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.  

At Rotary, the Premier went gaga over the Conference Board of Canada’s forecast that the Province will lead the country with 5.2% real GDP growth in 2019. Ball even counted the GDP forecast among his accomplishments. Does this latest claim crash the bullshit meter? Of course not; it’s just that, like the self-proclaimed deficit slayer in the Finance Ministry, the Premier is not above invoking statistics when lies and damn lies won’t do.

For those readers who did not study Economics 101, or nodded off during lectures on the dismal science, the GDP represents the size of an economy. The real GDP growth rate is the inflation-adjusted value of all the goods and services produced by an economy in a period of time, say a year. It is one of the primary indicators used to gauge  economic health. Bond rating agencies use the debt-to-GDP ratio as a benchmark to establish a nation-state’s ability to repay debt. For business, the annual GDP growth forecast may influence the timing of an investment; governments and central banks use it for public policy purposes. 

But like many statistics especially in a small economy like ours the GDP growth rate has huge potential for distortion. Even knowing that fact, politicians will use it mercilessly to their political advantage. A dull Opposition will let them.  The Conference Board in Canada Exhibit (below) showing the percentage change in real GDP for all ten provinces illustrates the point.


You might well ask: how is it that NL, an economy struggling after a decade of massive stimulus from three megaprojects, historically low interest rates and a residential housing boom, can lead even a perennially buoyant province like British Columbia? Is there evidence that our economy is so robust that every other province’s forecast growth prospects are only half or less than those attributable to NL?

Let’s take a closer look.

Only recently, Finance Minister Tom Osborne released a provincial real GDP forecast of  2.1% for 2019. The private sector average forecast (mostly from the banking sector) was 2.2%.  The Government’s figure was based upon data prepared for the Fall Update released just a short time ago: November 6, 2018. The Conference Board’s forecast arrived just five weeks later, on December 12th. Strangely, while the Premier was happy to both quote and claim credit for the more optimistic number, he made no attempt to reconcile the two forecasts. 
Noteworthy, too, is that the Budget Update was based upon growth in oil production from 84.7 to “roughly 92 million barrels in 2019”, an increase of 9.2%, due mostly to the ramp-up in oil production from the Hebron oil field. The Update also upped the average price obtained for Brent crude from Budget US $63 to $74, offset by a slightly lower $USD. It even acknowledged the rebound in the value of iron shipments, the decision to go underground at Voisey’s Bay, and the South White Rose GBS. The Cook Aquaculture investment wasn’t mentioned in the “Major Forecast Assumptions” document, but it is referred to in others. 
So the provincial forecast did not miss much, if anything, leading us to conclude that it relies on others for the GDP calculation.

With most economic categories in negative territory, it fell to the oil sector to goose the GDP number. Bearing in mind that the 2.1% GDP forecast already reflected a significant growth forecast in the value of oil production, it is not hard to conclude that the Conference Board’s total growth forecast was even more heavily weighted towards the value of oil. 
When very little of this commodity is processed here or is in any way integrated into our economy except via the services and supply, there are good reasons why offshore oil production, as expressed in GDP, is a very imperfect reflection of local economic growth.

Oil is a fickle commodity. Oil prices fluctuate and unforeseen events impact total annual oil production. 
Oil platforms are highly capital-intensive and, except for royalties and current employment associated with oil drilling and supply services, construction of the capital infrastructure has been reflected in the GDP of earlier years. In the case of Hibernia, it was the 1990s.

There are other reasons, too. The interest and return-on-equity paid on the invested capital is made to banks, bondholders and investors worldwide. The local spin-offs and employment represented by the value of exported oil pales in comparison to a dollar invested in the fishery, forestry and pulp and paper industries.

One more measure of why it is risky to be blasé about oil’s influence on our GDP is that its value is impacted not just by the international benchmark price for each grade of oil, but also by changes in the value of the $USD vs. the $CD.

Essentially, this relatively large industry produces oil which, for the most part, never touches our shores. Most of the cash flows never circulate through the local economy either.

It remains to be seen whether even the Conference Board’s misrepresented forecast will hold up. The Board credits Hebron oil production for the “18 per cent” growth in the oil extraction industry. As a reminder, the Province won’t receive royalties from this field for a long time.

The Conference Board properly notes that “employment growth will be short-lived in 2019, returning to negative growth in 2020”. In effect, the Board disengages the oil industry from the critical issue of employment growth with which GDP has a very strong relationship. Rotarians didn’t hear the Premier offer any such clarification. (For reference purposes, the Conference Board's NL economic highlights contained in its December 12, 2018 Report are listed in the Exhibit below.)  
It might interest the reader that the provincial Department of Finance actually uses a GDP metric that attempts to screen out some of the oil-induced distortion from the GDP. Unconcerned about politics, the bureaucrats need a more realistic indicator to assess an array of public policy issues. But, in an election year, don’t ask the Premier or the Finance Minister what that metric is called or how it is calculated. 
I would also suggest that if NL’s economy was relevant in the total Canadian context, the Conference Board might have taken the time to address this issue, or at least give the provincial GDP figure an asterisk, denoting a warning to readers to use the figure carefully and with context.

Of course, those issues are unrelated to a Premier only too willing to grab ownership of a fundamentally fictional economic growth forecast.   

Governments have always taken far too much credit for the creation of jobs and far too much blame when the employment rate declines. The Ball Government is no different than any other in that respect. Crazy is when governments pretend that they can work magic, when a truthful narrative might win them the political credibility that they crave.

Had the PR types in Executive Council been part of a political culture that eschewed deception, and if they were more creative too, they might have noticed that there is a sounder narrative to be found around the jobs figures than in the most recent GDP forecast.

When the current government came into office in December 2015, it faced a seasonally-adjusted unemployment rate of 14.0%, according to labour force statistics published by the Provincial Government on January 4, 2019 using Statistics Canada stats.  The rate posted by the Agency at the end of December 2018 was 11.7% (15 years of age and over, both sexes). The figure contrasted with 14.5% contained in the Provincial Government’s 2018 Fiscal Update. Granted, Stats Canada indicates that the NL workforce shrunk by just over 13,000 people from 2015-18, reflecting both a mobile economy and a cooling megaproject economy.  As always, context is everything.

