Thursday, 18 October 2012


I was surprised that delegates to the P.C. Convention, this past weekend, were asked to vote on a resolution in support of the Muskrat Falls project.   

Why be surprised?
Muskrat Falls is the largest construction project ever undertaken by a provincial government; it is the legacy project of Danny Williams and Kathy Dunderdale.  Surely, party members should be asked to weigh in and give it two thumbs up? Well, actually, no.

At the very least, the Premier ought to have given Party Members the courtesy of the DG-3 numbers, the latest cost estimates generated by SNC Lavalin; she should have informed them of the cost of Muskrat power on a KWh basis and how many billions of dollars will be added to the public debt to pay for the project.

Cartoon Credit: John Meaney, Rand and Roar
In a gesture of transparency, the Premier might have insisted that Party Members be informed of the net cost to the consumer given that NL needs only 40% of Muskrat power.  The Premier’s number, per KWh, would have factored in the 20% of the 824 MWs to Emera, at no charge, and the balance to mining interests at the price of less than 4 cents per KWh.  Such a gesture would have constituted respect for the people who make the 'Party' function.  Then, perhaps, armed with that information, Tory delegates would be ready to vote?  Alas, that is not the case.
Had a Muskrat Plenary Session dominated the entire weekend, where seminars on Nalcor’s poor demand numbers had been discussed, the Water Management Agreement or the alternatives to Muskrat Falls received the scrutiny of a group still cloudy from the previous night’s festivities, it still would not have been appropriate to invite the delegates to commit themselves on such a project.

You see, that the vote was on the agenda at all was inappropriate; it was wrong.  Clearly, Dunderdale and Kennedy will grasp at any support now that satire has taken hold of the ‘contract coalition’ of business people.  Yes, I too have wondered how the Premier’s liaison with that group is going down with the ordinary working stiffs who comprise the largest group of delegates. 

Of course, someone ought to have told the Premier and the Party executive to buzz off, but in the super fused atmosphere of partisan politics, that’s easier said than done, unless you want to be sent packing. 

Let me be clear.  It was entirely appropriate that Muskrat Falls be discussed at the Gander Convention, provided that the delegates were disrespected by being asked to digest a diatribe of propaganda.  Any Government would use an opportunity to ‘educate’ its supporters about a project with such wide ranging ramifications.
But seek a vote in support of Muskrat Falls (via the Premier’s District Assoc.)? No.  Wiser leadership would have counselled and differentiated between a ‘principle’ and a ‘project’. 

Pursuit of joint management of offshore resources is the pursuit of a principle.  The concept of ‘adjacency’ in the fishery is based upon a principle.  A desire to mitigate green-house gases involves a principle. If the delegates had been asked to support the principle of funding ‘green’ energy or the principles found in energy conservation (I wonder if delegates knew that NL is one of only two provinces that does not fund an independent energy conservation group), that would have made sense. Afterall, what political party has not tried to graft on to the universally popular goal of reducing the global carbon footprint. 
Holyrood produces much fewer green house gases than does the Come By Chance Oil Refinery.  Some delegate, as kind of a trick question, might have enquired why the Government has failed to deal with the most obvious and egregious problem first.  But, I digress.

Yes, political parties are about ideology, principles, objectives and then good organization.  Muskrat Falls is a project.  It is not a principle.   It is an investment. It may be a poor one, but it is still an investment, by definition.  Indeed, it is an investment that a great many Newfoundlanders and Labradorians believe is so poorly conceived that it will seriously impair the treasury of the Province.
Problem is, this P.C Government is afraid to commit the final number and much additional information to the PUB for complete and final examination.   It has obstructed the ‘Rule of Law’ by evading the very Agency established to provide such rigorous review.

Most people, including myself, bear no malice to Premier Dunderdale, personally.  Our views on Muskrat Falls are not borne out of partisanship, either.   Some of us have made contributions to P.C. Governments, over many years, of which we are still rightfully proud.   
But we would not be wrong in suggesting that this Premier has little respect for principles.  And what is a Party without principles.  Afterall, P.C. Governments boast introduction of the Public Tendering Act, the Public Service Commission, even the Freedom of Information Act and a host of other reforms that constitute the underpinnings of modern democratic government.  The ‘principles’ of the Atlantic Accord are what gave its pursuit legitimacy and staying power.

Surely, one who believes in democratic principles would not demand that the party faithful endorse a ‘project’ of such consequence as Muskrat Falls while scandalizing the fundamental ‘principles’ of the Rule of Law by openly debasing an important Agency like the PUB.    
Governments often lose their way.  Political parties can't afford to; principles are what sustains them.