Monday, 18 March 2019

THE ATLANTIC ACCORD: BE AFRAID, BE VERY AFRAID

It is not a good feeling when government cannot be trusted.

Yet, notwithstanding all the partisan nonsense that props up one Party over another, it is the trust that government acts solely in the public interest that keeps the democratic system strong.

It is an issue that permeates many of the articles and comments that appear on this Blog. Underneath them is the fear, to phrase it in the vernacular, that the Ball Government will sell the Province down the river.

There is reason for that and, paradoxically as it may seem, the origins of such scepticism are found with Ball’s Tory predecessors.

Monday, 11 March 2019

BEWARE FEDERAL SHAPESHIFTING ON ATLANTIC ACCORD, WARNS CABOT MARTIN

Guest Post by Cabot Martin
Hooray for Uncle Gnarley for he has saved me from the sloth of procrastination!

Nearly a week had passed since former Premier Peckford’s letter appeared in the Saturday March 2nd edition of the St. John’s Telegram and I was still mulling over an appropriate way to support his views; maybe phone Paddy; maybe a letter to the Telegram.

So when Uncle Gnarley phoned last Thursday to ask me to write something on the Atlantic Accord mess, it didn’t take any convincing at all.

So to A. Brian’s excellent letter.

I was most struck by his comment on a possible change in the Accord that would see us being demoted from “principal beneficiary” to ”primary beneficiary” – a big change in a key, supposedly entrenched right.

Thursday, 7 March 2019

WERE SNC LAVALIN TROUBLES OPPORTUNISTIC FOR NALCOR?

Guest Post by David Vardy

SNC LAVALIN: THE MUSKRAT FALLS EXPERIENCE
SNC Lavalin’s role in the Muskrat Falls project has figured prominently in recent hearings of the Muskrat Falls Inquiry. On Friday the Inquiry heard from Nalcor’s senior procurement officer on the project’s management practices, including those which led to the selection of SNC Lavalin (SLI) as EPCM contractor in 2011 and to their removal from this role in 2013.

The New York Times had this to say on the biggest scandal facing Prime Minister Justin Trudeau:
“The case revolves around accusations that SNC-Lavalin, a multinational engineering company based in Quebec, paid 47.7 million Canadian dollars in bribes to officials in Libya to win contracts there, and defrauded the Libyan government and its agencies of 129.8 million Canadian dollars.

“The prime minister and his aides have been accused of pressuring his justice minister at the time, Jody Wilson-Raybould, to drop the criminal inquiry against the company because a conviction could potentially cost thousands of jobs in Canada, and diminish his Liberal Party’s political fortunes.”

Monday, 4 March 2019

WHEN POLITICIANS DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT THEY DON'T KNOW

On the Witness Stand at the Muskrat Falls Inquiry, former Premier Paul Davis displayed the confidence of one who believed he knew what he was talking about. A confident Derrick Dalley, the former Tory Minister of Natural Resources, succeeded him. Trouble is, confidence is no substitute for the good judgment they ought to have brought to their senior positions.

Expected was leadership worldly-wise enough to understand the need for a process that assured “oversight” of the project at the highest level. The decision required personnel of international stature that was “earned” — not “awarded” by Kathy Dunderdale.  

Little wonder that Davis was once dubbed the “Corporal Premier” on this Blog, having admitted to the Inquiry that his chief source of information on Muskrat was Dalley.

Thursday, 28 February 2019

WILL THE PUB GO FAR ENOUGH ON RATE MITIGATION?

Guest Post by David Vardy
The PUB has been asked to make recommendations as to how increases in power rates arising from Muskrat Falls can be avoided, a daunting task indeed, but one for which they have been given a broad mandate.  They have just released an interim report on measures to increase revenues and reduce costs. Their work plan is quite ambitious and covers a wide range of options. The question is how far they will go and how receptive will government be to major changes?

Will they recommend the kind of surgery needed to right-size our electric power industry and to extirpate Nalcor as an unregulated monopoly? Will they go so far as to propose that Nalcor be removed from the power system after Muskrat Falls has been completed?

Monday, 25 February 2019

LAW SCHOOL IGNORES PROVINCE'S FISCAL POSITION

Guest Post by Ron Penney
On March 14th the Board of Regents of Memorial University will have it’s regularly scheduled meeting and it is anticipated that the issue of creating a new Law School at Memorial will be discussed.

The academic governing body of the University, the Senate, has approved the creation of the Law School but the final decision will be made by the Board of Regents, who will hopefully demonstrate more sense than Senate.

It is amazing that the most highly educated body in the Province, the Senate, is totally oblivious to our fiscal situation, which the Parliamentary Budget Officer describes as the most dire in the country.

Thursday, 21 February 2019

WHO TAKES ED MARTIN SERIOUSLY, ANYWAY?

When journalists interview Ed Martin, as CBC’s Terry Roberts did a few days ago, it is right to wonder if they go away laughing. 

