Guest Post Written by Ron Penney
In his continuing defense of the Muskrat Falls project, the Consumer Advocate has described the Muskrat Falls project as a "heritage project."
My fellow "naysayer", David Vardy, and I had great hopes when we met with the Consumer Advocate following the announcement of the reference to the Public Utilities Board.
The reference followed our request to the then Minister of Natural Resources, Shawn Skinner, to lift the exemption of the project from the purview of the Public Utilities Board. While a reference wasn't what we asked for we felt that it was a positive response and there is no question that a lot of information came out of the process.
At our meeting, the Consumer Advocate outlined a process which would allow for public input into his representation of the public before the Public Utilities Board. That never happened and instead he followed his own inclinations and became a strong advocate for the project.
Given what has occurred on the cost and schedule of the project most of the supporters have at least had the decency to stay quiet. Even their website "We believe in the Power" has all but disappeared from cyberspace although some enterprising sleuths have managed to unearth it.
When the Consumer Advocate uses the term "heritage project" he means it in a positive sense, but of course heritage includes both the good and the bad. Commission of Government is part of our heritage, for example, as is the Upper Churchill.
So certainly Muskrat Falls will be part of our heritage. The question is will it be viewed positively or negatively in 100 years time.
We won't have to wait that long a time to make that assessment. In less than 25 years, the Upper Churchill contract will come to an end. At that time we will have access to very cheap power, far less than what Muskrat Falls power will cost us.
But because of Muskrat Falls, we won't be able to take advantage of the end of the contract. Instead we will be yoked to paying more than double our present electricity rates to pay for the Muskrat Falls "boondoggle". And the only prospective purchaser for Upper Churchill power in 2041 will be Hydro Quebec.
We have been very badly served by the Consumer Advocate and he should have the decency to admit he made a terrible mistake by being a cheerleader for this project rather continue to defend it. The new Nalcor CEO has it exactly right and I place much more stock in his assessment than that of the Consumer Advocate, as should we all.
There is a direct result of how the Consumer Advocate is appointed. The appointment is made by government. Even with the new appointment process to be followed by the new administration, the appointment will be made by government. Instead the appointment should be made by an independent body chaired by the Chief Justice.
The essential problem with the project is that it was based on the idea that we would show Quebec that we could bypass them and get power to market. Instead we have undertaken a project which, together with our dire financial situation, may well lead to our demise as a self governing people for the second time.
We ought to have realized that we had a short term energy problem not a long term one. The public policy issue was how to get to 2041. And the solution to that problem would have involved the refurbishment of Holyrood, which we will have to do anyway to ensure reliability once Muskrat Falls starts to produce power, together with conservation and small hydro projects.
Muskrat Falls was a response to our long term energy needs when we already had a solution to that issue in less than 25 years. It was a solution to a problem which we didn't have.
It will prove to be the worst public policy decision made in our history. That will be the "heritage" which the Consumer Advocate, and others, will be remembered for in 25 years time.