While we rightly criticize the Government for not having right-sized the public sector, on its face, having regard to our history and demography, an 11.7% unemployment rate is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s just that the truth can give transparency an unwelcomed intrusion. For example, a modified (some call it “non-oil”) GDP forecast would make our provincial debt-to-GDP ratio look even worse than it already does. 

Still, a skilful politician would never have grabbed a fiction when there is something better on tap to boast about.

Perhaps, for that reason, when the Premier warned the public at Rotary to ignore “noise and fiction” in an election year, the advice might have been better directed not towards his political opponents, but to himself.

74 comments:

  1. "Noise and Fiction" reminds me of a conversation with a managing director over a large ($30 million) IT project that had failed. I had a concrete list of everything that was wrong and a plan to fix each individual problem. There were literally hundreds of major problems.

    Despite the fact that virtually everything was wrong with the project, the fellow was unperturbed. He wasn't interested in my repair plan. He said "There is a lot of noise". He proposed to counter this "noise" by arranging a propaganda session where all the key government employees would be invited to an auditorium where two or three happy users (there are always a few willing sycophants) would rave about how wonderful everything was and how their jobs would be so much easier.

    I was naive, and shocked. I really thought that at the director level you'd want to identify and fix the problems to make a project successful. Instead, they look at dissent as "noise", propose propaganda to drown it out and change the definition of the project. A project that was supposed to be complete now became "Phase I" prototype with a Phase II implementation to follow. Maybe we can redefine Muskrat Falls as a "transmission line" project that exceeded expectations by providing a spare dam, you know, in case we ever need the power.

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  2. The campaign to re-elect the Ball administration should be no surprise to any of us. This valuable exercise, MFCCC, must reassess its purpose, now that elections are upon us; both Provincial and Federal. Is there a will to reduce risk of continued Muskrat type malfeasance? Stay strong Winston and others. There are those who have much to gain, (propping up some politicians), through discrediting this valued Coalition.

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  3. It is great the Ball Bull is challenged right out of the gate. It is brazen claiming money that never comes ashore as GDP.

    It is especially stupid considering NL has signed several "Superroyalty" deals with big oil. It forgoes near term royalties for Superroyalties after the capital costs (determined by the oil company) are recovered. This means NL takes the risk of a price dive (like is now happening) and the write offs are also determined by the oil giants.

    The bottom line is that NL has taken a self imposed royalty hit through poor negotiations.

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  4. You have heard my rants previously, regarding the colonial boundary "settlement" in 1927;
    QC/NL, Southern Labrador Boundary. When former politicians, (Peckford and others) are quizzed about the historical boundary dispute , they tend to skate down the river. One of the enlightening experiences for us Easterners who move to BC, is the realization that the Indigenous now have the upper hand with regards land claims, un-ceded territory, natural resources, etc. A major challenge to illegal colonial rule is already in the Canadian courts, and we all should listen to the arguments at play. Two books, among others, have a powerful message to Provincial Governments, and should be keep in mind during the lead-up to the coming elections; Raulston Sauls' "Comeback", and Arthur Manuel's "The Reconciliation Manifesto". This is critically important with respect to any provincial boundaries, including the QC/NL boundary. Acceding to the new reality that Indigenous governance in Labrador and Quebec, could bring a more egalitarian form to replace the colonial model, fraught with the angry acrimony, hate, etc. which partially resulted in the Muskrat development mistake. How about it Seamus? Ball? Others who are vote getting?

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  5. http://vocm.com/news/nl-will-lead-atlantic-canada-in-economic-growth-cleroux/

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    1. In other words, how can we elect another bunch, dedicated to mis-spending the windfall offshore heritage funds. Just like drunken Albertans, who have no plan of sustainability, when the peak oil funds run down.

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    2. Sounds like BS.

      For example, we hear:

      Bowring and Bombay Company closing stores in St. John's - ntv.ca

      Jobs lost as Rona stores in Newfoundland set to close | CBC News

      Zellers / Target retail space still mostly vacant

      Avalon Mall to demolish part of former Sears space, remove strip mall. This was Woolco / Walamrt / Sears / demolition

      Meteoric rise in bankruptcy proceedings not done yet: expert - CBC.ca

      Twillingate workers facing radical changes with fish plant closure

      St. Alban's fish plant expected to remain closed

      Galway going nowhere...

      It just doesn't add up. Why would NL lead anything in economic growth?

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    3. Does anyone know how things are going with the Galway development? Are they on track, behind sales projections? anything?

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    4. The Developer of great foresight, stated that the expected returns on investment are stretched beyond his lifetime. Wot to worry?

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  6. As I understand it, Gross Domestic Product (GDP) can be high for a province like Nfld where our natural resources are shipped raw to market and creates little domestic benefit : example iron ore (IOC etc); nickel/ copper (Vale Inco); Hydro power exports from Labrador, some of which reaches the USA, and now also to NS; fish products that gets little local processing; and also paper mills such as Corner Brook; and offshore oil production, to international markets; and too our hydro generation machines on the island anchoring wind generation projects in NS.
    All of this is great for our GDP but produces few jobs, little manufacturing, a small tax base, and a source of raw material for other industrialized nations, and Nfld stagnant at 1/2 million population for decades, and always losing quality workers who go elsewhere.
    As I see it, it was this type of situation that spurred the Quiet Revolution in Quebec in the 1960s saying enough of the exploitation of resources which provided little benefit for Quebec.
    So too, it seems we need a Quiet Revolution, or a Rant and Roar one maybe for better governance here.
    Perhaps commentators from Quebec can give us some insight into their experience, and if I am on the right tract as to the fallacy of GDP signifinance vs a strong economy?
    Winston Adams

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    1. Another example now is granting rights to a London based company for forest assets on the GNP who is to produce a product for Poland to generate electricity, a pellet type product. That company had a bank balance of 12 thousand dollars if I recall from last year, yet can tie up our resource for 20 years.
      WA