Unfortunately, the reporter’s interview with Martin is found only on the CBC website, so images of him uproariously slapping his sides can only be imagined.

Terry Robert’s story is about Ed Martin dissing Astaldi. Martin thinks that the Company is “largely to blame for the massive cost and schedule overruns” experienced on the Muskrat Falls project.

Monday, 18 February 2019

FORENSIC AUDIT: NALCOR IGNORED BIG EARLY WARNING SIGNS

The Uncle Gnarley Blog has posted two commentaries on the second Forensic Audit Report of Grant Thornton released today by the Commission of Inquiry into the Muskrat Falls Project. Both articles were prepared by Ron Penney, David Vardy and Des Sullivan who have standing at the Inquiry on behalf of the Concerned Citizens Coalition. 

This piece contains  the key findings of the Forensic Audit. Also posted is a lengthier and more thorough examination of the Report entitled “Evidence of Malfeasance?: A Review of the Forensic Audit Report into the Muskrat Falls Project (Phase II)”.  It is availble now at the Link.  - Des Sullivan

HIGHLIGHTS OF SECOND FORENSIC AUDIT REPORT

As was the case with Phase One of the Muskrat Falls Inquiry, the construction phase of the Inquiry has commenced with the release today of the forensic audit conducted by Grant Thornton.

The audit sets the stage for the examination of witnesses crucial to the understanding of how the project went so badly wrong.

SECOND FORENSIC AUDIT REPORT: EVIDENCE OF MALFEASANCE?

EVIDENCE OF MALFEASANCE?: A REVIEW OF THE FORENSIC AUDIT REPORT INTO THE MUSKRAT FALLS PROJECT (PHASE II)

The second Forensic Audit Report prepared by the accounting firm of Grant Thornton has now been released to the public. It will constitute the major focus of Phase II, the “Construction Phase”, of the Commission of Inquiry into the Muskrat Falls Project (MFP).

This Report builds on the main conclusions of the first one released in September 2018, prior to the beginning of public hearings presided over by Judge Richard LeBlanc. It concluded that, at the time of sanction, a “combination of…potential misstatements may have resulted in the Interconnected Island Option (the Muskrat Falls project) no longer being considered the least cost option at the time of sanctioning.” In other words, had the Cumulative Present Worth (CPW) – the present value methodology used to compare the Isolated Island and the Interconnected Island options – been  objectively assessed, the Muskrat Falls Project was probably not then, or ever, “least-cost”.


What had GT uncovered in order to come to that conclusion?

Thursday, 14 February 2019

EVERY TOWN SHOULD VOTE A BARD (suggests the Bard of Pynn's Brook)


POET LAUREATES
(Poet Laureate appointee in St. John’s)

Every town should vote a bard
To rhyme events in its backyard,
To laud in lines the district scene
And entertain the tourist keen:

Poet Laureates sot in every bay
And hamlet pitched along the way,
To praise aloud the quaint and saint
And Council deeds heroic paint.

Monday, 11 February 2019

POLL CLEAR AS MUD BUT LIKELY CANCELS SPRING ELECTION


Is anyone surprised that the latest MQO Poll places both the Liberals (44%) and the Tories (42%) in (possibly) a statistical tie? While neophyte PC Party leader Ches Crosbie has had an uninspiring start, which — for the Tories — aligns well with a non-performing Government, why would the public be in anything but a “show me” mood? 


The Premier's approval numbers testify to the legitimacy of the questions. MQO gives Ball’s leadership a “relatively steady… mean score of 5.2 [on a 10 point scale] this quarter”. Crosbie, in spite of his inability to light any fires, oversees a jump in support of 7% as the NDP races to the status of non-entity. 


MQO comments that declining support for the NDP reflects in the Tories' gain, but that is tantamount to suggesting change in the chemistry of oil and water. More likely, a pervasive leadership vacuum is adding room for fluctuation in the popularity of the two traditional Parties, it being left to both mainstream and social media to set the public agenda based on whatever passes as news.

Friday, 8 February 2019

MF COALITION TO HOLD PUBLIC MEETING FEBUARY 13


Notice of General Meeting of the Muskrat Falls Concerned Citizens Coalition (MFCCC). Where? The Holiday Inn, 180 Portugal Cove Road, St. John’s (Salon A&B). When? 7:00 p.m., Wednesday, February 13th. Also live stream via Facebook and Twitter. 

David Vardy will make a Presentation. Ron Penney, Des Sullivan and Coalition lawyer, Geoff Budden, will also discuss the Muskrat Falls project and bring Coalition members, and the public, up to date on preparations for the Second Phase of the Public Inquiry.

Monday, 4 February 2019

THE TAIL WAGGING THE DOG


Guest Post by Ron Penney
The Tail Wagging The Dog: 
Reflections on Phase 1 of the Muskrat Falls Inquiry

The Muskrat Falls Inquiry has competed Phase 1 of the hearings, which focused on the events leading up to the sanction of the project on December 17th, 2012.

