Monday, 26 August 2013

THE NDP CHASING RABBITS (PLUS A TOM OSBORNE POSTSCRIPT)

The saying “don’t go chasing rabbits” evokes a warning against one going off on a tangent, getting distracted or confused.  In politics, it is a caution, to politicians, that they may have missed the big issue in pursuit of one minor or of no consequence at all.

Former Prime Minister John Diefenbaker was once quoted as saying something like: ‘when I hunt bears I don’t go looking for rabbit tracks’. 

That’s what the NDP did recently.  It needs reminding that it should be hunting bears; that its job is to stay focussed on “big picture” politics.
The NDP barely noticed the bomb-shells planted, for the Dunderdale Government, in the Nova Scotia UARB Decision on the Maritime Link.  The UARB is a semi-judicial body; its decisions should not be ignored, even when they come out of Nova Scotia.

The NDP chose instead, to explode, like lightening, over the Legislative Commissioner’s Report on the poor judgment of Tory MHA, David Brazil; as if the Commissioner had not effectively dealt with the matter and proposed the correct response.

The NDP could have mined several far richer nuggets, compliments of the UARB, and exploded them in full view of the media.  

At a time when the House of Assembly is closed, you might expect that they would be looking for reasons to steal some of the scant spotlight put on politics, in the summer.  You would think that they would want to, at least, share public attention with Candidates for the Liberal Leadership.  

Of course, that would have required studying the 137 page UARB Report and figuring out what it all meant.  Much easier to read the Ethics Commissioner’s 17 page Report; one that even a simpleton could understand.

What were the UARB revelations and why are they so critical?

Nova Scotia’s Utility and Review Board refused sanctioning the Maritime Link (ML), as the lowest cost option for Nova Scotia.  In order to satisfy that condition, it stated, Nalcor must commit the remaining surplus or “Market-priced power” from Muskrat Falls. It did say the power could come from another source, but everyone knows there is no other cheap power, unless Bay d’Espoir is offered up. 

The UARB demands the legal certainty of being able to “levelize” the cost of the power previously committed Nova Scotia Block.  It anticipates the surplus power will in the 5-7 cent range per KWh; making Nova Scotia’s cost of all the power it receives, from Muskrat, average around 10 cents per KWh over the thirty-five year contract. 

The UARB’s demand was made notwithstanding the fact that Nalcor informed our own PUB that at least 80% of this power is committed for our domestic consumption to 2030.

The UARB stated, using impeccably clear language, that Nalcor had committed the power to Emera.  All that was left was for the parties to “codify” the agreement, in writing.   

NDP researchers, checking Hansard, will likely find multiple occasions when the House was misinformed as to the purpose of Muskrat Falls and the arrangement between Emera and Nalcor.

Indeed, either of the Opposition Parties might legitimately ask those and many other questions, too; such as:

Did the Premier and the Minister of Natural Resources deliberately lie to the House, on those occasions when they spoke of that Project’s ability to meet future domestic demand, meet the needs of Labrador mining and be available for export to the United States?

Were Newfoundland’s domestic demand numbers 'jacked up' to justify the Project?

How much of the anticipated capital, to be spent on Muskrat Falls, will actually be capital invested for Nova Scotia?

What is the annual cost, to this Province, of subsidizing up to 60% of Muskrat Falls power to that Province?

Undoubtedly, there were other “untruths”, too, that were laid before the House in an effort to secure Muskrat sanction.

Aren’t these the types of questions the NDP would want to put to the Government in a reconvened House of Assembly? 

The Ethics Commissioner reported that the Member for Conception Bay-Bell Island broke the rules of the House, that he should receive only a “reprimand”, noting that he did not profit, personally, from the Adult Basic Education Program he ran on Bell Island.

The Commissioner could have recommended a harsher penalty. He did not.

A call for the Government to re-convene the House, while not having a snow ball’s chance in hell, is nevertheless a clarion call that an important issue is afoot. It is a standard part of any Opposition Party’s tool kit; but it should not get overuse, especially when more important issues are ignored in favour one borne, in part, out of rank partisanship.  Notably, it was former MHA Yvonne Jones’ written complaint that sparked the Commissioner’s investigation. 

Following release of the UARB Decision, it makes no sense that the NDP did not use the opportunity to call for the re-opening the House to air the serious revelations that it contained.

Little wonder that the NDP, like the Liberals, are still viewed as a Party that pulls its punches on Muskrat Falls. 

The NDP chose to “chase rabbits” while the Liberals are off chasing each other.  Yes, I understand the Party has its sights on Mr. Brazil’s District.  Likely, though, they turned off more of his constituents than was sensible. 

The fact is, both Parties forgot to pursue the biggest issue of the summer, one that demands public attention. 

It is a credit to neither of them. 