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    2. All correct Winston, hewers of wood and drawers of water, but as some say we have our work all done, wood all cut and fish all caught. Natural resources all exported in the raw state, and SH did the last straw with his MPRs for CETA. Maybe the value of fish caught is at the highes dollar value ever, but like the oil, never landing on our shores for processing. In the 60s, 70s, and 80s we were doing quite well in fish processing but after the 90s was all gone. The other word that needs to be placed besides, natural resources and population is a six letter word...I - S - L - A - N - D. As an island of one-half a million people, it is very difficult to compete with the North American Contentient at any level. We are totally dependant on air travel, which is very expensive, and two shipping routes. One to NS and the other to Montreal. These are our life lines for survival but in terms of economic survival, but we reap very little in real economic terms of jobs, economic activity or adding to our GDP. For example the economic activity generated in North Sydney far out weighs the economic activities on this side of the Cabot Strait at PAB. And probably similar at the port of Montreal, except it is economics of a relative smaller scale to the port of Montreal which is hugh in comparison to the port of St. John's. Tourism is an important commodity here, but mainly the few million people that left here over the years, because we were an island, and their frequent visits and their descendants. But it is minor in comparison to PEI and NS because it is convenient and cheap for tourist to travel to those provinces, as compared to NL, an island. Now if someone said lets get a physical link to Cork or Cobh in Ireland or Lands End in England everyone would be for that, but a physical connection across the belle isle straits, well most say, no, no advantage to that. Highways not up to scratch, no ammeneties, like hotels and gas bars. Give me a break, let the people and road traffic come and hotels, restaurants and gas bars will quickly follow. People want to make a buck wether it be on this side of the straits or the other. Joan morrissey was not correct in her song, thank God we're surrounded by water. That was just in line with people on the Avalon, back in the 60s that said our island could only support 320, 000 people. What a crock. We had two chances to being linked to the mainland. Back in joeys days of the 60s and again in Danny days, and both failed us miserable, they both went on a fools errand, hydro power. No money in it, and no real connection in either case, we needed a physical link says Joe blow.

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    3. Winston: In answer to your two questions,

      A-I quite agree with you that GDP is a terrible metric. This is not just true for countries or provinces which rely heavily on the export of a single given commodity (oil, for instance), but more generally GDP says little about the overall economic situation from the vantage point of the average inhabitant of the jurisdiction in question. Here are a couple of related factors that need to be considered:

      1-Gini Index: This measures the distribution of wealth within society: when I last checked, NL had the most inegalitarian distribution of wealth anywhere in Atlantic Canada.

      2-Life expectancy: this is a useful way to measure to what degree the average inhabitant of a high GDP jurisdiction benefits from said high GDP. NL, sad to tell, has the lowest life expectancy of any Canadian province (it isn't as low as any of the territories', if that's any consolation).

      B-I'm afraid the "Quiet Revolution" (Révolution tranquille) of Quebec is of limited relevance to present-day NL, to my mind. First of all, it took place back when the francophone population of Quebec was on average quite young. The median age in NL today, by contrast, is old and quickly getting older.

      Second of all, the Quiet Revolution took place during a period when traditional institutions and associated hierarchies were under attack throughout the Western world (think of the Civil-rights movement and the anti-war protests in the United States, May'68 in France, and the independence of scores of former European colonies for example). By contrast, we are living today in an era where "radicalism" hearkens back to former glories, complete with older elites: think of the Imperial fantasies of Brexit supporters in Britain or the "Make America great again" slogan associated with Trump. Opposition to established older elites just isn't fashionable any more.

      Third, and perhaps most importantly, whereas in Quebec the (mostly) Protestant, (mostly monolingual) Anglophone Elite was (correctly, to my mind) identified by most as a major cause of Quebec's social and economic woes, in NL it is painfully obvious that few people see the Townie Elite as being a major cause of NL's social and economic problems: on the contrary (if the comments here at Uncle Gnarley's are any guide) most inhabitants of NL see Quebec, Ottawa or both as the primary cause of NL's problems.

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    4. A good comment Etienne. There was a time, for many decades that rural Nflders saw the elite of St John's as detrimental to the good of the province as a whole. I still see it that way, but maybe not so obvious when the merchants of Water Street ruled.
      Newspapers: there is essentially only one, The Telegram. Radio stations, VOCM, St johns based, broadcasting throughout the province, owned by Steele, Gander original owner, recently sold to Canadain interests for about 500 million, but Townie perspective, and Steele was an advocate for MFs. So too for NTV. CBC may send reporter to Nain once or twice a year to report on a TB outbreak , or to other coastal Labrador community to report a suicide. NTV never goes there, as travels costs impacts profits.
      MHAs come from all over, but come to St Johns and drink the Townie cool aid. Take the Fishey union; Richard Cashin , lawyer, the dominant player for a long time, who likely didn't know a tom cod from a conner. FPI fisheries, building jobs in rural Nfld, under Vic Young,then broken up and sold off.
      Yes, we are mostly senior citizens, so only Bruno is radical, and sees a troll behind every Quebec tree. Good governance is maybe a pipe dream, and Bruno maybe a smoker. Maybe other have views on this topic?
      Winston

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    5. I grew up in rural NL in the 70s and 80s. What I saw there in those years was a great love for the EI system, an expectation that the union or the government would solve the problems in peoples' lives, an exodus of the most talented young people seeking education or opportunity, and extreme envy for anyone who could improve themselves financially even in a modest way. Really hasn't changed much since that time except for the aging population and deteriorating infrastructure. Rural NL has largely brought about its own demise through complacency, entitlement and envy. Rural NL will moan that their decline is the fault of others but the vast majority of people made no real effort to self direct their lives to something better. The seeds for today were planted long ago and now the price is being paid.

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    6. Now that it is legal you should do your bit to save the finances of NL and indulge some legal weed Winston. It will expand your mind and give you new insights into life, love, and politics. I believe it is never to late to teach an old dog new tricks Winston.

      This is the most thoughtful post that my favourite troll Etienne has posted. Instead of throwing out the Anglo bosses NL can rid itself of the feudal bosses that have bankrupted the province. Call it the Creaky Revolution! It is never to late for social justice.

      Rise Up, Rise Up NL!