We hadn’t fully understood before the depths of hatred and contempt towards us arising out of our early warnings about the dangers of the path that we were on.

A senior federal public servant told us in 2011 that the tolerance for dissent in Newfoundland and Labrador was very low and that proved to be the case. So much for the notion that “dissent is the highest form of patriotism”. We were treated as unpatriotic because we opposed what has been turned out to be the worst public policy decision ever made in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Monday, 28 January 2019

"ANONYMOUS ENGINEER" IDENTIFIES DEVICE USED TO LOW-BALL ESTIMATE

EDITOR'S NOTE: The author of today's article is the whistleblower, dubbed the "Anonymous Engineer", who disclosed – on this Blog - falsification of the estimates for the Muskrat Falls project. That was January 30, 2017 . His comments were recorded in a post entitled Muskrat Cost Estimates "A Complete Falsification". A second post called Muskrat: Allegations of Phony Cost Estimates provided significant additional details of low-balling which ultimately were used to justify the Sanction of a project that has become a scourge on the Province's economy. His alarming assertions have been supported with revelations which emerged from Phase I of the Commission of Inquiry. This article attempts to shed light on an issue that is likely to be assessed during Phase II, often referred to as the Construction Phase. — Des Sullivan


Guest Post by the "Anonymous Engineer"
Impact of Labour Productivity on 
"Base Estimate" for the Muskrat Falls Project 

It is almost two years to the month since I spoke with the host of the Uncle Gnarley Blog, Des Sullivan, and subsequently with Anthony Germain of the CBC Morning Show. At that time I revealed that  the estimates on which the Muskrat Falls project was approved were low balled and falsified. I am confident that those statements were heard at the political level and that they might have influenced the Government's decision to  commence the Inquiry which, of course, I have been monitoring. 

Thursday, 24 January 2019

THE NEW RISK TO MUSKRAT: BLAMING THE JUDGE.

The latest Muskrat Falls Oversight Committee Report evokes all the excitement of yesterday’s breakfast. Released on November 22, 2018 it is a project status report to September 30. Where was I to find a sense of urgency in ancient history?

Gnawing at me, however, was Nalcor’s warning that the project Budget did not account for certain specific risks — chiefly protest unrest, unforeseen directives from Government and (wouldn’t you know it) the Muskrat Falls Commission of Inquiry. Those risks had been quantified by Westney Consulting as having a potential cost of between $170 million and $370 million. 
The Inquiry alone evidently endangers the MF Budget Estimate (that’s the $12.7 billion figure, not the one contrived) by between $45 and $165 million.

Monday, 21 January 2019

PREMIER'S CLAIM TO HUGE GDP GROWTH AMOUNTS TO FAKE NEWS

The Premier’s annual address to Rotary had all the content one would expect from a politician seeking re-election. It is no surprise, therefore, that Dwight Ball lauded his Administration’s accomplishments and signalled a warning to voters to ignore the “noise and fiction” expected from political opponents in an election year.

In the political arena, the mastery of synthetic truths is claimed by far too many.
Ball himself is well-known for the deceptive arts, having feigned innocence over the approved gold-plated boot in the derriere for Ed Martin. Last year he upped the ante with the assertion that neither taxpayers nor ratepayers will take the hit for the $12.7 billion Muskrat Falls project.  

Saturday, 12 January 2019

RATE MITIGATION - GRASPING AT STRAWS

Written by Des Sullivan and David Vardy
(with research and analysis contributed by PlanetNL)

The Ball Administration asked the PUB to examine alternatives to offer ratepayer relief from unaffordable Muskrat Falls power. Because the cost of rate mitigation is too large to be imposed on either ratepayers or taxpayers not that they can be distinguished the public should be wary that the PUB is possessed of a magic wand. The Government has essentially kicked the “mitigation” can down the road, too.

Having declined to suspend the project to examine the wisdom of continuation vs termination, the Premier was right to engage the PUB for the purpose. Unfortunately, the Provincial Government offered the PUB and its Consultants absolutely no guidance as to what interventions may be available from them or the Federal Government. Even a plethora of nips and tucks won’t suffice given the magnitude of the problem, yet they must know that MF threatens not just the public welfare but our collective solvency and, hence, the Province’s sovereignty, too. 

Monday, 7 January 2019

FINANCE MINISTER SHOULD LET EVERYONE SHARE IN THE GOOD NEWS

VOCM, in a year-end news story, quotes Finance Minister Tom Osborne saying that “the province has made some significant progress in the last three years in knocking down the deficit.” The Minister asserts that “in each of the last 3 years they’ve eliminated $2-billion from the deficit.”

Perhaps such comments should be dismissed as election fever builds and the propaganda machine is stoked. However, I do remember the Premier stating his commitment to transparency, and it is in that spirit Im hoping the Minister will release details of his quite fantastical assertion.

Could he also inform us why killing the deficit had to be such a painless exercise? How will we ever learn not to repeat the last decade of fiscal irresponsibility if correcting financial recklessness is done so easily?!?

Of course, I am being facetious.