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?

David Vardy responded as follows:
I am taking the liberty to offer my own feeble attempt to answer your questions. At the same time I am inviting my MFCCC colleagues to challenge me or to build upon what I have said. I am only one person and these are my views only:
I believe the Commission has demonstrated its willingness to listen to the public and that it has acted on advice given to it. On December 11, 2017 a panel discussion took place at Memorial University to bring forward ideas to make the Inquiry successful. The panel seized on the need for the Commission to begin by identifying the questions that need to be asked and they wrote to the Commissioner. He responded by inviting the public to participate and to identify important questions and the authority of the Inquiry to deal with them. On the basis of this input he wrote his Interpretation, which to my thinking, went as far as he could go to broaden the Inquiry within the scope of the terms of reference within which he was working. 
Judge Richard LeBlanc

At an early stage the Commission engaged Grant Thornton to undertake a forensic audit. It is difficult to imagine how such a step would have been taken if not for the fact that the “anonymous engineer” spoke out on the Uncle Gnarley Blog and on the CBC Morning Show. The Commissioner showed a sensitivity and awareness of the concerns which were raised, not only with the competence of those carrying out the project but also with their integrity. Missing from the terms of reference was the relationship between government and Nalcor. The Commissioner has seen fit to include this important missing component through his broad interpretation.

Particularly encouraging was his paragraph 41 which reads as follow:
"While there is some overlap between the issues to be considered under terms 4(a) and 4(b), matters for consideration under 4(b) will include such things as Nalcor's ability to oversee and manage a project of the magnitude of the Muskrat Falls Project, whether construction scheduling for the Project was reasonable, whether the contractual arrangements with contractors, subcontractors, consultants and others, including embedded contractors, were appropriately entered into in accordance with industry best practice, whether any reports or risk assessments were obtained by Nalcor, who they were shared with and how they were responded to by Nalcor. One such report will be the SNC Lavalin Report dated April 23, 2013 which will merit particular attention by the Commission. As well, I must consider whether appropriate or proper consideration was given and actions taken regarding potential risk to the environment, human safety and property related to the stability of the North Spur and methylmercury contamination. How these reports or assessments were received by Nalcor and whether they were made available to the Board of Nalcor as well as the Government will also be a part of the investigation to be conducted."

The sentences in red refer to the SNC Lavalin report on risk and how the risk report entered into the complex relationship between Nalcor and government. Through the language marked in red the Commissioner has acknowledged the important role of environmental risks, along with human safety related to the North Spur and methyl mercury contamination. Without listening to the voices from the community he would have found it difficult to include these matters within his mandate.
These are examples of how the Commission is listening to the public. They encourage us to believe that we can make a difference if we can organize a strong Coalition to bring forward evidence and ideas that will help the Commission.
The first guiding principle enunciated by the Commissioner in his Interpretation of his Terms of Reference was Independence. Independence is vital so that the Commission is not held prisoner by the expertise and resources of Nalcor and of government. It will be a real challenge for the Commission to find credible experts to present testimony critical of these entities which wield so much power in our community. That is where the Coalition can contribute enormously if it can attract the input of people like you, people who know the energy business and how megaprojects are managed effectively.

The Commission can identify what actions led to the present fiasco and put forward norms of behaviour which were violated and which must be corrected if we as a society are to avoid such egregious mistakes in the future. It can identify the failings in our governance and in our expectations of what governments can do by taking risks on our behalf without weighing the potential for inflicting great harm. The Commission can inform us of the changes that need to be made in order to avoid such mistakes.
Your question focuses on what the Coalition can do. As you know its effectiveness depends upon how much respect the Commission has for its expertise and judgement and on what resources the Coalition can mobilize. There is a lot of expertise in our community and the Coalition provides a mechanism to harness it. We also have to recognize the limitations in our local capacity and reach out to the international expertise which is so vital to the success of a project like Muskrat Falls.
David Vardy

