Monday, 16 July 2018

MUSKRAT FALLS: BETTING ON THE WRONG HORSE

Co-written with PlanetNL
Netflix features an interesting PBS documentary called The Race Underground dealing with the technological, political and social challenges of building the first U.S. electric subway, in Boston, in the late 1800s. 
The project had a lot of naysayers. Some were concerned about the destruction of the historic city (especially Boston Common, America’s oldest public park); others about the enormous financial risk described as “… a jump into the unknown.”  The superstitious and the religious feared that going underground meant getting close to “the netherworld”. Then there were the dangers of electricity.
A vote “by the narrowest of margins” brought the matter to a close and the subway was built. The people loved it. The subway cars were clean and clothes ceased being fouled by sooty coal-fired steam engines. Congestion in downtown Boston disappeared and allowed even more people to come in. The suburbs grew rapidly. Not lost on anyone was the presence of far fewer stinky, slow horses on the streets. For investors, the new system was more profitable than the old one. 

Monday, 9 July 2018

ED AND STAN WOULDN’T LIKE GORD

Forgetfulness must be nature’s screen; one that affords people the capacity to not be weighed down by the skewed and self-serving utterances of others.  Gord, an old University friend, had a single word for them… which I plan to share with you.
Not surprisingly, the press release recently issued by former Nalcor CEO Ed Martin on the heels of comments by Stan Marshall comes to mind.
Ostensibly, the current CEO was attempting a little morale building — at the expense of the truth — following the successful transmission of Upper Churchill “recall” power across the Labrador Island Link. Understandably, he couldn’t wait for VP Gil Bennett to get the lead out on the generation component of the Muskrat Falls project.

Monday, 2 July 2018

JIM GORDON'S FINAL COMMENTS ON THE NORTH SPUR

THE NORTH SPUR MY FINAL COMMENTS
Guest Post by James L. Gordon P.Eng.(Retired)

Way back in 2014, my interest in the North Spur started when I read a short book by Cabot Martin titled Muskrat Madness. It concentrated on the questionable stability of a natural side dam called the North Spur which contained layers of sandy silt and sensitive clay. I emailed Cabot, a member of the 2041 committee, on August 27th commenting on his book, and have commented several times on the Uncle Gnarley blog on the North Spur safety. NALCOR describes the Spur as -

The north spur forms a natural earthfill dam, with a crest elevation of about 60 m, and about one km long, which connects the rock knoll to the north bank of the valley……. The crest width varies from about 1,000 m at its north end to about 70m at its south end where it has been narrowed by erosion and landslide activity in the past. The head across the spur is presently 16 m from river level upstream to downstream. The impounding of the reservoir to El. 39 m will increase the hydraulic head across the spur to 36 m and stabilization measures are then necessary to ensure its long-term stability under both normal and extreme water levels. The soils forming the spur consist of a complex interbedded sequence of relatively low permeability silty sands and sands, and sensitive marine clays.

Thursday, 28 June 2018

CHES CROSBIE TESTED: "MISTAKE" TO REPLACE MADNESS?

The recent Telegram interview with newly-minted Tory leader Ches Crosbie leaves a disturbing impression of how he will address the challenges of a Party recently described on this Blog as “broken”.

The Telegram article saw Crosbie shifting the blame for the Muskrat Falls project onto the Liberals. “What they should have done was make sure that a proper stopgo analysis was done as soon as they got into office. They frittered that opportunity away,” he was quoted as saying. Crosbie is correct on the point, but he needs to deal with the ghastly mistakes of his own Party before he is ready to throw stones at his rival.

Not to his credit, Crosbie asserted: “… PCs are like everyone else in this world: we’re only human. If mistakes were made we’ll have to take the approach that that was then, and this is now,” he told the reporter.

Monday, 25 June 2018

TONED DOWN, REDACTED WITH DELETIONS: DID NALCOR WRITE THE INDEPENDENT ENGINEER'S REPORT? (PART II)

The following is Nalcor VP Gilbert Bennett sharing, in his words, a “mark-up” of the very first Independent Engineer’s Report on the Muskrat Falls project. Bennett is sending the email to Ed Martin, Paul Harrington, James Meaney, and PR types Karen O’Neill and Dawn Dalley. The email reads:

Hello All:

Attached is a mark-up of the November 29 report. Proposed redactions are highlighted in red. Once we’re all good we can lock these in. Once Jim has circulated the appendixes from the November 29 report, I will update accordingly for the full package.

If you have any changes, please let me know…

Regards,

Gilbert

First, just in case you missed it, what Gilbert Bennett is in possession of and is “marking-up” and seeking “changes” in is not a Nalcor Report. It is, ostensibly, the “independent” work of the so-called “Independent Engineer” for the Muskrat Falls project. The year was 2013. In all, there have been a total of 20 IE reports made public since that time. We can reasonably assume that Nalcor has had a hand in each one.  