      "the Quiet Revolution took place during a period when traditional institutions and associated hierarchies were under attack" Don't look now but institutions are under attack in both Europe and North and South America Etienne. We are about to see a cultural explosion and radical political upheaval globally. There is lots of room for a Creaky Revolution in NL when the reality of MF arrives monthly at their mailbox.

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    7. I generally fear drugs, Bruno, and if it expands my mind as you suggest, I might fall in love with you, buy shares in Musk's overvalued stock, and run as a politician. Any of these mean ruination. You jump in where wise men, or fools fear to thread.
      On the other hand, Willie Nelson does ok with the weed. So it may work for some.
      WA

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    8. Winston you should read The Doors of Perception by Aldous Huxley about mind expansion.

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  7. MLK was no prophet of unity, I read in a piece by Bhaskar Sunkara,, but a radical.
    Today he is honoured in the USA, this being a national holiday, and Donald Trump appeared at his monument.
    In his "I had a dream speech" , it is seldom stated that it included the lines about the "marvelous new militancy which has engulfed the Nrgro community". I another speech he said "We aren't merely struggling to integrate a lunch counter now. We're struggling to get some money to be be able to buy a hamburger or a steak when we get to the counter"
    King used Christian teachings, and Gandhian tactics to teach that "all men are created equal"
    He was hounded by the FBI, denounced as a communist, and bombarded with death threats.
    In 1983 22 senators voted against an official holiday. There was a 16 day filibuster against it (much longer than Ball against Muskrat Falls).
    I recently witnessed the many days honouring John McCain, who despised Trump. I thought McCain was honoured too much. One of the senators opposing MLK day in 1983 was John McCain. So too, McCain was not always onside with protecting American Indian rights.
    King had challenged the slaughter in Vietnam and the broader system of imperialism that made poor people , black and white, alike "kill and die together for a nation that has been unable to seat them together in the same schools" ( Interesting that here we had separate schools up to the 1990s)
    And too we continue to act as a colonial power against the people of Labrador, Beatrice Hunter being one example , being taken to the St John's lockup.
    Will our new federal Minister make radical changes to improve how we treat First nation citizens? Is he an admirer of Martin Luther King?
    Winston Adams

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    1. A timely comment, as NTV says the remains of the Beothic, now in Scotland, brought there by Cormack, is heading for Nfld, but actually not,but going to Canada.
      Ball says eventually they will return to Nfld and likely to the Rooms for the "final resting place"
      As noted before, Leblanc is under the watchful eye of the Beothic, who are falsely depicted on the NL coat of arms. This a disgraceful situation being broadcast around the world via the Internet.
      The Telegram pulled it's poll of whether the Coat of Arms should be changed, when a large majority wanted it to remain unchanged. Rather than an Editorial to enlighten our citizens, the Telegram removed the poll results.
      Indeed , the remains of the Beothic should not be returned to Nfld where the majority of Nflders remain ignorant of our history. When asked what will be done at the Rooms with the remains, Dwight Ball in smirks and disrespect avoided any sensible answer. For sure there is no funds available for a true memorial site and building. The boondoggle is a curse not only on average Joes, but will long hinder confronting our history of this land we call ours, and 3 centuries of British /Nfld neglect causing extinction of the Beothic.
      The remains are as close in Scotland as in Ottawa. They are not ready to REST , as Ball suggests.
      Ball says there is no opposition to the remains being returned. PF does not agree. I very much object.
      PF

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    2. Winston MLK wanted justice for all, red white, yellow and black and was hated universally before his death because of that. Now he is universally loved for his pursuit of justice. MLK was NOT a radical for wanting social justice for all.

      J Edgar Hoover was the radical who thought that murdering MLK was the solution to the "Negro problem". So much of history depends on your perspective (and how accurate the facts).

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    3. Indeed, that some thought his ideas were radical! SO too, Bernie Sanders, a socialist is considered by many a radical, and some label him a communist. I quoted the writer's views, not mine. So to, for Hoover, John Lennon was a radical.
      WA

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  8. Excellent post and comments.

    The 2007-2019 table included in the post with real GDP numbers actually shows real GDP growth is merely 4% total over the 13 years. That's a meagre 0.3% annually.

    NL is supposedly a petro-state so why hasn't there been a more phenomenal GDP growth rate?

    It may be reasonable to conjecture that the low value GDP gains from oil are masking more fundamental losses within other sectors of our economy that are more valuable to us than the overstated oil GDP segment.

    Are we sicker than we realize? Ok, we on this blog site realize it but Mr. Ball certainly doesn't realize or wish to recognize it.

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  9. Nalcor engineers said our offshore oil potential should help solve our MFs debt.
    This morning Orlando Florida was colder than St John's. Central Canada was getting an Arctic blast.Scientists says the jet stream is getting more of a wobble bringing warm air up in one place and cold air going south at another place.
    So the kids fable about who is stronger, the sun or the North wind may have to change, making winds more powerful. There is not full agreement on the jet stream changes, but it is being a worry and being studied.
    Meanwhile today a new study: Greenland ice is melting 4 times faster now than in 2003. Greenland is losing about 280 BILLION tons of ice a year, some in ice bergs, and much in ice melting into rivers.
    If all of the ice there goes the ocean rises 20 feet. Much of Nfld would survive that, but most all of the state of Florida would be under water, and much of coastal cities around the world. The Antarctic is more troublesome.
    And the changing jet stream helps the ice melt in Greenland, as we see this warm wind going past Nfld.
    Do we expand offshore production to solve the boondoggle debt? Do we bring on the carbon tax to counter fossil fuel burning?
    Lets roll the dice, and increase oil production, I wonder?
    Rolling the dice gave us MFs, are we due a win?
    Drum roll, someone please comment : climate change is a hoax.
    WA

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    1. I am happy to report that I am old and still want social justice and equality. I am glad to say I have kept my principles. I have also been fighting for the working class in NL (as well as Canada) my whole life. I am proud to say I butted heads with Vic Young and merchant's son John Crosby (who gave away the last of the cod complex for another election win).

      By and large the merchant class has been replaced by the political class. The result is the same: the feudal class still rules NL.

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    2. "the ocean rises 20 feet. Much of Nfld would survive" is spoken like a townie Winston. All of outport NL will be wiped out with a 20 foot rise in sea level.

