contract will stay the way it is:  feeding Quebec with cheap electricity.

That’s not what the Tories have been saying since 2007 at least.  Their energy plan put the “repatriation” of Churchill Falls right at the centre.  Tory after Tory after Tory since 2010 has tied the Lower Churchill to the Glorious Restoration due in 2041.  Hell, the line through Nova Scotia was supposed to give all that electricity a better way to markets in the States than through Quebec.

For example, hear what comfortable words Danny Williams  - another of Tim’s favourite topics - gave in a speech after he left the Premier’s Office:

Hibernia, Terra Nova and White Rose will deplete over time as Hebron and other discoveries come on stream in the coming years. These projects will be buttressed by first Muskrat Falls on the Lower Churchill river, followed by Gull Island in the following decade and complemented by our incredible wind potential, untapped natural gas and other mineral developments and new petroleum discoveries.

Revenues from these resources will also help transition us to 2041 when we finally repatriate the great Upper Churchill power development back from Hydro Quebec. [Emphasis added]

Then there’s Kathy Dunderdale’s first throne speech as Premier:

The combined Upper Churchill recall, Muskrat Falls and future Gull Island power will provide the storehouse of renewable energy to fuel industrial growth in Labrador. Such projects could include IOC expansion, new iron ore projects, Voisey's Bay developments and other projects that may emerge. And by 2041, just three decades or thirty years from now, Newfoundland and Labrador will be released from the draconian provisions of the infamous Upper Churchill Contract and able to turn that energy to our own advantage.

It’s an idea she hadn’t given up on as recently as June 26 in the House of Assembly.

Even Jerome himself talked about getting back the power in 2041.  He he is from June 6:

Mr. Speaker, at some point Quebec will have to discuss, I would assume, the renegotiation of that contract and the development of Gull Island. We are not asking for anything outlandish. We are simply saying we want to develop our resources for the benefit of our children and grandchildren, Mr. Speaker.

There are a lot of big aluminium plants in Quebec, and those big aluminium plants require a lot of power, 400, 500, 600 megawatts of power. Three of them, Mr. Speaker, I read last night, their contracts expire before 2041. Now, Mr. Speaker, in business there appears to be no great loyalty. The question is who will give us the best deal? Newfoundland and Labrador will be there to do deals but those deals will be fair.

They started praising Joe Smallwood’s energy boondoggles in order to justify their own massive debt program.  That was bizarre enough.

Now they are disowning their own arguments, the ones they used to help justify Muskrat falls only a few short weeks and months ago.