04 October 2012

The First Casualty in Dunderdale’s War #nlpoli

As she launched the first salvo in the final battle of the War for Muskrat Falls, Premier Kathy Dunderdale decided to prove the old maxim correct:  she put Truth up against the wall and shot the old girl squarely between the eyes.

“We adhere to established contracts and respectful business practices,” she told the crowd at a Board of Trade luncheon.  No word if the crowd at Fortis shifted uncomfortably in their seats.  The people from ENEL  - had they been there - could certainly attest to the manifest falsehood in the Premier’s comment.

Dunderdale had a few more bullets to pump into Veracity’s lifeless form off before she was done.

The relationship between business and government must be founded on “sound principles, consistently applied,” Dunderdale said.  What she did not say was that she and colleagues apply their principles differently from industry to industry. Companies developing the non-renewable oil resource can expect to find the government energy corporation as a partner in their venture.

Companies developing non-renewable hard rock minerals can expect no such demands for equity stakes.   To the contrary, miners can expect the provincial government to lend a hand with cutting costs and boosting their profitability.

Muskrat Falls “will stand on its merits or not at all.”

And with those words Dunderdale started in on what is the fifth version of the merits of Muskrat Falls. There are no merits at all, apparently.  Instead of offering one, Dunderdale built her latest argument on a series of outright false claims and half-truths.

Now the project is all about getting one over on the crowd in Quebec.  The Lower Churchill was originally about developing Gull Island and exporting the electricity through Quebec.  However,
…as we witnessed between 2006 and 2010, Quebec’s actions, through its regulatory process, forced us to reconsider Gull Island for the initial stage of the Lower Churchill development.
This would be the same time when, by Kathy Dunderdale’s own statements, she and Danny Williams tried to get Hydro-Quebec to take an ownership stake in the Lower Churchill without any redress for the 1969 Churchill Falls contract.  The Tories committed before they won the 2003 election that they would *not* do deals with Hydro-Quebec without redress. [omitted word from original post]

That would also be the same time when Nalcor cut a deal with Hydro-Quebec to wheel power from Labrador through Quebec to Emera.

No, friends.  Hydro-Quebec did not cause Nalcor to reconsider the plan to build Gull Island..  Economics did.  They couldn’t raise the money or find markets.

Hydro-Quebec has not been an issue.  Nalcor chief executive Ed Martin said so in 2009.

“Indeed, just yesterday, Dr. Wade Locke noted that Muskrat Falls is the lowest cost option for supplying power to the people of the province.”  He did say that.  What neither he nor Dunderdale told the audience is that neither Locke nor Nalcor have done the comparisons needed to reach that conclusion.  Nor did Locke or Dunderdale explain that their project pays for itself because it is built on a simple model:  they will force the taxpayers of the province to pay the full cost for the project even though they will use only a fraction of its output.

“Not only does [the deal with Emera] give us a buyer for a portion of our surplus power but it opens up a whole new route to the export marketplace.”  Not so.  Emera will not pay one penny for the electricity it receives over the course of 35 years. As for a new route for exports, we will not know if that route exists until July 2014.  That is when Emera must decide whether or not they will build it.  By then, Nalcor will likely already be building Muskrat Falls and the line to the island from Labrador.

According to the Premier, Muskrat Falls “is about being environmentally responsible, replacing electricity generated by burning oil at the Holyrood generating station with clean renewable energy, making our electricity system 98 per cent carbon-free.”  Again, not true.  Nalcor plans to install more thermal generation in the future than it currently has at Holyrood.  As for Holyrood itself, Nalcor will have to decide at some point how it will meet the island’s need for back-up generation – likely from a thermal plant – to take Holyrood’s place. 

Kathy Dunderdale launched her final campaign for Muskrat Falls with a salvo of falsehood aimed at an imaginary foreign demon.  Every claim that she made has been disproven time and again since November 2010 when she and her predecessor announced the Muskrat Falls project.

Dunderdale’s speech was far from the new tone that former natural resources minister Shawn Skinner foretold a month or so ago.  it sounded more like the final push of a politician who came to office with no strategic plan and no goals of her own and who is now only looking forward to leaving politics.

She just has one last thing to get done.