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? 
………………….

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.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

THE BARD ON TRAGEDY OF THE COMMONS

FILLING IN

They're filling in along the shore,
On mudflat, bog, and gravel bar.
At riverside and through the Bay
No buffer zones enforced today.

In many towns Municipal
In Provincial Parks or Federal
The excavators and big trucks
On Preserves are dumping muck.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

ABACUS POLL CONTAINS CLEAR MESSAGE FOR LIBERALS

In June 2015, as a General Election beckoned, Abacus Data reported that only 3% of those polled perceived Muskrat Falls/electricity as “the most important issue facing NL”. Just 11% expressed concern over the deficit.  


The election gave vent to a public which had watched the P.C. Party languish in a succession of “amateur hours”. They ran the gamut from Dunderdale’s #DarkNL moment to Frank Coleman’s transparently self-serving attempt to become First Minister for all the wrong reasons. 

Tom Marshall left behind a legacy of deficits and not just those related to the Budget. There was the Humber Valley Paving affair and the charade of Muskrat Falls’ oversight.

Monday, 12 February 2018

FORTY QUESTIONS FOR THE INQUIRY JUDGE. PUBLIC SUPPORT SOUGHT.

David Vardy, Ron Penney and I have responded to the call of the Muskrat Falls Commission of Inquiry for submissions from the public on the interpretation of the Terms of Reference.

Our submission encourages the Commissioner to give the Terms of Reference a broad interpretation. It proposes a complete review of the project - one that provides full context for the public policy decision to announce and then sanction the project. It also seeks an investigation into matters relating to the management of the project and its long term effects on ratepayers and all the citizens of the province. 

Thursday, 8 February 2018

MF INQUIRY: UNCERTAINTY THE FUEL OF SCEPTICS

If Judge Richard LeBlanc feels like he is being watched, perhaps he will delay judging the cynics until after he has judged Nalcor. 

Each decision taken by the Commission of Inquiry into the Muskrat Falls Project is understandably scrutinized as watchers assess whether the Commission is capable enough to undertake the enormous task for which it has signed on, and whether the Commission will be transparent enough to imbue public confidence in its mandate, procedures and processes. Arguably, perhaps, the Commission is already making decisions whose side-effect is enabling this result.  The Premier could have given the Inquiry a head start had he submitted a draft Terms of Reference (TOR) to the public and sought input. That job fell to Judge LeBlanc.

Monday, 5 February 2018

THE "MOONSHINE" LIST

The mainstream media likes to report the "Sunshine List". That's the one covering public servants earning $100,000 or more and who are employed with core government departments, agencies, boards and commissions including Crown Corporations. Some people believe the List serves a purpose beyond simply providing access to public information; that it gives transparency to decisions over which self-interested bureaucrats have too much influence.  

This Blog is also concerned about transparency. I suggest that public commentators who are paid consultants of the government should be added to the list or distinguished in a separate one. Therefore, I am proposing the "Moonshine" List. Why "Moonshine"? The liquid version often lacks clarity - like the consulting industry. "Moonlight" List was also a convincing option because "moonlight" is harder to catch than "sunshine", but like "moonshine" offers the assurance of an occasional glow.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

THE MUSKRAT FALLS INQUIRY NEEDS YOU

Justice Richard LeBlanc has started the task of getting the Commission of Inquiry into the Muskrat Falls Project underway by allowing for the engagement of the public. Essentially, the Judge is asking for opinions with respect to the interpretation of the Terms of Reference (TOR). That outcome will govern the scope of the Inquiry.


This is an important phase. The Judge is doing what the Premier ought to have done.  But, unlike the Premier, Justice LeBlanc cannot alter or amend the TOR. He is, however, entitled to give them broad interpretation — as long as he does not overstep their parameters (over which he will exercise a Judge’s discretion). 

Anyone who has followed the Muskrat Falls saga will understand that the project’s origins, evolution and catastrophic failure required a complex web of political machinations, deals, contracts and relationships. Those who were poorly suited to the task, who were arrogant, who let ego or greed get the better of them, who were elected and were unwise or assumed a knowledge or a skill they didn’t possess, or who forgot to whom they owed fealty, will now be confronted with a Judge who will independently assess those decisions, their authors (some of them anyway), and the institutions that enabled them.