Monday, 18 June 2018

NALCOR ALLOWED TO SECRETLY CENSOR REPORTS OF INDEPENDENT ENGINEER (PART I)

Imagine if the Auditor General allowed the Department or Agency it is auditing to edit or redact parts of its Report to the House of Assembly. Wouldn’t the public lose all respect and trust afforded to that Office?

Evidence has now been uncovered showing that the “independence” expected of the Independent Engineer for the Muskrat Falls project, on behalf of the Government of Canada, was never established; that at the very beginning Nalcor was permitted to review, edit and redact the Reports before they became public.

The issue of independence was always a worry for the small group of critics of the project. Such scepticism was captured by an Uncle Gnarley Blog Post entitled How Independent is the Independent Engineer? It raised the question following the IE’s first Report (November 29, 2013).  Material evidence of complicity between the IE and Nalcor, which only recently came to light, suggests that those suspicions were justified.

Thursday, 14 June 2018

NORTH SPUR: THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

Guest Post by David Vardy
Sometimes revelations occur and information comes to light which sheds real insight into the mysteries of Muskrat Falls. Uncle Gnarley has just reported on such revelations. Through an ATIPPA request our avuncular friend secured correspondence between the Premier and SNC Lavalin which offers insights into a number of interrelated matters, not the least of which is the relationship between government and Nalcor. Also intertwined in these exchanges are concerns about water management, liquefaction of sensitive clays and methylmercury contamination.  

Uncle Gnarley reported on these mysteries in his post at "Extremely Frustrated" Premier Goes To SNC-Lavalin For Advice.  The Premier wrote to SNC Lavalin to seek advice on the impact of raising and lowering water levels upon erosion of the river banks on the Churchill River. The response from SNC Lavalin urged caution with respect to such variations in water levels, similar to the advice rendered to the advice rendered to the Joint Panel by Dr. Gregory Brooks while dealing with the North Spur.

Monday, 11 June 2018

"EXTREMELY FRUSTRATED" PREMIER GOES TO SNC-LAVALIN FOR ADVICE

The following statement is not correct:

“Running at full output, Churchill Falls (CF), would discharge about 2000 cubic metres per second into the Churchill River. Assuming no reservoir draw down, this level of discharge from CF would by itself provide about 630 MW of production at Muskrat Falls. We could run MF at a higher output level for a period of time and draw down the MF reservoir… we could keep it at Muskrat Falls as well as anywhere else.”

That was Gil Bennett talking a couple of years ago to law student and political Blogger, John Samms, who is now on staff in the Premier’s Office. Note the word “drawdown” to which I will return.

At the time Bennett was telling Samms how Nalcor intended to access surplus power from the Upper Churchill; the amount that exceeded what Bennett erroneously thought was the full contractual power commitment to Hydro Quebec. That assumption didn’t work out too well for Nalcor, the Quebec Superior Court having ruled that Hydro Quebec is entitled to all the power that the Upper Churchill can generate. The Water Management Agreement, intended to coordinate the flow of water, was stillborn too.

Monday, 4 June 2018

LIBERAL PARTY WILL IGNORE THE ABACUS POLL AT THEIR PERIL

The most recent Abacus Poll reflects a NL society increasingly aware of its fiscal circumstance. A realism long missing has returned. Six in ten people now see budget deficits and jobs for the young as a very big problem.

Infrastructure, jobs in general, and health care are matters of similarly high concern. Just possibly the public possesses fewer expectations of their political leadership than even the politicians believe. Scepticism seems to underscore the new Abacus Poll, and for this reason alone it a refreshing read.
Polls are frequently less a reflection on the subjects assessed than of the populace whose views are being aggregated. It is hard not to sense in the Abacus data that NL is in a state of readiness for change.  

Monday, 28 May 2018

ON THE LOOKOUT FOR OUR MEMBERS OF PARLIAMENT

Go ahead. See how quickly you can name the Province’s seven Federal MPs. Can you name even just the one in your riding? If you are having difficulty, it might not be due to memory loss.

It could be that traditional media does not readily seek out our MPs for public policy comment. Or that MPs prefer the non-confrontational media presence afforded on social media platforms. Possibly the whole lot are better suited to images than words anyway. Either way, the seven MPs are seldom part of the narrative of political life in this province. And that is too bad.

Thursday, 24 May 2018

MUSKRAT FALLS COALITION GIVES FIRST REPORT

First Progress Report from Muskrat Falls Concerned Citizens Coalition
Introduction
Some people have been asking what is happening with the Inquiry into the Muskrat Falls project. This is our first update. Next time, a web site, which is under development, will be ready. Future updates will be found there and that platform is expected to offer timely communication throughout the period of the Inquiry. 
What's Been Happening?
The Coalition was created to serve as an intervenor in the Muskrat Falls Inquiry. Upon invitation of the Commissioner the group submitted our interpretation of the TOR, as did a number of others. It can be found here.  The goals of the Inquiry are set out on the Inquiry Website, particularly in the Commissioner’s Interpretation of his Terms of Reference (TOR) here

Monday, 21 May 2018

MEMORIAL LOOKS ELSEWHERE FOR LEADERSHIP. IT SHOULD LOOK AT ITSELF, TOO.