The Coalition can identify witnesses that need to be called and can bring before the Commission its views on best practices in policy making and in project management. It can help the Commission to challenge Nalcor, which has virtually unlimited resources and which can overwhelm the Commission with information and defences of its actions. The Coalition has access to expertise which can support the Commission and enhance its ability to challenge Nalcor. The Muskrat Falls project is highly complex and difficult for a Commissioner to understand in a relatively short span of time and without prior knowledge. One of our main contributions must surely be to highlight departures from best practice and identify people both locally and globally who can provide a diagnosis and a sound prescription. We as a Coalition can focus on a template of best practice against which the actions of government and Nalcor can be measured.
We look upon the Inquiry as a forum whereby the community can engage in a meaningful debate on the failure of our institutions and practices, a debate which many have attempted to prompt without success. So many local institutions have been unable to lay aside their own parochial self-interest to advance the common good and that includes our University which has failed us in this time of need.

The terms of reference for the Inquiry have limited scope to address the shortcomings in our democratic system. The Coalition can urge the Commission to go beyond the deficits in project management and policy formulation and delve into the roots of our democratic system. We have to acknowledge that the terms of reference limit the Commission’s ability to deal with the fundamental democratic deficits which you have identified. Yet the Commission can identify the democratic deficit as being at the core of the problem and point to the directions from which a solution can be found. It can confirm that democratic reform is the key issue and urge citizens and their governments to make reform an overriding priority.
The Commission must examine the failure of government and Nalcor to examine all energy options both on the demand and the supply side. It must determine why the joint environmental panel and the PUB were ignored or overruled. It must assess the projections and assumptions which led to the sanctioning of Muskrat Falls. But it must go even further into the basic decision-making process and into how government works or does not work.

Nature abhors a vacuum but there is a vacuum in public policy dialogue and in understanding of public affairs. The Commission creates a virtual “think tank” or laboratory for dissecting the failure of democracy. If other key institutions in our society were more effective the Commission would not have been necessary. The fundamental point is that the Commission is in many ways the only recourse, the only forum within which we can evaluate future options based on a full understanding as to how we got into this fiasco.  

Our democracy is in thrall to three toxic factors: fear, acceptance and silence. Government is too powerful and pervasive in this province and has too much power, especially when the government in power has a majority in the provincial parliament. Too many people depend upon government for employment. There is fear of retribution when people speak out. There is too much acceptance of the status quo: government by impulse rather than government by rational planning and analysis. The most toxic of the trinity which disables our democracy is silence. The Commission provides a forum to empower those who have the courage to speak up. If they do not seize the opportunity then the Coalition will be just as impotent as the Commission itself. 
One might throw up one’s hands in despair at our ability to make a difference. That would be a terrible mistake. To remain silent in the face of evil is itself a form of evil, as Bonhoeffer said. To embrace this forum and participate is the best way we know to light a candle rather than curse the darkness. The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men and women to do nothing. The burden of proof is upon those who reject the Commission to light an alternative pathway, one which will propose reforms to prevent future majority governments from inflicting great harm upon our small province through fear, acceptance and silence.

David Vardy

29 comments:

  1. Here, here, Mr Vardy, the Holy Trinity of our failures here: Fear , Acceptance , and Silence. Part of our culture? Times they are a Changin, if we take your advice and example serious.
    PF

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  2. Acceptance is to surrender. If we surrendure our democrat rights we are yielding to the more powerful, because the powerful will never surrendure. They are showing their power over you. They are the fishing admirals, the merchants of trade, they kept the people as salves for hundreds of years in all kinds of fishing coves, and communities around our shores. They lived in luxury while your children went uneducated, went bare footed, and died of terrible diseases. They not only lived in the capital city, but also in other centres in conception bay, in trinity bay and in bonavista bay. They considered themselves superior to you. Now you have your chance to stand up for yourself, and you children, your grand children, and those unborn.

    Fear is failure. Failure to exercise your democratic rights, and make democracy supreme in our society and province. We fail ourselves, we fail our way of life, we fail our future, we fail our past and most of all we fail to see the light forward. The way forward for generations to come. We fail to make a real change in this province forever.