Monday, 29 January 2018

PUT NAPE DEAL AGAINST A “STUPID” TAX ON BUSINESS

How does the existential threat of insolvency get catapulted into questions about the “no-layoff” clause in NAPE’s new collective agreement and whether it will be embedded beyond the contract’s expiry date?

It is one thing for Gerry Earle to huff and puff and threaten retaliation if business organizations persist in criticizing a deal hatched with a hapless government. But the Board of Trade’s insertion of Howard Levitt, a labour lawyer, as if he were the embodiment of the province’s frustration over its fiscal mess, is tantamount to lunacy. 
The province’s debt crisis is not a collective bargaining issue. It is a leadership problem. The government is happy that most cannot distinguish between the two. It gives them cover for dither. 

Sunday, 28 January 2018

THE BARD ASKS: WHO SETS THE RULES?

PRESELECTION

Could it be a new direction,
Or in effect a preelection?
Would we see a change in graft -
Taxpayers’ still to get the shaft?
Who sets rules for rules to craft?   

Who preselects the preselectors?
Academics or Corp. directors?
Or legal minds for fees to fill?
Or politicians at municipal till?
Bureaucrats with time to kill?
Special interests to top the Hill.
Who’s for good of common Will?  

John Tuach
January 26, 2018

Thursday, 25 January 2018

LOOK WHAT'S ON OFFER IN THE DEMOCRACY COOKBOOK

The Democracy Cookbook, subtitled “Recipes to renew governance in Newfoundland and Labrador,” was spearheaded by Editors Alex Marland, Associate Professor in the Department of Political Science, and Lisa Moore, Assistant Professor in the Department of English. It is a “collection of short and snappy, non-partisan opinion pieces authored by a cross-section of opinion leaders, academics, creative writers and other citizens.” 

This blogger feels fortunate to have made the latter category. As the editors suggest, the collection “brings together a wide variety of voices to speak to the matter of ‘fixing’ democratic governance in Newfoundland and Labrador…” Imagine that readers of the Uncle Gnarley Blog might have a view on a subject such as that!

Monday, 22 January 2018

AN EXCEPTIONAL CHIEF JUSTICE STEPS DOWN

When Derek Green, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador, stepped down on December 1, 2017, the province’s judicial system received a signal that it was about to lose the contribution of “a great legal mind and jurist,” as Justice Minister Andrew Parsons acknowledged from the floor of the House of Assembly.


The opportunity to applaud Judge Green as an example of strong institutional leadership is too inviting to pass up. While this Blog spends far too much energy chastising others in positions of governmental and institutional leadership and pointing out their shortcomings, the system that governs the application of the rule of law has, by contrast, been managed in a way that exhibits intellectual depth, seriousness of purpose and unblemished integrity. 
With the government in a mess, and some of our institutions oblivious to their heightened obligations in the circumstance, it is reassuring that our judicial system — though far from perfect — is a beacon to the country and to the rest of the world.  Judge Green is surely one of the reasons such a claim is justified.

Thursday, 18 January 2018

MF INQUIRY COULD BENEFIT FROM WORKERS' STORIES


The January 1st, 2018, Post reported the Top Ten Posts of 2017 and indicated, among other things, that a future post would report a small sampling of emails received from workers on the Muskrat Falls project.
Sometimes the public is better served when the “news” they receive is the "raw" material - neither analysed nor edited. It is tough to improve on a worker’s personal experience especially when they are assessing the work space, the management, Q&A or some other issue from the perspective of their experience at Muskrat Falls and on other projects. 

What follows are the verbatim emails of two people: one from a professional engineer and another from a surveyor; each offering insights into a poorly run project. 

Monday, 15 January 2018

NAPE DEAL IGNORES THE POINT OF NO RETURN

Pick any public service — education, health care, or the general services — and statistics show that this province employs a far higher number of employees per capita than the Canadian average. Yet, notwithstanding the province’s desperate financial position, it entered into a four-year “no layoff” agreement with NAPE, handcuffing itself from remedy except by attrition — a highly unsuitable and inefficient management tool. 

The Ball Government went one step further. It agreed to pay out of an empty till, this fiscal year, severance which had been negotiated in previous collective agreements — estimated to cost $250 million.  It seems that the Minister of Finance did his very best to support an assertion made in The Finance Minister’s Lucky Rabbit’s Foot that “an election looms and the government has a sale on collective agreements”.

