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Monday 25 June 2012


The Muskrat Falls project, in all its complexity and potential for negative outcomes, is akin to a bomb with multiple warheads for politicians.  Political fallout could occur from several directions, perhaps even at once.  Weaknesses in decision making will be exposed as cost projections continue to increase, the price of oil remains weak, and low natural gas prices and power conversions to that form, continue to dominate the energy news in other jurisdictions. Look for a number of Cabinet Ministers and backbenchers alike, to become uncomfortable. 
By the time Muskrat Falls is sanctioned, it will be interesting to see whether any of the current Ministers have the courage exhibited, in another time, by John Crosbie, Clyde Wells, Alex Hickman and Val Earle, who sought the Opposition benches (Wells became an independent MHA) when the Smallwood government engaged in reckless behaviour with the finances of the Province.

Will any of them follow the example of Tom Rideout or Jim Hodder, who left the Liberal Party in the mid-1980s, because of the Party’s failure to back the Peckford Tories over natural resource issues and revenue sharing with the Feds?
Now, it’s the Tories who are in government and who are playing fast and loose with public policy and the public treasury. 

But even before you take notice of how guarded certain Ministers will become, you would do well to watch the Members sitting in the government’s back benches. 

Monday 18 June 2012


(The following Essay, is a companion piece to the last Post.  It was penned by Uncle Gnarley’s scribe and first appeared in The Telegram, Monday, June 11, 2012.  It is re-produced here for continuity purposes and for the benefit of Uncle Gnarley readers.)
The unfolding of the Muskrat Falls issue, as it has, demands that we pause for a moment.  The government and its proxy, Nalcor, has managed how we view the project by parcelling out selected information, steadfastly refusing the release of critical data, subverting the public review process and pummelling legitimate critics. 
As members of a democratic society, we need to consider how such behaviours have impacted our rightful participation in this major public policy initiative.  Equally, we need to consider what we have willfully acceded to the state given that many people have denied their responsibility to assess the project and its risk to themselves and to our economy; we also need to consider how we have enabled this process.

From the very beginning, government was careful about the information it released, ensuring that it was minimal.  When it was forced to send the issue for review, after opposition protest, it framed a very narrow reference question, and gave the PUB little time to conduct its enquiry. 

Sunday 10 June 2012


The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has failed in its obligation to provide transparency on the Muskrat Falls issue; as a result, it has allowed a serious democratic deficit to occur.  Government has an obligation, as part of the democratic contract, to explain the complexities of Muskrat Falls; citizens should be engaged in the issue in order to assess the risks of the project themselves; they should not defer to the so-called experts.  It is the people, ultimately, who must take responsibility for critical matters of state. 

These are issues to be explored in another posting.  Let’s set the stage for that discussion by first dealing with this most basic question:  how should the government inform its citizens about the Muskrat Falls project? 

Monday 4 June 2012


The following Essay penned by Uncle Gnarley’s writer, appeared in The Telegram, Saturday, June 2, 2012 edition, and is re-produced here with minor edits.)          

Once the tyranny of the Smallwood years had been lifted, after the 1972 general election, it did not take long for new government systems to be introduced. 

Modern management practices including a more formalized public information system, a system for hiring public employees based upon merit, a public tendering system, as well as others were introduced.  A restructuring of the legislative and executive branches of the public service occurred; capable people became involved in the governance of the Province.  While the system was far from perfect and backsliding was sometimes manifest, major advances in the overall system of governing for a democratic society were evident.  Somehow, that process was halted with Muskrat Falls.
The Muskrat Falls project was a big head butt! Not at first. Not until the questions started to emerge. Maybe it wasn’t even then; perhaps, it was when Minister Kennedy was heard voicing outlandish and accusatory statements in an attempt to discredit certain individuals.  Many people then took the time to review the information on Muskrat Falls.  Personally, I came to the conclusion that it was not only ill thought out, it was reckless. Still, that is another matter.