21 October 2013

Vale delays Long Harbour smelter… again #nlpoli

Earlier this year,  mining giant Vale was saying they’d start production at the new Long Harbour smelter in 2013, but after a meeting with Premier Kathy Dunderdale in Brazil,  the company won’t be ramping up until 2015.

That’s the news from VOCM on the weekend, although they didn’t report the actual news about the delay at Long Harbour.  VO just reported that Dunderdale met with Vale officials and that the start-up date was 2015, as if it had always been two years away.

The premier says she went down a few days early to meet specifically with Vale officials to get an update on the Long Harbour development and the Voisey's Bay mine site.

She says Vale officials indicated that Long Harbour will start to ramp up in 2015, while they're looking to go underground at Voisey's Bay.

According to VOCM, the company officials are concerned about power supplies “in the area”. But the story isn’t clear if the power supply problems are in Labrador or at Long Harbour.

Now for all those wondering why Dunderdale flew back to the province suddenly on Friday, maybe she wasn’t really planning to stay down there anyway.  The trade mission might must have been a cover for the Vale meeting. 

People are wondering because the official reason for the flight – the CETA agreement in principle – has been in the works for so long that all the media materials work had obviously been sortied out and approved well in advance.

800px-Brazil-MOI-logo.svgTake a look at the six page backgrounder the provincial ministry of information that went with out Friday. That sort of thing can’t get pulled together in a couple of hours. 

Then there’s the provincial announcement.  It wasn’t really an announcement, as such. Three ministers met with reporters for what the provincial officials called a technical briefing. Other than that, the provincial government didn’t do anything except issue a short news release that made the deal sound as if it was all about fish.

And hand out the six pager that showed how much more the CETA deal involved than fish.

Kathy Dunderdale’s part in the CETA announcement seems to be confined to some media interviews that she could have done by telephone from Brazil.

No one flies back from an important trade mission for the likes of the exceedingly fluffy front pager in Saturday’s Telegram.  Seriously, dudes.  Cotton batting hits harder.

Then there’s the inherent contradiction in the story itself:  the Premier  flies back to the province before a trade mission starts in order to talk about another trade mission for a front page piece patting herself on the back over the success she has in international trade missions where she just works quietly out of the public spotlight.







Then there’s the whole focus on fish.

For starters, the same ministers who now enthusiastically support the CETA deal originally decided to boycott the talks because of the European opposition to the seal hunt.  They were willing to sacrifice more than $2.0 billion in trade for a few hundred thousand dollars in seal pelts in 2009.

Sometime after the Old Man quit, the same Conservatives decided to get involved in the talks formally.  They never explained why they changed position, but the cabinet ministers who on Friday were loving up the European trade deal had some other crackpot notions four years ago.

Second, fisheries wasn’t a big winner of an issue for the Premier herself so it is a bit hard to understand why she is loving up the fish provisions.

That brings us to a set of lovely contradictions between what Kathy told the Telegram and what actually. 

Quiet diplomacy is Kathy’s way.  Well, that would be except back in May when she very deliberately started negotiating in public over fisheries processing.

What’s more, there was a fairly obvious contradiction between what Kathy said was official policy and what the fisheries minister said the policy was.  The fish minister was right.  Kathy shifted her position.

At best, Dunderdale looked like she took a huge gamble in public on something that she wasn’t getting in cabinet and lost.  At worst, she appeared to be out of touch and maybe even out of control of the process.  That’s actually the way she looked on Friday, incidentally:  out of touch and trying to make herself relevant.

So, anyway,  claiming a victory for her negotiation style just doesn’t fit with the evidence.

Then there’s the problem with time. That public dust-up over processing was in May, 2013.  Now Dunderdale is claiming something like that happened two months later.  Here’s a bit from the Telly fluff:

“In July, a great lobby was started across the country to try and pressure Newfoundland and Labrador to accept what had been put forward under CETA, and we refused to do it.”

As it looks, Dunderdale was confused about timing.

Or maybe there was yet another racket inside cabinet about European trade in July.  That would make July one very bad month for Kathy.  Not only was she losing to her colleagues over European trade, but in another corner – if you accept the Uncle Gnarley account -  she was backing Nalcor in their effort to keep financial information on Muskrat Falls from finance department officials.

If all those inconsistencies weren’t enough, there’s the loan guarantee.  In the Saturday Telegram, Dunderdale claims she was twice prepared to walk away from the loan guarantee agreement to get a better CETA deal on fish.

So when was that exactly?  As everyone knows, the provincial government finished the loan guarantee deal in 2012, way before the public dust-up on processing in May that now the Premier says was in July.

If it was anybody but Kathy Dunderdale,  we’d be worried because the Premier said one thing while the truth was obviously something else. Even without the Gnarley saga,  Kathy’s claims about Jerome Kennedy’s resignation just weren’t true.  The trade deal and the Brazil trip were more of the same.

But the one kernel of truth in Kathy Dunderdale’s Brazil trip, the one hard bit of news is unmistakeable even if Voice of the Cabinet Minister missed it:  the Long Harbour smelter won’t be running for another two years.  There’s no explanation of the delay and no indication of what penalties, if any, the company has to pay for delaying production yet again.