It seems that Memorial University President Gary Kachanoski is frustrated with the Government, though it is a bit late to express that sentiment. Memorial largely ignored the warning signals about debt and risk to civil society from a decade of overspending by successive government Administrations. When the University ought to have sounded the alarm, it instead finds itself in the same boat as every other institution.

Memorial was forced to cut $8.9 million from the University's operating budget this year. In addition, the Government threatened to cut the subsidy to the University by a commensurate value of the increase if tuition fees were hiked for local students. Said a clearly disappointed University President, the province has to decide what kind of university it wants.

Saturday, 19 May 2018

THE BARD ON BULLIES IN THE LEGISLATURE


HILLBULLYS 
Pre-school kids could replace the Assembly on the Hill:
A childlike raucous racket, big hum in air to fill.
Loud bickering and bullying that does little to instill
Confidence in  leaders who know no leading skill.

Introducing rules-of-conduct to regulate ill will, 
To change a human’s nature from decency near nil.
Is distraction from the urgency to lower living bills,
And all the while attention strays from frills at the till.

John Tuach
May 16, 2018

Monday, 14 May 2018

HYDRO SPINNING A TALE FROM BOTH SIDES OF ITS MOUTH

Written with copious notes from PlanetNL
Few members of the public seem concerned that Hydro is pursuing two rate hikes, the equivalent of 18.6%, to be applied over the next two years. In addition, Hydro wants the PUB to charge for Upper Churchill Recall power on the same basis as if it were generated by oil at Holyrood. Hydro wants a “deferral account” for “rate mitigation” which, for reasons described by PlanetNL, may turn out to be small dollars anyway.
Public quiet over the Hydro rate application suggests they may have already become numbed to it all. Having been deceived by their own government(s) since 2010, and having perhaps learned that fake news is not just an American concept, it is possible that, rather than get mad, they plan to get even. Installers of heat pumps have a bright future in this Province.

Thursday, 10 May 2018

IS RATE MITIGATION EVEN POSSIBLE AFTER MUSKRAT?

Guest Post by David Vardy

This is the sequel to my post of March 19, 2018 on the financing of Muskrat Falls called The Impossible Dream Part I: Financing The Labrador Transmission Link. In this post I measure the increased costs associated with Muskrat Falls and discuss the impact on rates and the potential for rate mitigation.
Rate Mitigation
A recent Telegram article (“Power Rate Options Still Unclear”, Telegram, May 5, 2018) . refers to “$60 million to $70 million required to decrease customer rates by one cent per kilowatt hour”. This suggests that, if rates were increased from 12 cents to 17 cents, revenues would rise by $300 million to $420 million. This is highly unrealistic.

Monday, 7 May 2018

BULLYING IN HIGH PLACES: THE CASE OF CATHY BENNETT AND PREMIER DWIGHT BALL

A former Cabinet Minister suggested recently that when partisan politics comes in contact with any issue, it becomes distorted. I thought of the comment’s applicability to the current furor about bullying in the Ball Liberal Caucus, especially the case of Cathy Bennett. Is politics a motivator in how it is being disclosed? How pervasive is the problem? Is it endemic to political office anyway? Who must take responsibility? What “fixes” if any are required?

Those questions beg one more: if the allegations are proven true, what fixes are required, that is to say what effect should the outcome have on public policies?
Bullying is complicated even in the words and context used to describe it. Now that vile behaviours have joined the day-to-day experiences of Ministers and MHAs, and are increasingly part of the political lexicon, commentators and the public have an obligation to include them in debate — as fraught with risk as such a polarizing issue may seem. 

Thursday, 3 May 2018

CAN CHES CROSBIE REBUILD A BROKEN PARTY?

If new Tory leader Ches Crosbie had hoped to wear the moniker “Landslide” after last weekend’s vote, the Party had no qualms denying him any such expression of unanimity.
The contest was a straight two-way leadership race. With Crosbie winning 57% of the vote against 43% for Tony Wakeham, according to the media, the outcome was respectable but hardly overwhelming.

Wakeham came into the race late and with a communications plan that didn’t include the general public. He exhibited little knowledge of public policy issues, too.

In contrast, Crosbie demonstrated preparedness and a willingness to engage people on the ground and on social media. His legal experience shone through the process; his speech was thoughtful and careful.