      If you accept that the earth is "spaceship earth" burning more fossil fuel to reduce debt is suicidal is it not?

      There is some hope though Winston:

      https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/solar-storage-beats-combined-cycle-gas-in-jordan-and-morocco#gs.ULGrYBAC

      Solar plus battery storage is now cheaper than the most efficient fossil plant in north Africa. With NL having the best wind regime in the world, wind plus battery storage is probably cheaper now than Holyrood and an unreliable MF/LIL/ML

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    3. Agree, Bruno that burning more fossil fuel to reduce debt is suicidal, but hey: Japanese warriors were convinced to do that. So too Rommel, the Desert Fox, when Hitler gave him a choice of suicide or court marshal. So too Socrates. And 22 USA vets chose that every single day, and many First Nation people. But these see suicide as a last resort, with no other good option. We have options to move away from fossil fuel, but many prefer not to change.
      Some hope yes. They say :live in hope , die in despair. Hope is like wanting to win the lottery. We need a world wide Marshall Plan, like after WW2, multiplied by 10. That may aid hope.
      Archie Bunker told Edith " You got 15 minutes to change, when she told him she was on a change of life. So too we have less than 11 years to change, or as you suggest, humans are on a path to suicide, so like lemmings do. So maybe we are much like rats? Is that what attracted Danny Williams to Muskrat? Economic suicide. Muskrat was not a rational economic decision.
      Winston

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    4. Bruno, "the ocean rises 20 feet. Much of Nfld would survive" is spoke like a townie! All of Nfld would be wiped out with a 20 foot rise in sea level you say. Wrong, Bruno, so you go to extremes that is not factual. I am no Townie. I need the salt air.
      My cottage at Bishops's Cove. 75 ft above sea level. My small boat on a lift 17 ft above sea level, would be gone. I lost one previously , with a great big sea, when on a lift 12 feet high, so I built the lift higher. All 100 houses in BC is well above 20 ft, most about 100 ft above sea level. Upper Island Cove, about 1500 people, maybe 3 houses below 20 feet mark, many at 200 to 400 ft above.
      Some coastal towns are more exposed.
      Now if all of Antarctic melted, the ocean rises 200 feet, not 20.
      That is big big shit, thought 20 ft, that takes out all of Florida, is not small shit.
      20 ft rise is alarming , as is even 2 or 3 for many areas.
      Try and stay factual, Bruno.
      Winston

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    5. My point Winston is that rural NL would be devastated by a 20 foot rise in sea level, plus storm surges would indeed wipe out rural NL. As you point out, the attendant Antarctic addition would be much more that 20 feet.

      Please don't deny that climate change will devastate the Bays bye!

      You should use that engineering mind to consider wind plus storage as a way out of bankruptcy. Your thinking that even a 20 foot rise will not devastate NL is wrong headed. What about the storm surges added to sea level rise. Will you tell the surge to stop at 20 feet?

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    6. Bruno, the scientific evidence is bad enough. Certainly no existing wharfs would exists in present locations. Of course 20 feet rise would devastate many areas, but more so major cities. Yes storm surges add to the rise.
      I believe that wind and solar and battery storage is insufficient, in the time frame we have,that massive nuclear power generation ( despite the risks with that) is necessary to offset fossil fuel. France has about 75 % of its power is nuclear. Maybe in time fusion or some other technology will arrive. In time wind and solar will increase. The task to go off fossil fuel is gigantic, when much of the world using coal, oil and natural gas. Even peat is not good.
      Nfld and bankrupcy is a tiny problem compared to the world going off fossil fuel.
      How many on this blog think we should trottle back? 3? 5? 10? It is not even on the radar for most as an issue. Most everyone is afraid of the carbon tax. When we hear people wanting the carbon tax, and to be fed back to consumers, maybe there is then hope. All the engineering minds in the world cannot counter bias and ignorance as to climate change risk. If the Pope can't do it, or Hansen, how can I ? What do I say to an Inuit who now uses skidoos instead of dog teams? Or to the rich who heat their swimming pools with fossil fuel? Or to kids with motor bikes? A hefty carbon tax on all may help, a little.Maybe we should have never left the caves, other species have smaller brains, so are in harmony with the planet. If we were smart we would have avoided WW1 and WW2, right? We are all more ignorant than have knowledge, me included.
      Winston

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    7. Wrong Winston, we are the pillars of creation capable of a radical restructuring of our society to save the planet.

      Wind and battery storage can be up and running and replace your entire electrical system in as little as 6 months. No interim horror like nuclear needed. You can turn CF, MF, 2 ocean crossings,Holyrood etc. into a tourist attraction of an obsolete generation and transmission technology. CF is a nice town that can be converted to housing tourists.

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    8. Bruno, for chronic back pain I recently tried medical hash oil. Some swear by it. I have found little difference, but willing to try such things for a little while. I first heard of hash about 1968 from some Quebec pals at CFs site, s I am really behind the times as to use.
      Now to replace our 1750 MW peak demand with wind and storage in 6 months, what can I say? That is some powerful stuff you use. I understand wind takes 12-18 months. Maybe you stick with our island hydro? Batteries ok for 1 hr storage whereas we need 3 days or more in a cold snap. Do you give a guarantee?
      Now I applaud your optimism that humans can restructure our society to save the planet. But presently humans are on a path to radical restructure the planets mode of stability. What you suggest is not impossible. Apparently our planet operates on a plus or minus couple of degrees of average temperature, and could be maintained within those bonds to prevent a runaway hot house heating, or a deep freeze glacial event as happens in the past.
      Musk can produce all the batteries he likes, but if we depend on Dwight Ball for radical restructuring , or Trump, and the voters who empower them.......Houston , we have a problem!.
      So, the planet will save itself, and little cares if an ice house or a hot house. Humanity and civilization, on the other hand, needs saving, and little evidence we are up to the task. 30 years of international discussions, and zero progress made, as emissions just keep going up, not down.
      What brand do you smoke? Be careful, as Ed Martin and pals uses a special brand too, I hear.Cheers,and keep on truckin.
      Winston

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    9. Winston, Ask Elon Musk to provide a battery large enough to backup 100% wind (and 12 to 18 hour backup is all you will ever need in windy NL) and batteries balance the load in real time saving time and money.