    Silence is golden. We close our eyes, we close our ears, and we close our mouths, from the right to speak truth to power. We feel smug in our nest, content that it doesn't affect us ditrectly, and at the same time fear in our heart and soul that it will affect the less fortunate, maybe our children, and grandchildren. We feel that guilt, and we cannot remain silent. There are things that are more sacred than gold and silence. It is knowing that we have risen to the call, we have listened to our soul, and has done the right thing. That is real silence and gold, the contentment in our hearts. God bless. Says the average Joe, AJ.

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    1. As mentioned before.AJ is a cu above the average. On reading his comment, I wondered if it was written by Bruno, and pleased to see Average Joe express this view. Perhaps sometime in the future we will learn his identity,(someone with a good sence of our history) meanwhile, AJ is with the No Surrender Side.
      I wonder if PENG2 is part of the MFCCC........
      Winston Adams

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    2. should have read `cut` not cu

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    3. Just a reminder ---- it was not persons or groups with standing that helped the PUB find a way out of the PUB least-cost 'this-or-that' conundrum, it was (as I understand it) presentations and written submissions made by individuals and groups without standing that suggested to the PUB that Nalcor's cost estimates were insufficiently accurate/ reliable to conclude that Muskrat was the least-cost option.

      While the inquiry terms of reference (TOR) is more complicated and much more carefully crafted than the PUB least-cost review terms of reference --- it is no less 'controlling/corralling' in its content and in its purpose.

      Dwight Ball recently said that the purpose of the inquiry --- "... is about the confidence of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians and that we can be confident to take on major projects again in the future" (is Gull Island already being planned behind closed doors?).

      He also recently said in the House of Assembly that the one good thing about Muskrat Falls was that it took future decisions "out of the hands" of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

      The inquiry TOR reflects that government view.

      The MFCCC will have to participate IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE LIMITS OF A CAREFULLY WRITTEN AND LEGALLY BINDING INTERPRETATION OF THE TERMS OF REFERENCE.

      In short, the inquiry will skirt around the edges of what went wrong, but its purpose does not address what can be done now and in the near to medium future to mitigate the damage to the people, to the province, and to future generations.

      "SURRENDER" --- "to give something that is yours to someone else because you have been forced to do so or because it is necessary to do so".

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    4. Of course, most have long ago surrendered, their so called freedoms under democracy, and as Vardy says from fear , acceptance and silence.
      And indeed, the TOF is crafted to limit exposure of the true masters of this fiasco.......and seems the vultures are currently circiling to pick up the pieces at a fire sale
      Some politician or pary member recently said we should not RANT AND ROAR, as it achieves nothing.
      The old song : We rant and we roar like true Nflders
      was it about 1905 , the great swilers (sealers) strike, that cripled the Water Street Merchants until they said uncle,and the sealers gained a few concessions. And was it 1932 there was a rant and roar that almost cost Squires his life, the Prime Minister Squires, a crook and a rogue, having to hide and make his getaway,,,,,,,a rogue that we honor with a building name in Corner Brook.
      Trouble is we rant and roar too little.Unless the MFCCC becomes a movement, it may do little.
      Winston Adams

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    5. Lol...we all know that most English words have slightly different meanings, or slightly different words used to give the true meanings. It is called a play on words, lawyers use it all the time in the court rooms, to their advantage. The average Joe, person, knows the meaning of surrender, without looking it up. AJ.

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    6. So then AJ, who is it that is surrendering?

      Is it those that exercise something that is theirs, i.e., their right and duty to independently contribute, to follow and to formulate their own views and to make presentations and/or perhaps diverse written submissions to the inquiry?

      Or is it those that give that right over to someone else, such as the MFCCC ---- where many, perhaps very many, diverse views are diluted into one?

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    7. You forced me to look up the word or google it Maurice, so I surrender. Have found that it has various similar meanings. So you are right in the examples you have given, that are all a form of surrender, if not, then surrender then does not apply, another word is more appropriate. I used it in the context, as I thought you were referring to my comment, as in, "yielding our democratic right to the more powerful". Or as one common definition given is, "cease resistance to an opponent and submit to their authority". So all a play on words, and what ever point you want to make, or enhance your or my argument. Have a nice day, cheers, AJ.