Sunday, 29 April 2018

NOT JUST EDDIE JOYCE; KIRBY AND THE PREMIER SHOULD GO, TOO


On Saturday the Tories elected a new Party leader. That’s nice. But will he lead? There has been no effective Opposition for at least a decade. Nor has leadership come from the Government benches over the same period, either.
When the economy is going well, business is booming and employment rates are high, leadership of all kinds — especially political leadership — is a commodity taken for granted. Governments play an important role in this economy, even if far too often it is with a negative effect. 

Perhaps it is in the nature of societies to think that things happen for no particular reason. 

Truth is, that’s rarely the case. 

The inability to lead, to be proactive, to have a nose for crisis, and to be willing to undergo the stress of intervention, is at the heart of the Liberal Government’s latest crisis, too.

Thursday, 26 April 2018

TRUTH RUINS NARRATIVE FOR WILLIAMS, MARSHALL AND COADY

Life might be so much simpler if, like innocents on Christmas Eve, we would only believe.  

Stan Marshall, Danny Williams, Siobhan Coady — each one has a narrative that doesn’t fit with the facts, that can’t stand up to the scrutiny even of youngsters. Interestingly, the truth could easily favour Marshall and Coady, but they are unable to resist “spin”; other versions, supposedly, are more worthy of gratitude and acclamation. 
For Marshall, it’s this comment to reporters following Nalcor’s AGM: “Any megaproject in the world would be happy to be where we are.” Presumably, the CEO is referring to the progress made on Muskrat in 2017 which he, ostensibly, influenced. Problem is, he omits that productivity for its major contractor is still only around 22% (that's an average 2.2 hours of work on a 10-hour shift) and that much of this performance is related to poor management by Nalcor. Should we await another multi-million dollar claim by Astaldi?

Monday, 23 April 2018

HOW NALCOR UNDERMINES PUBLIC POLICY; BUYS FRIENDS AND SILENCE

Crown corporations are established for a multitude of political and public policy reasons. Most, ostensibly, fill market gaps in services and activities “ignored by for-profit private organizations” and therefore deemed the responsibility of government.  

A Paper by Philippe Bergevin on the website of the C.D. Howe Institute (from which the quote above was drawn) examines risks posed by the Crown Corporation model. It suggests that whether Crown corporations are “relevant” or if they serve only to “complement or displace private activity”, their policies should be limited in ways “to more clearly align them with the institutions’ core mandates and the defensible features of their economic rationales”.

Thursday, 19 April 2018

THE INQUIRY: INTRIGUE IS WHERE YOU FIND IT

The Hearing Room, on the first day of the Muskrat Falls Inquiry, might have served as metaphor for the author Joan Clark, and her story of madness and altered perception in “An Audience of Chairs”. She would find plenty of sub-plots here, except that the madness to be assessed will likely have only a tangential association with delusion.

Even that assumption — as with all those that gave the project its silver lining — may seem excessive. Madness? Delusion? On this first day, at this Inquiry, at $12.7 billion and counting, we might wonder: who is asking? That’s because the audience was mostly chairs. The place was virtually empty, except for the usual bevy of blue suits and a few others.

Monday, 16 April 2018

SECRET “MANAGEMENT RESERVE” FOR MUSKRAT UNCOVERED

If there are still surprises hidden deep within Nalcor’s crumbling walls, recent information obtained by this blogger under ATIPPA has brought at least one more of them into the light. (Another is that the once-limp Muskrat Falls Oversight Committee is exhibiting serious signs of life!)

Documents obtained from the Oversight Committee suggest that Nalcor may have maintained a secret “Management Reserve” budget for a category of risk known as “Strategic Risk”. The Reserve was kept out of the estimates for the project and placed under the control of the “Gatekeeper”, presumably the former Nalcor CEO, Ed Martin.

Nalcor evidently understood that such an allocation had important budgetary implications for the project - and for their ability to sell the scheme. But its importance was too great to let the public know anything about it.

The fund was not revealed to the PUB during examination of the DG-2 estimates or later. 
But, in addition, Nalcor also did not disclose any allowance for Strategic Risk in their DG-2 estimates, DG-3 estimates, or any estimates provided to the public prior to 2016.

Why would any category of project costs have been kept secret, or excluded?

Sunday, 15 April 2018

A POET'S PLEA: WE NEED TO KNOW WHO SOLD THE FARM

RISE AND FALLS

Standing firm on guard for thee,
we coalesce to make our plea,
and while the horse has left the barn,
we need to know who sold the farm;

An enterprise whose smell pervades,
the waters and its everglades;
whose genesis just boggles minds,
while mares will watch their bare behinds;

Thursday, 12 April 2018

ANDREW NIKIFORUK A SOULMATE FOR DAVID VARDY

David Vardy, a frequent contributor on this Blog, can often be found discussing how the failure of the Muskrat Falls project is symptomatic of a broken democracy. He met up recently with Andrew Nikiforuk, an award winning journalist who has written for twenty years about the energy industry.

