Wednesday, 25 September 2013

HOW THE PREMIER DAMAGES HER CREDIBILITY (Part I)

Public policy will always be contentious even when diverse opinions are based upon agreed facts.

One of the great characteristics of an open and free society is that individuals are at liberty to add to our collective economic and social well-being with an intellectual contribution that is personal; people perceive needs, arrange priorities or interpret factual evidence, each in their own way.

Perspectives may be influenced by self-interest, culture, maturity or screened through some other lens. Though contrarian views cause strain on the social and political fabric, they and our right to possess them, are what sets democracies apart in a world where political control is pervasive.

That said, if there exists one key to reducing conflict or to finding consensus among diverse groups and individuals, it is the prospect that all of us might form and share our opinions, as often as possible, based upon on a complete set of facts.  It is an impossible goal, but a noble one, which makes it worth striving for.  Integral to its achievement is the possibility that those in authority, who have greatest access to the information and possess the ability to pay the specialists to generate it, do not subvert the process.
The integrity of political leadership finds many roots in a leader’s ability to have his/her facts straight. There is a high expectation of someone, like the Premier, who is responsible for advancing public policy issues and who enjoys a position of trust.  It is not unreasonable to think that she will apply the utmost care to ensure that first, she understands the issue and secondly, she is capable of sharing the vital information to which the matter relates.  Both ingredients are essential if a complete narrative is created; one told with balance and objectivity. 

When a narrative is poorly or selectively explained, the risk is that the policy will fail.  If it has been advanced for reasons that are simply wrong, the body politic will wonder for whom the policy was created; if billions of dollars are involved, and the public is unwittingly on the hook to repay the vast sums, they might ask who benefitted. At a minimum, they may become less trustful of authority.  They will feel cheated having been denied the essential foundation for critical review and assessment.

In a nutshell, a wise and trusting leader will want to establish a ‘connection’ with a constituency, win their faith and earn their respect. His/her perceived integrity is strengthened because the leader, in turn, has shown them respect.

I wish that the current Premier could see things that way.

I wish Kathy Dunderdale did not present one-half a story and expect everyone to jive with her thinking, notwithstanding her failure to tell the other half. 

I wish she were able to see that ‘all of the people cannot be fooled all of the time’.  Oh, how much more constructive and inclusive might public policy debates become!

You may well ask? What has the Premier done now?

Selectivity with the facts is not a new habit of Premier Dunderdale; she applied such economies very effectively throughout the so-called Muskrat Falls debate. 

Most recently, I posted a piece on this Blog, "PREMIER SANCTIONING UNTRUTHS", dealing with whether Emera “had sanctioned the Maritime Link months ago”, as the Premier claimed.  The legal agreement, executed by Emera, clearly demonstrated that the ‘sanction’ was laden with conditions.  The Premier refused to acknowledge any condition existed, except sanction.

Not Emera, funny enough!  In its most recent Press Release, just this past Monday, the company noted: "work continues on the project and we continue to work on the conditions," stated Emera Spokeswoman, Sasha Irving. Why is such a simple truth so difficult?

I don’t pretend to understand why the Premier engages the public in this way. I understand the pressures upon her.  I don’t expect her to be a saint in what is often an ungodly difficult business. But the consistency with which she uses ‘an economy of the truth’ is truly one of the reasons the public holds her in low esteem.  Likely, they doubt her integrity.  That she uses half-truths to get her own way, even when the public policy at issue is fraught with profound social and economic consequences, is especially puzzling.

The most recent example is the story the Premier spun, in Corner Brook, regarding seemingly insatiable electricity markets in the New England states for Muskrat Falls and Gull Island power.  The Premier recited comments of Governor Shumlin, of Vermont, who, she said, told her: “if you got the juice, we got the use”.

A reasonable person, listening to the Premier, might conclude that Muskrat Falls is a completely sensible idea; that the Province should get on with developing Gull Island and any other hydro project that can offer up some ‘juice’.

In Part II of this Post, I will demonstrate that the Premier’s narrative is shallow, misleading, and downright inaccurate.  Very simply, I will present information, from credible sources, available to everyone on the Web, which the Premier failed to share.   

When you are given the balance of the New England power story, you may not be so quick as to spend your dime on another hydro project. 

But that is for you to decide.

Part II will be posted on Friday.

7 comments:

  1. The premier is either being mislead by her advisors or she is lying. Thanks to Bill 29 we will never know what the truth is but now we have liberal leadership candidates indicating that they will continue this muskrat madness when they get into power. Is there no appetite for truth in this province?

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  2. There is an old saying; Half of a truth is a whole lie. This present government in their presentation on MF are masters of the half truth.

