24 April 2014

Plan 9 from Columbus Drive #nlpoli

Some enterprising political science graduate student will be able to write a brilliant doctoral dissertation a few years from now on the parallel ideas in provincial politics and popular situation comedy.

She will find fertile ground in the Big Bang Theory, especially the episode the in which Sheldon explains a complex idea in physics theory using the analogy of a cat in a box that may be either alive or dead based on a random earlier event.

Nalcor, for example, is like a giant box filled with Erwin Schrodinger’s cats.

In January,  the third line that would bring extra electricity to the growing market on the northeast Avalon was complete useless, according to Ed Martin.  At the time he was trying to explain away the blackout caused by Nalcor’s mismanagement of the power generation system.  Some people brought up the issue of the line and the stranded power on the west of the Isthmus of Avalon.

A couple of months later, as the public utilities board was lubing up the probe for a peek inside Nalcor’s head shed,  Martin and his crowd insisted that they wanted to move ahead quickly with the third line from Bay d’Espoir so they could have all this extra electricity available, you know, just in case.

The transmission line can be both essential and irrelevant based on a random event somewhere inside Nalcor.

Then there’s Bill Barry.  He was, according to one fellow inside the party,  doing a great service to it by standing as a candidate in the leadership.  According to another fellow, Barry was the anti-Christ of all anti-Christs who had no business running that fellow’s party.

And, as it turns out, that second guy actually can call it his party.  Barry could be both its saviour and its nemesis simultaneously, just like the leadership race could be both wide open, and a rigged, foregone conclusion for Frank Coleman depending on whether you were talking to an ordinary Conservative supporter or one of the inside riggers. 

In another corner, municipal affairs minister Steve Kent is championing a couple of changes to the municipalities law that would allow councils in the province – if they chose – to appoint people under the age of 18 years and let them sit at council public meetings doing as much or as little as the council decides.  of course the young people can’t vote and have no authority.

Kent holds this out as a great triumph for efforts to get more young people.  well, he holds it out that way some times.  And other times, it is all no biggie because the councils don’t have to do it.  Meaningful and meaningless, simultaneously.

It’s like Muskrat Falls, which is, at the same time, unquestionably and for all time the least cost option for providing the province with electricity and – as Premier Tom Marshall now contends – a project that could not be the least cost alternative.

There is a number, Marshall told VOCM’s Paddy Daly on Tuesday, at which the provincial government would have to re-evaluate the project.  The provincial government might stop the project,  by implication, even though, as Marshall also said, the project is going ahead full steam and presumably can’t be stopped.

Marshall also told Daly that the public deserved all the information available on the project because it is their project.  Then he rattled off “massive” benefits that will supposedly come from Muskrat Falls that people are ignoring.  Of course, the reason people are ignoring these “massive” benefits is because Marshall has not released any information to show that they are even hypothetically possible.

Marshall claimed that all the “massive” benefits coming from Muskrat falls can go to pay down debt and create an investment fund for the province.  Tom Marshall and his friends had the money to do all that a few years ago.  Marshall refused to even think about the idea.  Marshall wanted to spend the money on Muskrat Falls, even though now he admits he would possibly have to shut down the project and give up all these “massive” benefits because the project got too expensive.

Not content to let that slide by,  newly elected Liberal member of the House of Assembly Cathy Bennett called Paddy Daly on Wednesday to scold Marshall.  She did not pay any attention to the contradictions in what Marshall said.


Bennett, who sat on Nalcor’s board as it sanctioned Muskrat Falls, slammed Marshall for not having a fall-back position, a Plan B as she called it, in the event that Marshall had to shut down Muskrat Falls because Nalcor had lost control of the project costs. 

They must have a Plan B in Bennett’s view because she believes the project is about “keeping the lights on” in the province.  Of course, there is no Plan B because Nalcor never looked at alternatives for it.  They needed to build the project to meet a political need, not the need to deliver electricity to homes at the lowest cost.  As a result, Nalcor approved the project based on out-dated 2006 alternatives for  a different project. 

The sharp readers will realise by now that what we are looking here isn’t anything like the dilemma Schrodinger was trying to explain using the cat that could be alive and dead at the same time. 


What we are talking about is just plain, old-fashioned confusion.  The politicians say things that don’t make sense.

Confused politicians wouldn’t be an Earth-shattering conclusion to reach in a Ph.d thesis, of course, but at least it would be entertaining.

Oh, and while we’re at it, there’s one last thing that will clear up some of Cathy Bennett’s latest confusion.  She told Paddy she was having a hard time figuring out where all the money was coming from Muskrat Falls now that she is looking at the provincial government budget documents.

Massive cost over-runs.

No revenue stream except for the domestic market now reduced to a Nalcor monopoly.

Did she really think that all those people who didn’t work for Nalcor were just stupid? 

We all couldn’t be wrong

The gang at Nalcor were.

That should clear up any confusion Bennett has as she comes to grips with the brutal truth of the Muskrat Falls mess.