Monday, 9 April 2018

A DEBACLE AND THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT'S ROLE IN IT (Part II)

This is part II of a report chronicling Ottawa’s role in the Muskrat Falls project as both enabler and colluder with the Government of NL and Nalcor.  It discusses numerous areas, albeit briefly, where the Feds ignored blatant holes in Nalcor's business case for the project, each embodying the certainty of project failure. It also describes how they empowered Nova Scotia to control award of the Federal Loan Guarantee (FLG), failed to perform essential due diligence after the project was sanctioned and, inexplicable, failed to intervene as the project's price tag doubled for reasons it had an obligation to all the taxpayers of Canada to understand.   

Thursday, 5 April 2018

FEDERAL COMPLICITY: THE UNTOLD STORY OF MUSKRAT FALLS (Part I)

This two part report chronicles Ottawa’s role in the Muskrat Falls project as both enabler and colluder with the Government of NL and Nalcor.  How the Feds empowered Nova Scotia to control award of the Federal Loan Guarantee (FLG) is discussed along with Ottawa’s failure to perform basic due diligence to protect Canadian taxpayers and reduce or eliminate the risk of default by the Government of NL. The articles describe the manner in which the Feds were complicit in an unviable project advanced under unwarranted assumptions. It also details how they refused to intervene as the MF project sank under gross management incompetence.  

Introduction
When the Government causes a catastrophe in our name, we are all collectively responsible. Such is the case with the Muskrat Falls project. 
In one way or another NL will pay for the debacle; just not the whole cost, because the accumulated provincial debt compounded by excessive borrowing for Muskrat has made our total debt unmanageable. We are effectively broke. 
But even if NL’s coffers were full, taking into account the role played by the Government of Canada as “enabler”  without whose guarantee Muskrat would have died in design, the Feds’ complicity in the sanction and its aftermath makes it a responsible party. The Federal Government’s actions, and often inaction, ought to be exposed.

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

BLOG NEWS: BARD MAKES BLOGGER BLUSH

BLOG DUES
Two million pageviews! Now that’s Blog news,
As Uncle Gnarley tries to clue
The uninformed and unenlightened
On NL matters, with a bite in.

One of few that truth pursues
On hidden facts and obscured issues.
A mighty task to dare to ask
For honesty, and to graft unmask.

Through constant fog, he writes away
To shine the light on unearned pay,
And always with a reasoned view.
To Des Sullivan, much thanks are due.

John Tuach
March 29, 2018

Monday, 2 April 2018

PAYING TWICE: CAN MUSKRAT GET ANY WORSE FOR RATEPAYERS?

Guest Post by David Vardy

Paying Twice for Muskrat Falls
Can Muskrat Falls get any worse for taxpayers and ratepayers? Yes it can get worse if we are forced to pay for it twice. That is the path on which we have embarked. 
The fundamental problem is that, once Muskrat Falls is accepted as part of the energy landscape, people will attempt to avoid paying for it by purchasing heat pumps and making other investments to reduce consumption of electricity. This avoidance and substitution is why demand for Muskrat Falls power will decline over time, perhaps quickly. Without a domestic market, export markets become the only avenue to generate revenues. 
In a normal world it is good for people to reduce demand for high cost power by seeking alternatives. It is good to conserve through more efficient heating technology. But in our upside down world it may be increasing the overall investment surrounding Muskrat Falls from $12.7 billion by perhaps another billion dollars.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

THE BARD ON AVARICE AND COD FISH

CODFISH

When Cabot crossed the raging Main,
Cod in commons sight were plain.
But avarice - human greed
Caught King Cod to paltry breed
And Fish for food was sought in vain.

They said the Cod are back again:
Pre-spawning! - (3PS) catch campaign!!
Over grounds that Codfish seed,
An echo of the inane deed
Caused Newfoundland to pain.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

MOODY’S DOUBTS OSBORNE ABLE TO ACHIEVE BUDGET BALANCE

Monday’s Blog Post forecasting a ‘status quo’ Budget didn’t exactly require going out on a limb. The Government had long ago made clear that they don’t like making decisions, especially ones that disappoint or that engender public protest; so they don’t.
Problem is, inaction and indecision carry consequences. Continued vacillation threatens the fiscal viability of the whole province. 
Moody's, a financial services and debt rating agency, has our position in its crosshairs. In a review released just yesterday, the Firm noted that NL's "path to balanced budgets is at risk". They said:
It’s not a novel announcement. But the right ones are saying it  (text of announcement is provided at the end of this Post.)