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    8. There is little doubt to me that the deck is stacked against the public good, but if the Inquiry is not clearly exposing what appears to be corruption and deception, then it risks being the enemy of the people , the average Joe or Jane. I would suggest such a bias, if it transpires, depends on the interest and numbers gained by the MFCCC. If the MFCCC is seen to be representing a minor group of anti-Muskrateers, then there is little consequence to a biased and precooked report.
      Was it 6 percent of the population, or 6000 that marched in Iceland, was it, that brought down the government.
      At the PUB Inquiry in 2012, there was little public interest. This inquiry has 2 years to run, with 33 million, a few lawyers will be very rich. Did not David Day make 600,000 off the misery of the Mount Cashel boys, and then had a secret report that was never released....the David Day Report. Some one correct me if I`m wrong. Add that scandal is not all settled yet, and the courts still defending the church against responsibility. Donations from the poor in church ending up in lawyers pockets.
      Winston Adams

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    9. Regarding Mr. Adams' reference to the Sir Richard Squires Building in Corner Brook... it may also interest readers to learn that this particular structure is also referred to locally as "Joey Smallwood's Last Erection".

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  3. Keep your eye on the Ball today. The setup to split NALCOR, is to sell, (giveaway), the crown jewel, Muskrat+whatever will please the asset buyer. Who do you think the buyer is. Does the Citizens Committee have any say? Speak truth to power. The power is not, and never was NALCOR. Even our friend Crosbie says "let it go"

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  4. Did you gather a mass, critical enough?, to go forward?
    I am still upset by the tone of everything that concentrates on the past and how we got here; how we can get out of it is far more important.
    Condemning those who participated isn't going to pay my electric power bill, unless they can fine them six or seven billion dollars, and collect same ...

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    1. I agree Tor. We can only have an affect on what lies before. I liken my 80 years to being a pilot on the bridge; Capt'n watch our for the breakers to starboard! On the good CSS Baffin. The guy calling out the soundings from 50 fathoms all the way down to "Sweet F--- A, was ignored by the Capitain, because the Chief Hydrographer kept stubbornly on chart towards the shoreline, and they were control freaks. The world class scientific vessel ran aground.

      "Beware the shoals Mr. Ball"

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    2. CSS should read CGS, Canadian Government Ship. The Baffin is sadly no more, (Scrap), and the Hudson will follow. Nobody in government very interested in oceanography any more, besides the ocean has no more fish stocks, is a dead sea of discarded plastics, a contribution of the oil business. I say collect all the plastic and send it to Alberta, of Robin Hood Bay.

      Look forward, or homeward, Tor!

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    3. $33 million is a lot to spend on this inquiry and then may not yield worthwhile information or changes to help us much in future?

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    4. Tor, "condemning those who participated isn't going to pay my power bill---"--Unless we condemn and punish those responsible for this fiasco, there is no disincentive for anyone else with like minded thoughts as to how to make as much money as possible and personal satisfaction in a "you don't cross me or else" persona all on the backs of someone else other than themselves. They should and must be held accountable.

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    5. Abuses of the public trust like the lies that lead to Muskrat Falls will continue until we find a way to identify and incarcerate the criminals that cause our suffering. If the inquiry results in exposing individuals which in turn leads to significant jail time or at a minimum, having them spend their remaining years in exile, it will be worth every penny. Unless there is the realistic expectation of punishment for evil, sociopaths will run amok.

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    6. Without determining how it happened and punishing those that deliberately allowed it to happen, there is no reason to think it will not happen again. We have to make an example of the people that allowed this to happen and jail/fine them to the fullest extent of the law. And if the law is not sufficient, we need to change the laws to make sure it does not happen again.

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  5. Looks like the MFCCC needs to reorganize around the new OIL CROWN CORP. Did anyone see this coming? Where has a Crown Corp for oil biz been successful in Canada? Is this borrowed from Statoil? Who will monitor this octopus? What happened to the Low Carbon Policy? Why are we force feeding oil production to advantage East coast refiners, not including Come By Chance, Irving? Tail wag the dog, I guess. Follow the money, who benefits? Build some bigger houses Danny, sweet times are here.