Sunday, 14 January 2018

THE BARD ON THE "NO POINT PLAN"

DON’T BREATHE
(No Point Plan)

Empty schools, keep them open,
Ferry service, keep them hoping.
Muskrat Falls, no power aspire,
And can’t allow a full Inquire.
Smile and grin and don’t perspire.

Thursday, 11 January 2018

THE PARLIAMENTARY BUDGET OFFICER HAS NEWS FOR YOU

There is more than one useful approach to understanding the unsustainability of the province’s debt. In addition to the discussion on the Muskrat Falls project, JM wrote a series of articles entitled “A Decade of Squandered Opportunity”. David Vardy has combined discussions of the debt and deficit with the alarming growth in cost overruns.

The Blog's newest analyst, identified as PlanetNL, undertook the process of dissecting Nalcor’s revenue requirements to sustain the financing, operation and management of the Muskrat Falls project showing that the cost of rate mitigation would seriously compete with funding for social programs and add to annual deficits.  This correspondent has tackled successive Budgets and Budget Updates, too. 
None of the writers have been subtle. All have felt a need to expose the simple reality that successive Administrations, including the current one, have downplayed, ignored or distorted the problem – in the process speeding up, rather than curtailing, our journey towards insolvency.  

Monday, 8 January 2018

MARY SHORTALL’S LA LA LAND

No one will argue that it is the right of every citizen to express an opinion, as Mary Shortall did recently in a letter to the Editor of The Telegram. In it she made a series of claims regarding the fiscal capacity of the government and the financial impact of the Muskrat Falls project; “exaggerated doom and gloom,” she called the comments of naysayers. Her missive contained no factual basis whatsoever.

Presumably knowledgeable readers will conclude that such writers are ill-informed and poorly read. The case of Mary Shortall is bit different, however. She was not sharing her personal views: Shortall signed the letter in her elected capacity, as President of the Newfoundland & Labrador Federation of Labour.  
The Federation, like most labour Unions and professional associations, has for years sought a voice in the formulation of public policy. The President, no differently than her predecessors, is afforded space on the public airwaves and in other media to state labour’s position on a plethora of issues extending well beyond the collective bargaining space. 

Sunday, 7 January 2018

THE LOOTERY CABAL?


THE LOOTERY CABAL? 
(Big Job Draw*)

Victims will need to hear and see the names appear -
Of racketeers - of those who planned to profiteer, 
Dreamt of public debt, and commandeered a future drear. 
Audacity to admire, and to condemn with tear.

Thursday, 4 January 2018

THE FINANCE MINISTER’S LUCKY RABBIT’S FOOT

Key public policy issues, especially the Muskrat Falls project and the province’s fiscal condition, received the most attention on this Blog in 2017. They are receiving increasing notice from the mainstream media, too, even if the gruel is often thin.

In a few corners there is increasing concern over the solvency of the province. A weak government is asked to provide leadership, but can’t get up the nerve. 
As if to magnify the weakness with which the electorate perceives all the political parties, the Dwight Ball Liberals maintained a lead in the polls as 2017 ran out: CRA reported that 44% of voters preferred the Liberals against 33%for the Tories and 19% for the NDP. Yet 63% of voters are dissatisfied with the performance of the Liberals, begging the question: if the Premier provided some leadership, would not the Liberal Party’s numbers be higher? 

Monday, 1 January 2018

THE TOP TEN POSTS 2017

It is (now) a tradition on this Blog to report the most popular Posts of the year just passed. 
But first, I want to thank David Vardy, Cabot Martin, James L. Gordon, P.Eng (Ret'd), Ron Penney and “JM” for their many excellent contributions throughout 2017. I frequently hear from readers who appreciate their analysis and that of the other writers noted in this introduction. It takes many hours to research and write this work. What better time to note their contribution to the Blog! 
Our newest contributor, who writes under PlanetNL, deserves special acknowledgement having contributed several Posts already – each of which speaks to his commitment to high standards of research and analysis. One example is Chernobyl-Lite: The Price Of Denying Muskrat Economics in which the writer reduces the rationale for stopping Muskrat to its essence: in the absence of an economic rationale, there is no reason for the project to continue.