I bet no one, in the NDP, ever thought a lesson could be learned from “Dief the Chief”.

Postscript: The NDP should get a boost soon.  Independent MHA, Tom Osborne informed the Weekend Telegram that: "I think I'll be making an announcement next week." Osborne was referring to his political future and which Party he intends to join. I can’t imagine, though, he is going back to the Tories or that he would favour the Liberals, and not just because the Leadership contest is unfinished.  “Big picture” politics could get more interesting.  Readers may wish to revisit TOM OSBORNE: OPTIONS FOR A POLITICAL ORPHAN.  Tom Osborne may wish to read : TOM OSBORNE AND LANA PAYNE ON DIFFERENT PAGES.

 

3 comments:

  1. Des. If Nalcor capitulate to the UARB there is the potential that it will increae our rates. If they do not capitulate, then the FLG is in potential jeopardy. It is a precarious position, and one which has not received the attention it deserves. Really the UARB condition will undermine the entire business case for MF. It is the great paradox of the project in that a long term customer, willing to pay market rates, is a problem for the project. The reason is that the project requires a monopoly with rates 3x market for this project to be financed.

    The response from Nalcor and the Provincial government in how they are to proceed has been non existant. The silence is deafening on all fronts.

    Also Emera has recently stated that the whole deal would have to go back to the UARB once an agreement is reached with Nalcor. If there is any chance for our rates to be increased, why not send it to the PUB? The review could be completed in parralel with what is going on in Nova Scotia.

    That is what the opposition parties should be pushing for. But I do not think people truly understand the true consequences of the UARB decision.

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  2. Liberals and especially NDP pulled punched on MF while PCs suckered punched NL in the night from behind with brass knuckles and barbed wire.

    MF might have been a good project but NNLPCs get the award for worst salespeople on Earth. Mixed messages, non-answers, extremely heavy reliance on ONE Economics professor at MUN - other faculties either weren't consulted or their answers didn't fit the scope of acceptable answers.

    No one finds it odd that MUN has remained mostly silent on the largest capital works project in NL history? Even the blatantly pro econ prof crusader of MF hasn't said a peep in months - taking a sabbatical to help NLPCs: UPDATE your presentation on MF before venturing into other avenues!

    Leaving work unfinished doesn't help the case of any precised bias. Backed the wrong horse and now leaving the track?

    If not for a small group of concerned citizens sharing their expertise and doing their research on MF there would be minimal information available.

    Ideally the lead on MF should be someone whom could answer the plethora of questions from citizens (it's obvious no elected member can confidentially answer MF Qs) but the 2 headed hydra of Nalcor Ed and Gill are AS impressive as Russel Crowe's musical performance in Les Mes... (Zero out of 4 tony awards for ref stopped watching after 90 seconds).

    Are the NLNDP being politically sensitive/aware of 2 brethren backers of MF-ML Federal NDP and NSNDP - thereby unwilling to ruffle feathers (therefor NOT doing their job for NL) 30% NLNDP MQO poll is nice but could slide by 2015.

    Post Liberal leadership they simply can't oppose for Opposition sake but show how they will govern if elected. MF should be a key plank for the Liberals in the HoA between now and 2015.

    Differentiating how either Liberal/NDP will govern and collect themselves will have an affect on the popular vote - yes NLPCs are haggard worn dogs whom will be 5 years past their best before date in 2015 - but that is mostly self inflected damage.

    Start looking for 48 candidates now and not weeks before the election!

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  3. You ask " were the domestic demand numbers jacked up to justify the MF project"
    Remember , the domestic demand is essentially a forecast by Nfld Power, as they are the distributor and serve most all of the domestic market, but generate relatively little power themselves.
    They make a profit as a percentage of sales. Their profit increases if the power sales increases, and also if the rate per kwh increases. A robust forecast, and higher power cost from new generation INCREASES their revenue and profit. Any they have no skin in the game, incurring no expenses for the new generation and transmission lines from Muskrat Falls. And if there forecast for demand is wrong, their is no accountability on their part. The ratepayers take all the risk..... but based on their forecast.
    A robust Conservation and Efficiency policy by Nfld Power could have averted the Muskrat option in favour of the Isolated option. Other jurisdictions are spending 5 times more and achieving 10 times more in efficiency savings, lower power consumption and savings for domestic customers. Nfld Power resists such a robust program, to the benefit of their profit structure and shareholders. Lets put the majority of the blame for the domestic forecast where it belongs..... at the doorstep of Nfld Power, a Fortis owned company. And of course Nalcor didn't challenge that forecast. It fitted with their plan. One has merely to compare our Efficieny plan with British Columbia, Vermont , or many other jurisdictions to see what they do to cut domestic demand forecasts and stabilize or cut electricity costs to residential customers. The program here is shameful.... and we'll pay a high price for not being progressive in energy efficiency measures.

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