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

CAN THE MF CONCERNED CITIZENS COALITION MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

Guest Post by David Vardy

Will the Coalition make a difference? 
One of those invited to join the Muskrat Falls Concerned Citizens’ Coalition (MFCCC) asked the following questions:
Thank you for the invitation to join your Coalition. I have two questions, answers to which will have an impact on my decision as to whether or not to join:
Questions:
1:   How can the Coalition positively impact the disastrous situation that Messrs Williams, Martin, Bennett and others have visited on the residents and taxpayers of this Province? 
2:  What can the Coalition do to prevent similar misadventures by future majority governments?

Monday, 26 March 2018

OSBORNE'S BUDGET BAKED LONG BEFORE TUESDAY

If prudence was ever a word in Tom Osborne’s lexicon it was likely extracted as a condition of accepting the Finance post. Profligacy, now known in this province as status quo, is a more likely fit when the Minister delivers, on Tuesday, the seventh deficit Budget in a row.

Ask public sector labour. Ask the health care sector. They know there can be no change because their fiscal arrangements — which represent a very high percentage of total budgeted expenditures — have been carved in stone.
Then there are the Polls. When the Premier’s popularity climbs amidst a refusal to acknowledge a fiscal crisis — one that grows each day — it might be right to suggest that the public, too, is content to leave the pain for someone — anyone — else.  
It is possible that other factors are at play; that what is really influencing Ball’s polling gains is a Tory leadership vacuum. But I’m not so sure about that. 

Friday, 23 March 2018

YOU ARE INVITED! Join Muskrat Falls Concerned Citizens’ Coalition (MFCCC)

(Your response to this invitation is time sensitive due to limited time for receipt of application. Please include your address - and phone# if desired) EMAIL:
MFConcernedCitizensCoalition@gmail.com



Why bother establishing Coalition?
Will our children and grandchildren want to remain here in Newfoundland and Labrador? Would we want them to live here and bring up their families? Will this be a good place for them to live after we begin repaying the huge debt from Muskrat Falls? What can we do about it, other than to leave?
One thing we can do is to make the Muskrat Falls Inquiry a success. The Commissioner has invited applications for standing for the Inquiry. The Inquiry will provide a forum for evaluating why the project was sanctioned and why it has become such a monumental fiasco and a threat to our sovereignty and financial sustainability. We are hopeful it will shed light on the options for the future, to mitigate the damage.

There is a real danger that Nalcor will overwhelm the Inquiry with its virtually unlimited resources. Only an energetic, passionate and intelligent intervention will enable the Commission to achieve a balanced understanding of the complex history of this project and how sound public policy principles and management best practices were repudiated. We are inviting you to join us to create a countervailing force which will ensure a transparent, accessible and fair hearing process and enable the Commissioner to fulfill his challenging mandate.

The undersigned plan to submit an application for standing and funding to the Muskrat Falls Commission of Inquiry by the Muskrat Falls Concerned Citizens Coalition (MFCCC). The deadline is 5 pm on March 28, 2018. If we are successful we will incorporate a company which will elect a Board of Directors. We hope you will agree to join as a member.

Our purpose is to ensure that the Commission arrives at a full understanding of the factors which led to the decision to undertake the Muskrat Falls project as well as an understanding of why costs escalated so dramatically. In addition the Commission must provide an analysis of the options available to the province in order to reduce the cost of power to ratepayers and to minimize the financial impact on the province.

Our reason for seeking standing is to assist the Commission to understand the issues and to direct their attention to witnesses who might assist them. We all, as citizens, have an interest in the findings of the Commission and in the action taken arising from their recommendations by virtue of the magnitude of the project and its overall impact from an economic, financial and environmental standpoint.  The planning process, the regulatory oversight and the quality of project management are all important factors contributing to the debacle of Muskrat Falls. Equally important, once the project is completed, is how to mitigate the damage and evaluate the options available to ensure that the project does not bankrupt the province. In seeking standing we all have an interest in the outcome of the inquiry.

The undersigned bring to the Inquiry considerable expertise relating to the project, having written many articles and briefs on the subject and participated in many public forums, including the PUB’s reference hearing in 2012. Our participation in the public policy debate over the past eight years enables us to offer important insights which will further the conduct of the inquiry. Our efforts will also provide a countervailing view to the evidence which is likely to be presented by Nalcor Energy and will therefore “contribute to the openness and fairness of the inquiry.”

In order to operate within a modest budget we will not hire outside expert witnesses but will instead rely on the expertise of our own volunteer members who will attend hearings and report back to the group through a rotating roster. We plan to apply to engage legal counsel to represent us at the hearing.

We are inviting you to join our group and to support our submission by allowing us to include your name in our submission. We are also inviting you to become a member of the organization we intend to incorporate, if our application is successful, under the name of the Muskrat Falls Concerned Citizens Coalition. Your role as a member will be to support our work in every way possible, including review of documents and monitoring hearings as well as electing directors.

Please tell us if you know of other like-minded people who we might approach. We need a critical mass of members if we are to achieve our ambitious purpose.

