Thursday, 4 October 2012

Race for Best Opposition Party Starts Now!

Recently the Liberal Opposition announced a number of rules which, they believe, should govern the structure of the House of Assembly debate on Muskrat Falls.

I had some difficulty with the logic of a few of the Liberals’ Rules.  The idea of examining witnesses in the morning with debate in the afternoon is questionable (why not get all the information, then engage in debate).  The Libs also want to help construct the resolution (why would you even want to, unless you planned to support the resolution).  I have a few other issues but they are minor.  None of them diminish the fundamental importance of a ‘structured’  examination of witnesses before the debate begins.

The NDP must now put forward its own proposal.
Both Parties also have to decide how far to push the Government to accept their debate ideas or at least get them to negotiate.  And they will need to push hard.

Dunderdale has already commented that there will be no examination of witnesses; that the Vale Inco Debate is the “template” for the Muskrat Falls Debate.  Some template!
The Opposition would be silly if they let her set the rules for the Debate in the House of Assembly as she has for public consideration of the issue.

Indeed, someone needs to tell the Premier that that the Vale Inco template is a falsity; Muskrat Falls has no parallels; it is the largest publicly funded construction project in this Province’s history, no consortium of equity investors is lined up to take on the risk,  as for Hibernia; only the people of the Province will pay for the project. 

The last Post, entitled PAN the Muskrat Falls Debate...Unless discusses the complexity of the Project and the fact that MHAs are not ready to debate important project details.
If the Opposition Parties go into the House of Assembly, without first examining witnesses, they risk becoming a party, with the Government, to the same strategy of obfuscation that has been carried on from the get go.

How far should they push the Government to understand that they mean business?  Can they refuse to participate in the Muskrat Debate? 
Muskrat is not like having an opinion on Bill 29; it is not a matter of democratic principle, it is about an inherently risky construction project of questionable need; it is about simple issues like the cost being disproportionate to our size and financial ability and very complex issues including the 1200 pages of legal agreements with Emera (so far),  Nalcor’s poor ‘demand’ models and a Water Management Agreement in which Hydro Quebec is absent as a signatory; it about less risky alternatives and a host of other issues.

Muskrat Falls has the potential to destroy this Government; likely, it will be the issue that ‘makes’ one of the Opposition Parties. 
Certainly, it will determine which Opposition Party has used its energy and creativity best to get the Government to shift from its present course.  If either Party wimps out and defers to the Government’s agenda, that Party will also suffer, when the costs of Muskrat Falls are tallied up.   

Of the two Opposition parties, the NDP has the second strongest support in the St. John’s area; the populous region closet to the Legislature.  Can they impress their followers and indeed the whole Province with a series of demonstrations, as the House opens, to show the depth of their support and to confirm the wariness of a concerned public?
Do the Liberals have anyone better to trot out than Dean MacDonald, the guy who, ostensibly, has been assigned the job of revitalizing the Liberal Party? Will Dwight Ball show the public who is boss and take charge?  Does he have what it takes to stare down Kathy Dunderdale and win an ‘intelligent and informed’ debate?

Both the Liberals and the NDP should be keeping the lights on late at Confederation Building as they plan a strategy to deal with the Tories.  Just because Dunderdale is about to ruin the P.C. Party for an entire generation doesn’t mean the spoils will be evenly shared by the other two parties.
The next few weeks will show what the two Opposition parties are made of.

Do I see busses off loading throngs of anti-Muskrat supporters just as the House opens?  Which Party has organized them?  I wonder.