      The EA is the delay and that can be expedited. Junior is promising a new EA act after the Cons gutted it when in power. So far it is all talk from Junior.

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    10. Kennedy had MHI do a wind /battery for some 1300 MW split for east and west coast, so for about avg 43 % capacity, to offset Holyrood and the cost about 17 billion, I think.
      Prices keep dropping for wind and batteries, but hardly cost effective. I can see 400-500 MW or so, staged over a few years, and little battery storage as it is so expensive, and so other measures. 12-18 hrs for batteries is considerable battery capacity, and I think not cost effective.For a car, a 10,000 dollar battery pac, say 200 miles , gives 3 hrs operation.
      WA

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    11. Usually it is prudent to monitor wind sites for one year in advance. Good sites can make a lot of difference in performance. So, good wind and near existing power grid.
      Of course this is speculative, but may be needed if MFs don't operate, is unreliable etc. Should have been evaluated as as part of the Isolated option mix.Maybe Musk would do the study for the mix?
      WA

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    12. NL is riddled with good wind sites that are ideal for large windfarms. A tiein for said farm(s) is cost effective.

      Think positive Winston.

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    14. Ditto the batteries cost that have been dropping like a rock with no end in sight Winston.

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  10. We have the VOCM poll to day,:What to do with the remains of the Beothic if they come back to Nfld. I voted the last option: Build a memorial to them. Only 10 % voted for this. I think the memorial building should be near the Confederation Building, where daily citizens drive by, not hidden away.
    As we are heading for the poor house with govn debt due to the boondoggle, there will be little appetite for such expenditure.
    Let me by way of this blog make an offer : I pledge $10,000.00 to a suitable structure in a suitable location, for the Beothic Memorial Fund.
    Winston Adams

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  11. The birth rate is down to 4000/yr from 14,000 from 1955-1965. Despite the vastly higher fertility in the past, the population didn't grow much. The population in 2017 is the same as it was in 1971! People obviously were leaving for work. Now, deaths exceed births by about 1000, and another 3000 leave by emigration. And that is before the cr** hits the fan.

    Once the 100,000 baby boomers over 65 years old pass on, our lopsided age distribution will loose its hump. There are 22,000 people in the 0-5yr cohort and 41,000 in the 50-55 year cohort.

    So, with each five year bucket cut in half, deaths exceeding births, the baby boomers moving on, emigration and a much lower fertility rate, I would guess the population will be cut in half.

    Is a province of 250,000 people and tons of debt viable? We certainly won't be needing that Muskrat Falls power.

    https://www.stats.gov.nl.ca/statistics/population/pdf/popagesex_bs.pdf

    and this:
    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/births-low-population-1.4980724

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    1. I keep hearing MF debt will be the burden of our Grandchildren. What Grandchildren? And if there's still a scattered one left, they're quite free to flee. Move if you CAN!!!!!

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    2. As you have correctly pointed out the population today is essentially the same as it was in 1971. But the population grew some 45% from 1951 to 1971.

      What should be noted here is the average age in 1971 was 20.9 years versus 43.7 in 2016. By 2030 the projected number of births could reach 3300 while the death rate will be about 6600. The average age will be close to 46.

      The long-term ramifications are staggering. Many people my age with school-aged children recognize the future for what it is and not what some politician pretends it can be.

      Here is the link to the paper.
      http://www.mun.ca/harriscentre/PopulationProject/Population_Projections_for_NL.pdf

      Keith

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    3. Was not Parseval Copes correct in his projections on sustainable growth for NL? Too bad that leadership ignored his sage advice, spent the ratepayers into the poorhouse!
      What great erroneous projections does current government present in an effort to get re-elected?

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    4. Mr. Levy Payer keeps on, like Cassandra, shouting "Flee, flee while you can."
      This isn't productive as perhaps 90 percent of us cannot flee due to age, economics or ability, and, have nowhere to flee to in any case.
      Give it up Mr. Payer unless you can come up with some constructive ideas on how to survive our few remaining years.
      It isn't bad enough we find ourselves put into this position without you repeating your mantra?
      Perhaps I can counter with, "Return, Mr. Payer, return while you can, we need all the help we can get."

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  12. In the 1970s, as an engineer with Nfld Hydro, at times I communicated with a division of NASA, in Boulder Colorado, USA. They monitored sun spot activity, when these solar storms ejected particles into space. When these headed into the direction of earth, it would interact with our protective magnetic field causing a large disturbance. This is the essence of the Northern Lights we see. It also creates DC currents in the earth that enters our AC power grid. Our AC power transformers don't like DC currents. The iron core saturates, overheats, gives off gasses, damages the transformers and can also burn off large copper grounding wires.Corner BK area was particular subject to this, and generally caused by the natural high resistance of our soil in Nfld.
    This was awesome stuff,I thought, something like in Star Track, where a pulse of energy 93 million miles away, can shut down our power grid and communication systems within 48 hrs.
    Boulder engineers would send me a warning, that we might be expecting some power grid trouble. Our operations engineers at Nfld Hydro would be notified. There were incidents where large ground wires burnt off from these low voltage DC earth currents.
    With the MFs DC line, I read in 2012, that DC lines in China and Africa are generally exposed to such risks, but never did hear if this was one of the risks assessed here for the DC link. I had a chat last year with PENG2 on this blog on this subject.
    Separate from this is the issue of GHG climate change. I recently read that this is now adding the equivalent of 6 atomic bombs explosions PER SECOND to our earth system. More amazing is that the equivalent of 2700 atomic bomb explosion energy , PER SECOND,impacts our upper atmosphere from the suns radiation. Earth's system is generally in balance, so that the protective system radiates most all of that back out away from earth. Except now, with GHG this is changing. 100 years ago with modest GHG emissions , 1 bomb per second equivalent was being trapped. Now that is 6 bombs per second being trapped, and getting worse.
    What a wonderful and complex system we inhabit, with Nature's protections build in otherwise we fry in a second.
    Experts in the field, and moralists like the Pope, say our Garden of Eden is threatened, by our neglect of this planet with climate change from fossil fuel burning.
    We seem to push on, in ignorance of high risk dire consequences. How much is Dwight informed of the risks of unlimited extraction of our oil reserves? How will he recycle carbon taxes back to assist regular citizens, rather than aid the fossil fuel industry? Time, say the experts, is running out.
    WA

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    1. Re: "How much is Dwight informed" - He isn't informed, nor even capable of understanding these kind of complexities.When you add into the mix solar cycles and various positive and negative feedback loops, many outcomes are possible and even likely Humans and tough as rats will adapt.