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  6. "Our democracy is in thrall to three toxic factors: fear, acceptance and silence. Government is too powerful and pervasive in this province and has too much power, especially when the government in power has a majority in the provincial parliament. Too many people depend upon government for employment. There is fear of retribution when people speak out. There is too much acceptance of the status quo: government by impulse rather than government by rational planning and analysis."

    This diagnosis is a most powerful statement as to the question of NLers' ability to govern themselves in a competent, democratic manner, for the common good.

    That such a question has been raised, even indirectly... is both telling, and troubling.

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  7. Mr. Vardy I admire your spirit and willingness to assist the inquiry any way possible so as to shed some light on the MF fiasco. However as stated in your remarks the Gov't and Nalcor will have their own agenda as how to distract and derail the inquiry, so how are average citizens like me going to make any difference. While I am far from an expert in any discipline, I have enough intelligence to know when I have been fooled when the MF project was forced upon us for the benefit of select politicians / business groups. I find it very sad that the common citizen has no control over politicians whose only goal is to get re-elected, and not to do what is best for the good of all. Is there a leader out there who can do what is right and just. A leader who can make difficult choices and not pander to various groups who have their own interests. We can't fight gov't so it it just as well to give up.

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    1. The best bet is to just vote with your feet pal, and move the hell off this horrifically mismanaged rock.

      Make no mistake about it... when the Muskrat bills start arriving in the mail, there'll be a flotilla of Muskrat refugees crossing the Cabot Strait that'll make Dunkirk look like a pool party...

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  8. In respect of the senior citizens at the Heath Care Centre ER who had to lie across a bench or hard chairs for hours waiting, and Dr Haggie's response that sometimes the ER get busy and it's a bad flue season, an excuse for disrespect for the elderly.
    And whereas the VOCM poll showed showed 34 percent showed they agreed that the elderly should get priority in hospital waiting rooms, and 62 percent said priority should only be on an urgent basis
    And whereas the elderly naturally have poorer health on average, therefore more urgent.
    I submit that a little, if not a lot more respect should be shown toward the elderly, and
    I,Hereby propose to supply 3 reclining chairs of the type purchased for a close relative, of soft material, and that they be located a the Health Care Centre ER, with signs indicating the intended purpose for the elderly needing these, provided someone will arrange with Eastern health to accept these and post the signs.
    And that no one suggest this is a generous act, as I have made significant income from hospital construction during my career, so just showing A LITTLE RESPECT for the elderly. And furthermore depending on the need, more such chairs will be provided .
    Winston Adams

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    1. I looked but saw no commitment in the Budget to jobs in the Low Carbon Energy sector. This is a disgraceful unwillingness on the part of these Tories, masquerading as 'liberals', to support Canada's Climate Change Policy. All the bullshit about generating and rebuilding the economy is just that, BS. Why aren't NL MPs prepared to provide incentives say in upgrading seniors housing, while savings millions on waste heating costs? A real disappointment Winston. The MFCCC can and should apply real pressure on the Minister of 'Energy'. I agree with David, the setting up of another crown corp is a waste, and just looks after the 'well to do. This is just plain wrong headed, subsidizing the fossil fuel corporations for a few elite jobs. Where are the trades people on this? They have the most at stake... their own livelihoods.

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    2. The sad state of mind of the NL Ministry of Energy/Finance;

      http://www.pembina.org/op-ed/carbon-pricing-economic-growth

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    3. Consulting work in the millions for both Corner Brook Hospital (wasn`t that built a decade ago), and consulting work for the Waterford Hospital,(the existing one built in 1855, should qualify as a heritage site), so lots going to architectural and engineering consultants, but little for trades people, or efficient buildings for seniors.......consistently being put off, such as one recently commented, if they ever go ahead, the design will be obsolete. Are these firms kicking donations to the parties...........
      And the Core building.......325 million, while about 400 million in maintenance due on older buildings, and tunnels about to collapse, And the CORE atrium, oriented to the North, same as all the windows on Queen Elizabeth Library, because in Nfld we orient our buildings as for the southern hemisphere,for solar gain, where North facing gets the sun, would it not.
      And to think our famed Robert Bartlett directed Perry to the North Pole.
      Winston Adams

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  9. Those not invited need not apply, I guess?

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