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  3. I listened to our Premier on Bill Rowe Open Line saying, more or less.. " if people out there have anything to say that can add to the Muskrat Falls project, we love to hear from them". I was a bit surprised, having raised issues about MF without ever a proper response. Like why did they not follow the example of New England to help consumers of electricity, to lower their costs by significant rebate programs for efficiency improvements. Instead they claimed that we were approaching saturation for efficiency for our houses..... so untrue that one might say it is a lie. But on hearing her say this to Bill Rowe, I soon realized she said that she would love to hear from anyone who can "add" to the MF project. That would exclude me and many others who question the wisdom of this project. And she must hate to hear from anyone who does not add to her vision. You describe her perfectly, as being selective with the truth. She is very good at that, and it can fool a lot of the people, and it still works. Even Bill Rowe is prone to accept too much of what she says.
    Your recent article had a link to the New England program on Efficiency measures. If shows 5.7 billion being spent from 2015 to 2021... to reach a goal of DECLINING ANNUAL ELECTRICITY CONSUMPTION ..... and forecast PEAK DEMAND DECLINES. Does that suggest that they urgently need MF power? And those reductions allow them to defer upgrades of transmission lines that would otherwise be necessary. Their measures have a SIGNIFICANT IMPACT ..... so why is our measures having almost no impact?
    The benefit is proportional to the spending on this to help customers save, and also avoids new generation costs, again helping keep rates lower.
    Here we spend 5 million per year on efficiency programs, one tenth of what we should spend.
    Look at new England expentitures on efficiency
    Connecticut ; about 112 million per year and will step this up to 258 million per year
    Maine about 18 million per year and will step this up to 33 million per year
    Mass. about 190 million per year and wil step this up to 600 million per year
    New Hampshire about 19 million per year and will step this up to 30 million per year
    Rhode Island about 23 million per year and will step this up to 91 million per year
    Vermont about 32 million per year and will step this up to 54 million per year.

    What do we need to achieve similar results? We need to spend about 50 million per year, available from a 8 percent surcharge but with the benefit of net 24 percent reduction in customer energy costs from reduced energy use. And the surcharge...... the 8 percent Hst rebate could have covered that, requiring no surcharge.
    This type of arithemetic does not support the expensive MF scheme, but would be great for the consumer here.
    When this information is kept from the public, they tell half truths, or worse, like we will have blackouts! And uninformed people believe that. Winston Adams

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  4. The new England report on Efficiency measures says they are having a significant impact .... so what does that mean?
    Page 13 says from 2008 to 2010, a 3 year period they spent 1.2 billion on this. And they have reduced their peak demand by 514 Megawatts. Now this is equal to the average Muskrat falls power capacity. So, they have saved one MF for 1.2 billion, which we propose to build MF for 8 to 10 billion. This proves that efficiency measures are about 7 times lower cost that new generation facilities like MF. Any wonder they are stepping up spending in this direction? And not one political party here advocate for similar moves here to benefit our consumers. Why? Some MF supporters have said Efficiency measures is a pipe dream!. It seems a lot of Americans are proving otherwise. Cheap gas generation is another benefit to them.... but there is no turn back on this efficiency program, because it is well proven there, and can do even better here. Winston Adams

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  5. Unfortunately, we are going to get plenty of efficiency improvements when we have to pay at least twice as much per kilowatt-hr to pay for the muskrat madness. They know this as demand curves for electricity consumption have been well studied worldwide. More half truths? What do you call it when you ignore obvious truths? Maybe they should get Dr. wade Locke back to explain why Newfoundland would NOT see efficiency improvements as electricity prices increase significantly.

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    1. I have filed submissions with the PUB on the opportunities for efficiency benefits in Nfld. I emailed Wade Locke last year to see his view on this and the Impact on MF, as he had stated MF depends on the forecast demand holding up. After several requests, Locke replied he didn't read my submissions. Guess he has a closed mind on that issue. Winston Adams

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  6. Des.. a mutual friend providing me this quote in explaining the Muskrat Madness File. I thought I would pass is along ...

    In an October 17, 2004, The New York Times Magazine article by writer Ron Suskind, quoted an unnamed aide to George W. Bush (later attributed to Karl Rove):

    The aide said that guys like me were "in what we call the reality-based community," which he defined as people who "believe that solutions emerge from your judicious study of discernible reality." ... "That's not the way the world really works anymore," he continued. "...when we act, we create our own reality. And while you're studying that reality—judiciously, as you will—we'll act again, creating other new realities, which you can study too, and that's how things will sort out. We're history's actors…and you, all of you, will be left to just study what we do."

    I believe Nalcor and the government have been spewing the (i) We need the power and (ii) Muskrat is the lowest cost alternative for so long that they actually believe it to be reality. They continue to propogate the same reality... If Muskrat makes economic sense, so too must Gull Island. This may work in politics, in a period fuelled by oil revenue. But it does not work in real projects of billions of dollars. There is a dark reality starting to set in on Muskrat Falls. The Premier and Ed Martin will soon be creating the last Act of this trajedy.

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