      The marine environment is also hard to predict. Bony fish might be replaced with a new, yet stable, ecosystem dominated by jellyfish. I'd hate to adapt to harvesting them for food, but people can, and do eat them.

      If we had a competent / merit based public service where education and professional development was valued (let alone funded), and where management wasn't at risk of firing by working "at the pleasure of the minister" then we could present intelligent options and likely convince most politicians to do the right thing.

      What we have now is pathetic. Next to nothing in professional development, far too many hired via connections over merit and far too easy to get fired for speaking the truth. The culture of refusing to tackle important issues because it is "above my pay grade" is particularly bad since there is often nobody "above" to understand the implications of bad decisions.

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    2. If we keep fishing down the foodchain, especially directing effort on cornerstone species like the capelin roe fishery. jellyfish may soon be all there is left in our oceans.

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    3. Bruno, have you seen Enric Sala's work? There is a lecture here: https://www.ted.com/talks/enric_sala . If we were to turn much of NL waters into a marine sanctuary, we could transform rural life. This is the kind of biology lesson that should be mandatory for all children in NL high school and the kind of knowledge that is needed to guide our fishery policies.

      Newfoundland has deep sea corals and we actually use chains to beat them up, drag the fish creating mud storms and whatever is left gets swept away since there is nowhere to rest. Fish can't swim 24x7 against currents.

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    4. No I have not seen the lecture but I campaigned against dragger technology in the 1990, and attended a UN conference as a delegate so I am well aware of the ocean issues.

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  14. FYI, all. Some interesting talk right now on the inquiry website.

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  15. Re Climate Change ----- we have our first tulip breaking ground today near the south wall of the house (Paradise).

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    1. Tulips in Paradise give hope for an early spring.

      Your California namesake suffered quite a blow with a fire.

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  16. Off topic, but has anyone checked the specs of the MV Apollo vs MV Qajaq? My info tells me the Apollo (admittedly very, very dated) is larger, faster and more ice capable than the Qajaq.

    PENG2

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    1. They appear similar. The newer boat has less draught, lighter and maybe slower.

      Old Apollo
      Length: 108.7 m (357 ft)
      Beam: 17.2 m (56 ft)
      Draught: 4.6 m (15 ft)
      Depth: 6 m (20 ft)
      Installed power: 2 × 4,000bhp 12cyl Klöckner-Humboldt-Deutz SBV 12M 350 diesel engines
      Propulsion: 2 shafts; controllable pitch propellers
      Gross Tonnage: 6480
      Speed: 18.5 knots (34.3 km/h; 21.3 mph)
      Built: 1970
      Ice class: 1A

      New Qajaq W (former Grete)
      Length: 97 m
      Beam: 17 m
      Draught: 3.9 m
      Speed: 10.2 kn, 18 kn max
      Power: 5600 KW
      gross tonnage is 5233 tons
      Year built: 2010
      Ice class: 1A

      Via CBC: "The Qajaq is smaller than the Apollo, which could carry 1,500 passengers. But the 98-metre ferry can still hold 600 occupants, a boon to tourists that may take advantage of revamped infrastructure in Labrador, Crocker said."

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    2. Anony @ 09:02:

      I haven't seen an ice class 1A designation for the new ships - other than in a CBC article; but CBC articles until yesterday also have claimed a greater capacity for the new ships. No doubt the Straits and North Costs is a heavy duty run - even the Larsen has had difficulty on times.

      The Apollo was overkill for the run, but her history (prior to the Straits run) shows just how good of a ship she was. Hopefully the replacements will prove to be as capable.

      PENG2

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    3. Good comparison info, but some important things missing. Like number of vehicles capacity, probably more important than number of passengers, whether it be 1500 or 600, as I don't think that many people are crossing at any given time. Both are of the same ice class, but difficult to comment on their ice manoeuvring capability, as no doubt their propulsion systems are quite different, rudders etc. I did hear the newer vessel was bow shaped at either end, so no need to turn around for docking, and may be easier for manoeuvring in ice conditions. Don't think speed is a significant factor on such a short run, as what time is lost in speed can be made up on docking time, if no need to turn around. Guess the operating cost are similar, crew size etc. Just my general observations. Heard the Apollo was going to one of the Quebec crossings, so must be a few good years left in the old lady yet. Of course many know many more details than I do about both vessels. Cheers, average Joe.

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  17. How big is the self entitlement, in NL? Have a look at the penny ante expense padding in BC;

    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/plecas-report-craig-james-gary-lenz-full-report-1.4987795

    Wasn't the corruption of policy, mega project favouritism at Muskrat, a form of entitlement?

    Where are the RCMP on fraud? If the Speaker of the House in BC can call them in over padded expenses, why can it not be possible to cut out the redacted audit BS, and follow the money on Muskrat? Money laundering is also on the docket ($Billions), here in BC Stay tuned.

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  18. From the VOCM inquiry story, "Some details of those will not be disclosed as Commissioner Richard LeBlanc is satisfied that the information could result in significant financial harm."

    I'd like to know, harm to whom? What is the mechanism of this harm?

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  19. The Commissioner wisely says:

    https://www.thetelegram.com/news/local/muskrat-falls-inquiry-commissioner-quashes-nalcor-request-278043/

    Open the contract admin files. Good move Mr. Commissioner.

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    1. This is a great line: “The risk of harm already exists by virtue of the events that have taken place.” I don't think Nalcor is really worried about commercial sensitivities. They just want to keep the public in the dark as much as possible to protect the guilty from public outrage.

      I'd like to see the transmission contract and understand how they could string kms of bad wire, which was presumably then unstrung, re-strung. Who profited from the scrap? Was the Valard contract sole source? There is a lot more rotten than just the Astaldi contract.

