07 January 2014

A tale of two crises #nlpoli

Kathy Dunderdale did two major interviews on the first working day since the start of the Nalcor generation crisis.

One was with registered Nalcor lobbyist Tim Powers (# 777504-14002) who is currently holding down a guest spot hosting on VOCM.  The whole interview is actually online at vocm.com.  The second was with CBC’s John Furlong on Radio Noon.  As of Monday night, it wasn’t online.  She also had a media availability later in the day with Earl Ludlow from Newfoundland Power.

If you heard both great interviews.  If not,  listen to the VOCM one. Powers repeated the interview on Monday night when he co-hosted the night-time talk show with Jonathan Richler.  You’ll hear a whole lot that confirms the observations we made here on Monday.  Let’s walk through the day.

Tim asked Kathy about the state of the “system”.

The first thing Kathy Dunderdale did with Powers is give an detailed summary of what Nalcor has been going on with Nalcor.  It included lots of use of Dunderdale referring to what “we” are doing but it was all about electricity supply.  And it was detailed, right down to an explanation of what happened on Sunday night at Holyrood.

Now that’s important for two reasons.

Firstly, Dunderdale launched into a highly detailed technical discussion that was really something people from Nalcor should have been doing.  They know it inside out.  It’s their responsibility.  But she took it on, right down to explaining one part in ordinary terms.

Secondly,  the way she answered the question is important because Dunderdale didn’t turn her attention to discussing what the provincial government was doing to relieve the impact of the power shortage on citizens until Powers raised the question of whether or not this is a crisis.  Dunderdale rattled of a list of things to show that this wasn’t a crisis because life was going on normally and people were coping.  Dunderdale was willing to grant that some people may be having a problem or two, some might even be having a personal crisis, but for the province as a whole this was absolutely nothing like a crisis.

In the Furlong interview Dunderdale was more strident, likely because Furlong pressed  her on it. No system is entirely reliable, Dunderdale insisted.Stuff like this happens all the time, like in Toronto just recently.

That actually highlights why Dunderdale’s comments are important.  The Toronto power outages were caused by one of those weather problems that have happened here before. The one in Newfoundland was not.

And the political leaders didn’t spend all their time trying to convince everyone that there wasn’t a huge problem.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s statement started out with these simple statements:

I know that many people in communities across southern Ontario are dealing with the effects of the ice storm that began yesterday. This is an issue for our urban areas and for our rural communities as well.

I want to assure everyone living in these areas that all available resources are working to keep you and your families safe and to restore power as quickly as possible.

Massive difference between Wynne and Dunderdale.

In Dunderdale’s mind (around 5:30 into the interview), a crisis would apparently be something that meant there were no hospitals or police.  Everything else – by implication – is just a minor inconvenience.

Now in the course of her chat with Powers, Dunderdale could rattle off all the sorts of things that make the situation in Newfoundland the past couple of days a lot more than just inconvenient.  She could insist that her priority has been looking after people during this thing that is not a crisis but a minor inconvenience or something.

But she would not say it was what it was.

No sir.

Nor could she acknowledge it was maybe an emergency

And that’s just weird.

After all, a major power outage is one of the emergencies identified by Fire and Emergency Services as the sort of thing people should prepare for.  It’s the sort of thing municipalities have in their emergency management plans and that’s why Kathy Dunderdale could point to the warming centres towns and cities had set up in response to the massive power problems. The provincial government even lists major power outages as one of the things municipalities need to prepare for in their guide to developing an emergency plan.

Kathy Dunderdale is getting hammered politically for her “not a crisis”  but that hammering isn’t a matter of her not sounding empathetic enough. She isn’t trying to sound empathetic.  It isn’t a matter of people looking to politicians to handle every little thing.  Emergency response  - and this IS a public emergency - is one of the provincial government’s core responsibilities.

Kathy Dunderdale is getting hammered because her focus is on defending Nalcor’s interest, not the public interest.  That’s a choice Kathy Dunderdale has very obviously and very deliberately made. 

The reason may well be nothing more complex than Kathy’s predilection for being arrogant and pompous without justification.  She spent a fair bit of time in media interviews on Monday noting that these blackouts were the fulfilment of prophecy.  I told you there’d be blackouts, so to speak. 

It may also be a bit more involved. As SRBP noted on Monday, this crisis struck a blow for Nalcor’s credibility not just among the people footing Ed Martin’s bills but also the people like the folks at Emera who’ve been promised Nalcor’s electricity.  Ed Martin mentioned public confidence in the media on Monday. In that sense, Kathy wouldn’t be interested in the public crisis as much as she is in the much larger crisis with Nalcor.

Behind it all there’s another crisis of course.  That’s the big one the Conservatives have been facing since Dunderdale took over the leadership.  It’s also one that – not surprisingly – Kathy Dunderdale has denied exists. 

She and the crowd in her office are sensitive enough to the damage this crisis is doing to her public image that they forced out to a media availability today with Newfoundland Power boss Earl Ludlow.  The stills some local reporters tweeted of the event showed Dunderdale talking to a few of da byes from Newfoundland Power in from the cold for a bit to take a break before heading back out. Dunderdale looks almost as uncomfortable as they do,  seeing as they are the guys cleaning up the mess Kathy’s friends at Nalcor made.

dundercapThe only place Dunderdale looked more grim was at the question and answer bit with reporters.  Here’s a still of it.  You can find a chunk of the availability at around the 19 minute mark of Here and Now.

Notice in particular the rather pained expression on Kathy Dunderdale’s face.

Nothing says crisis more than her sour puss.  The only question is what crisis has her so upset.