24 August 2012

Tense Problems #nlpoli

“As a lawyer,” natural resources minister Jerome Kennedy told reporters on Thursday,” you’d often hear the phrase that the best predictor of past behaviour is future behaviour.”

This is not just a slip of the tongue.  The minister is confused.   Obviously confused. 

You can see that confusion in Kennedy’s other comments. He called reporters together around 12:30 and gave them some of his thoughts on a letter by former premier Roger Grimes that appeared in the Thursday Telegram.  Kennedy was a bit tense, it seems, and so it isn’t surprising that in his remarks, Jerome confused his tenses.

Verb tenses.

And that, as they say, made all the difference in the world.

Kennedy started out with this statement

I would say it’s with utter amazement that I read a letter from from a former premier saying that Quebec is not putting roadblocks in our way to development of the Lower Churchill. To make comments like that is to deny our history or try to change the course of our history.

“Is” is the present tense of the verb “to be”. 

Then he referred to history, which would be the past tense.

You can watch the whole scrum courtesy of the Telegram and cbc.ca/nl – Kennedy didn’t offer a single shred of evidence of any kind to back his use of the present tense.  Kennedy even buggers up a well known phrase by saying that the best predictor of past behaviour is future behaviour.

Kennedy is clearly confused. 

Kennedy talked about a series of court cases that ended in 1988.  He mentioned a current case that Nalcor launched in 2010. 

But those 1980s court cases were about an effort by the provincial government to demand extra electricity from Churchill Falls beyond what Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro could under the 1969 contract. 

The other case was also about the 1969 contract

Only then did Kennedy quickly another case  - this one actually related to the Lower Churchill  - before stating that, therefore, based on all of that stuff about 1969 and Churchill Falls, it would be incorrect to state that Quebec was open to discussions on the Lower Churchill.


Logic.  Kennedy’s comments.  Two different things.

And hang on a second.  That Lower Churchill-related court case was brought on by Nalcor’s efforts to change the rules about wheeling power through Quebec.  It had nothing to do with any effort by Hydro-Quebec or anyone else in Quebec to stymie development of the Lower Churchill. Nor did it have anything to do with either access or capacity.  In his description of that case, Jerome Kennedy was demonstrably wrong.

One reporter  - evidently no fool - noted that Kennedy’s examples were about finding redress for the 1969 Churchill Falls agreement and only one had to do with the Lower Churchill.  That’s when Kennedy offered the comment about predicting past behaviour and proceeded to launch into a critique of the deal Roger Grimes’ crowd had negotiated to develop the Lower Churchill.

Asked about why he wasn’t talking about things that backed up his argument, Kennedy talked about something else that also didn’t back up his argument.

Kennedy made a big deal about the fact that the Grimes deal-that-never-was offered Quebec electricity at a low price for a long time.  Apparently, Kennedy had not noticed that his deal for Muskrat Falls gives electricity to Nova Scotia for a very long time at functionally no cost.  If anyone else outside this province wants the electricity, they will get it for whatever the market will bear.  Kathy Dunderdale already said that publicly.  That will likely be for much less than the cost to make the electricity.

So how is Grimes any worse a negotiator than Kathy and Jerome?

After three minutes and forty-five seconds of talking, Jerome still had not said anything at all that refuted Roger Grimes’ comments – sadly not online – that Quebec is not an obstacle to Lower Churchill development.  That is, Kennedy couldn’t show how “Quebec” is a problem.

There is no evidence to back Kennedy’s claim, of course and that is what Roger Grimes said. But that did not stop him from talking to reporters. Kennedy must have been confused.  There is simply no other way to explain why the current cabinet’s sharpest tack held a scrum and said things that were irrelevant to his argument or just plain wrong.

And surely were he thinking clearly, Kennedy would not have given people an excellent chance to remind the world that both Premier Kathy Dunderdale and former premier Danny Williams had already demonstrated that Quebec has not been an obstacle to Lower Churchill development.

In September 2009,  Kathy Dunderdale revealed that she and her predecessor had tried for five years to interest Hydro-Quebec in an equity share of the Lower Churchill with no redress whatsoever for 1969.  Hydro-Quebec just wasn’t interested.  Those secret talks, incidentally, came after Danny Williams had rejected a proposal from Quebec and Ontario to develop the Lower Churchill with Newfoundland and Labrador to everyone’s benefit.

In April 2009, then-Premier Danny Williams and natural resources minister Kathy Dunderdale announced a deal whereby Nalcor wheeled power through Quebec to the Untied States. 

"It shows that our power is not stranded power," [Williams] said.

"We're not forced to just sell it at the border to Quebec at whatever price Quebec wants to pay for it."

Even Nalcor boss Ed Martin doesn’t believe Hydro-Quebec is an obstacle to Lower Churchill development.  Here’s what the Toronto Star reported in August 2009:

Martin doesn't see the Quebec issue as a major stumbling block, as regulation requires the province to allow access to its grid in return for a set tariff. Hydro Quebec and Nalcor are just working out the details.

So what was Jerome Kennedy talking about?

Well, look at it this way:  Kennedy said things that were not correct or that had nothing to do with his claim that Quebec is an obstacle to Lower Churchill development.  If Kennedy didn’t know what he was talking about, it’s hard for anyone else to know.