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    2. Robert @ 08:53:

      I don't agree with the disclousure timing - all REAs should have been defined prior to a disclosure. Also, for LeBlanc to have a full understanding the Inquiry should have been held after substantial completion - there will be little understanding of why Astaldi's contract was terminated at the Inquiry since none of the assertions will have been tested in court by the time the Inquiry clues up - a phrase for people to get used to hearing will be 'not yet tested in court' and I suspect a lot of details will be rightly ruled outside the bounds of the Inquiry.

      1st example that comes to mind is a claim for the Dome - if there was internal Nalcor communication debating the effectiveness that communication would be subject to disclosure at the Inquiry (and thus now 'admittable' at arbitration since already in public domain) but not subject to disclosure or admission at an arbitration as it would have been private communication.

      In certain situation, this type of communication could be enough to further a contractors claim and thus cause further costs. Considering there is $1B of claims outstanding, the risk is real.

      PENG2

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    3. You and I disagree on disclosure. Ongoing audits of EPC type projects has become the only way to keep the process transparent. This Muskrat job afforded the Integrated far too much latitude for high risk taking and obfuscating of how Public and Shareholder resources and funding were expended. Open the books!

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    4. Robert @ 10:01:

      If we consider a paragraph on page 19 of the GT report being redacted vs open - since only 1% of the population will actually read the report (vs read a summary or rely on media summaries) if that paragraph has a $10M risk associated with it I am not convinced the public is served be disclosure prior to defining of REAs. The GT report will have a wide download base - 95% will read only summary and get an understanding from the media, but the majority will be lawyers for Astaldi (and other contractors) looking for leverage. Most complaints are over the fact that a section is redacted - nothing to do with what was redacted or why, most don't even understand why redactions occur.

      I said here 2 yrs ago that I write contracts with some vagueness - specifically to retain some leverage for closeout in situation of claims. LeBlanc has taken that leverage away, I think a poor decision - and there will be increased costs.

      PENG2

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    5. I remember well being lectured by Clyde Wells, following his experience in settling contractor claims on Churchill Falls project; Engineers put "vague"clauses in contracts to try and have contractors placed at a disadvantage during dispute resolution;. He referred to them as "exculpatory", a term most of us construction managers in the room had never heard of.

      "An exculpatory clause is a contract provision that relieves one party of liability if damages are caused during the execution of the contract. The party that issues the exculpatory clause is typically the one seeking to be relieved of the potential liability.May 24, 2018

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    6. Robert @ 10:44:

      Correct (I have been given a similar lecture by Wells and Oakley), but provided the exculpatory clause is reasonable and foreseeable by the other party it is enforceable - for example, there would be no need to tell a contractor the winter working conditions in Labrador, or if their planned mitigation would/wouldn't work, that is contractor means/methods.

      The problem now arising is that there is a chance that opinions not necessarily admitted to an arbitration will be in the public domain and thus admissible in the arbitration. I wouldn't be necessarily looking for redress in these situations, but looking to avoid liability by letting the contractor determine his/her own faith - poorly times disclosure puts that at risk.

      So, if there is a claim that is 'approved' totaling $400M, just how is the public supposed to accept the rational for that?

      PENG2

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    7. The Judge for the Inquiry will use his best judgement, as will the disputes settlement courts, and the chips fall where they may. What is the current project estimate to complete, including disputes and claims? The Public deserves to know full disclosure, prior to the election.

      Delete
    8. Robert @ 11:02:

      The Oversight Committee said in September 2018 that there was no change in forecasted completion costs, ie the $12.7B number was still valid.

      Too early to speculate on the cost implications of replacing Astaldi or the impacts of Inquiry disclosure since impacts aren't known yet.

      Not sure what an election has to do with this type of disclosure - I guess voting between a party that gave us MF or a party that gave us an Inquiry might affect the majority of the public that will never read the documents or the impacts indepth.

      PENG2

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    9. Government, representing the shareholder, (taxpayer/ratepayer), has for some time been the Owner of the Integrated (machination) team, running the project. Ball in his wisdom chose not to shut it down. The Liberal Gov. must be held accountable.

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    10. While as a tax payer I want to minimize the cost of the egregiously abusive project, I don't begrudge damages paid to contractors if they deserve the payments. To enable Nalcor to get away with shafting contractors by keeping things secret, is just enabling more evil. Pay everyone what they are morally owed, and then go after the mafia that foisted this upon us via outright lies, lies of omission, corruption, abuse of authority and the abuse of the public trust.

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  20. I met a carpenter that was involved with the forms collapse. He told me they reported the forms slipping bit by bit, but the boss wanted his performance bonus so they were told to kept pouring despite repeated warnings. When it failed, one worker was burred up to his neck in concrete. He also stated that this man wasn't the same afterwards. PTSD most likely.

    Later, I read the accident report and it said the worker was totally submerged. Therefore, it seems "up to his neck" was not an exaggeration and perhaps an understatement.

    Does anyone know if there were performance bonuses for meeting deadlines, like getting a concrete pour finished on time?

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  21. Ches was on open line this morning, with a leak from the Atlantic Accord negioations that conclude in another 2 months, ongoing maybe for almost a year. This is where Ball is hoping to get his rate migitatons, but it may be a two edge sword. What does he have to give up. Chess says agree to the clause that the accord does not have to be open every 5 years for review, and that we become the same as the 3 maratime provinces, with no special consideration that we own the offshore as say Alberta owners the oil there. So am sure this will become a hot topic before the next election, that some say may come in May. Cheers, Joe blow.

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    1. Remember that NS was once cash poor. The pulled some strings in Ottawa regarding their "Crown Share" of the Offshore gas. Result; they were advanced close to $1B, and pursued exploration and a bit of production. Alberta separatists think they "own" their Crown Share, and can put it in the back of a Ford 150, when they take off down the TCH

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  22. What special energy message will M. Ball have for his brothers in arms?
    As good an opportunity as any to get Higgs to hit up QC for some sweet, clean hydro don't you all think? Forget the fracked gas option, crank up the agriculture, fruits and veg no beef!

    https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/pei-atlantic-ministers-energy-1.4989359

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