The success of our efforts will depend upon the strength of our team. We have no illusion that the undersigned can achieve our purpose on our own, without your help. We will need your energy, your passion and your intellect to make this successful.

Please reply as soon as possiblewithin the next 48 hours and, if you agree, please supply your full name, address and contact information so that we can include it in our application for standing.

Ron Penney

Des Sullivan

David Vardy

Thursday, 22 March 2018

ENGINEER OFFERS JUDGE LEBLANC POINTS TO PONDER

Guest Post by Phil Helwig, P. Eng.

A year ago I started an article in reaction to Danny William’s speech to the Board of Trade but never completed it.

Now that Nalcor’s management of Muskrat Falls will be scrutinized. It is timely to examine some issues for the investigation.

Monday, 19 March 2018

The Impossible Dream Part I: Financing the Labrador Transmission Link

Guest Post by David Vardy

This is Part I of a series on the financing of Muskrat Falls and will focus on the 1150 km transmission line from Muskrat Falls, across the Strait of Belle Isle, and down the Island to Soldiers Pond, outside of St. John’s. Part II will deal with the financing of the generation component. We will refer to the line as the Labrador Island Link (LIL), which is the only high voltage direct current (HVDC) line in the province. It is owned jointly by Emera and by Nalcor.
The LIL’s direct costs, not including financing costs during construction, amount to $3.7 B of the $10.1 B direct costs of the LIL and the generation assets combined, representing 37% of the capital assets which comprise the NL components of Muskrat Falls. Cost of financing during construction brings the total LIL cost to $4,959 or 39% of the overall $12.7 billion estimated cost. 

Thursday, 15 March 2018

LABRADOR POWER RATES THREATENED BY HUGE INCREASES

Guest Post by PlanetNL

PlanetNL8: Labrador Interconnected System (LIS) Under Threat of Huge Rate Increases

The largest regulated zone in Labrador is the Labrador Interconnected System (LIS) powered by Churchill Falls with transmission lines running to Labrador West and East.  These are all relatively old assets that have provided exceptionally economical service and the lowest rates in North America and possibly the entire western world. 

Government policy for this unique regulated rate zone, however, is about to prove the old adage of having too much of a good thing could prove to be not good for you.  Low rates have attracted new demand that will lead to expensive new transmission line construction resulting in major rate increases for everyone in the LIS.  There’s also a long shadow cast by Muskrat Falls as well.

Government has the authority to select a different course but as demonstrated by Muskrat Falls, doing the right thing for ratepayers is probably not on the agenda.
……………………

Monday, 12 March 2018

PUBLIC NEEDS TO GO TO WAR, FIRST WITH BALL THEN FEDS

Unless an issue impacts on a personal level, the public is generally sparse with its time on matters of public policy. There are good reasons for that, even if people would profit from debate and a scepticism untainted by partisanship. Ultimately, people live their lives giving priority to the needs of family and employment, even as they lament the threat to their living standards and peace of mind posed by a decade of miserable political leadership.

Yes, people want to know why Muskrat — a project glorified by all strata of society — could have been so poorly conceived and executed. They want to know if malfeasance was involved. But, in the end, they will leave the issue of responsibility and recrimination to the institutions charged with the maintenance of civil society.

Most know that what is hanging over them will be devastating if no action is taken to alter the outcome. By and large, people now want to hear solutions. They want “fixes” that constitute something more than empty promises by politicians whose focus is the next election.

Sunday, 11 March 2018

ON ROBBING PETER TO PAY PAUL

G STRINGS
(funds and awards)
George Bernard Shaw: “Government that robs Peter to pay Paul has the support of Paul”

When funding springs from G -
Who bares the truth? Who dares critique?
Who pulls the string for action flawed?

Who allots the jackpot-awed?
Who probes and prods as heretic?
Approval in the loud applaud.

Thursday, 8 March 2018

LABRADOR GROUPS FOCUS MF INQUIRY ON "EROSION OF TRUST"

The Grand River Keepers (GRK) and the Labrador Land Protectors (LLP) have constituted Labrador's most steadfast opposition to the Muskrat Falls project. Though relatively small in number they have had an out-sized influence on public awareness in Labrador and throughout the province.


Rarely enjoying the unequivocal support of formal aboriginal government or town councils, the issues with which they have grappled – methylmercury and concerns regarding public safety, like the North Spur stability problem - they have advanced rational public policy themes which are important to every citizen. 
Their support has come from individual aboriginals and non-aboriginal people alike; individuals who have often felt that the Native Groups and the Town Councils, including the one in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, have been far too willing to take Nalcor’s strings-attached largesse in return for deference and for keeping quiet.

Monday, 5 March 2018

THE UGLY TRUTH ABOUT DEMOCRACY IN NL

Democracy on the Rocks
Guest Post by David Vardy

“Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.” 

Dylan Thomas was talking about death. Death is also the issue in our province, namely the death of democracy. 
Edmund Burke said: “All that is necessary for evil to prevail is for good men to do nothing.”
If good people remain silent when evil is being done our democracy will die. Our democracy is a fragile flower. It must be watered and fed. It must be protected against those who would hurt it. 

Muskrat Falls has been a case study in the failure of democracy, a microcosm of a far bigger problem. Unless we fix it urgently our democracy will die.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

EX-PATS COME HOME...PLEASE!


EX-PATS 
(Come Home... Please!)

The Province and MUN is hosting little chats
in the hopes of luring Expat’s and Alumni back -
seeking extra revenues for interest on the bonds,
and to gain from their experiences in the bigger Ponds.

Surveying to find why Pats fled in want attack!
Why-survey costs to save: well-paid work, a lack.
NL jobs are scarce and most in Pol’s embrace,
folks wouldn’t have to leave if opportunity the case.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

THE ROOMS SAYS DON’T APPLY IF YOU ARE A CRITIC OF THE GOVERNMENT

If you plan to answer The Rooms’ Request for Proposals (RFP) to act as the museum’s marketing agency, there’s only one problem: you won’t get the job if you are or have been a critic of the Government.

In the jargon of the marketing business, The Rooms is seeking an Agency of Record (AOR).
Recently, the allNewfoundlandLabrador business news website reported that The Rooms plans to “build off the success of its Beaumont Hamel exhibit”. The work involves a range of tasks “from marketing and campaign strategy to creative development, online content [and] social media”.

The allNewfoundlandLabrador article describes The Rooms as “the institution that safeguards the province’s arts, culture and history…” Then, too, The Rooms is identified with another role: as custodian of the military history and memorabilia of members of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.

Where is the evidence of The Rooms’ transgression?

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

VARDY AND LEARNING TO PRESENT AT "FOR A NEW EARTH" EVENT ON MUSKRAT FALLS


Guest Post by For a New Earth

For A New Earth (FANE) is pleased to present a public talk with David Vardy (Economist, former Public Utilities Board Chair, former Clerk of the Executive Council and Secretary to Cabinet) and with Grand Riverkeeper and Labrador Land Protector Jim Learning, at the Peter Easton Pub, on the future of Muskrat Falls on Thursday, March 1st, at 7:30pm.

FANE co-hosted a public Symposium on Muskrat Falls in Happy Valley-Goose Bay last week, and will kick off Thursday evening with a public recap of the highlights of the event, which included a series of talks, presentations, sharing circles, and a final discussion on a formal resolution to be drafted.

Vardy and Learning both participated in the event. 

Monday, 26 February 2018

CAN MUSKRAT FLOAT AFTER A BAILOUT?

Guest Post by PlanetNL

PlanetNL7 – Can Muskrat Float After a Bailout
In prior PlanetNL postings, Muskrat economics have been shown to be unaffordable to consumers and a major threat to the solvency and survival of the Government of the Province.  Write-offs are a certainty and there may be many who think the project might look good after that.

Equity write-downs and restructuring of unmanageable debt are well known practices in the corporate world.  Does Muskrat have the potential to avail of such opportunities and would operations then make economic sense? 
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Thursday, 22 February 2018

THE ANONYMOUS ENGINEER EXPLAINS FORENSIC AUDIT

Recently the Commission of Inquiry into the Muskrat Falls project announced that it had contracted the management firm of Grant Thornton LLP to conduct a Forensic Audit. What does Forensic Audit mean? What is involved? What will it accomplish?

Who would answer those questions better than the  "Anonymous Engineer". He was the first person to ask for a "Forensic Audit".  Having worked on the project he made this declaration: “I could not put up with falsifying information anymore."

The whistleblower played a key role in bringing to public attention the issue of "falsified" or "low-balled" estimates. His concerns were first noted on January 30, 2017 in a post entitled Muskrat Falls Estimates A Complete FalsificationA more detailed explanation of what had occurred followed with a second post - February 6, 2017 - called Muskrat: Allegations of Phony Cost Estimates.

The Anonymous Engineer's revelations were ones that neither the Premier nor the Minister of Natural Resources could refute, and which likely influenced the Government's call of the Public Inquiry. 

Monday, 19 February 2018

STAN MARSHALL DOUBLES DOWN ON BLUSTER

Stan Marshall's Muskrat Falls Update entitled “Understanding Muskrat” ought to have been an opportunity for the Nalcor CEO to engage with the public and sensibly discuss a litany of concerns. That's not what he had in mind.

Perhaps it was the air of arrogance that killed the evening at Memorial’s Bruneau Centre, though the softening of his “boondoggle” coinage inspired a measure of incredulity. The readiness to bully every critic of the project — no matter the legitimacy of their claims — spoke to a man who needed understanding less than he did validation, though condescension is not normally known to help win friends.