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Monday 29 July 2013


Those who noticed the decisions, out of Nova Scotia's UARB and Hydro Quebec, should not be content with being surprised.  Afterall, by anyone’s standards, surprises on a major scale, that appear after $7.4 billion has been committed, constitute recklessness.  The public should deal with this reality; it needs to tell the Premier to stop. 

The UARB has stated, in uncommonly plain language, that the Maritime Link is not, now, the lowest cost option for Nova Scotia.  It says that 15 cents per KWh for the Nova Scotia Block is too high and demands that all of the ‘surplus’ energy from Muskrat Falls be made available.  Altogether, the two blocks constitutes 60% of the power from Muskrat Falls. It says, only by levelling the price, with cheap (5-9 cents KWh) “market-priced” power, can it achieve the desired blended rate of 10 cents, allowing the ML, over time, to become the lowest cost option. 

Exhibiting Quebec style opportunism, NS could care less that Newfoundland rate-payers will pay in excess of 20 cents per KWH.  They are not concerned that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians will assume all of the construction risk, including 80% of cost overruns on the Maritime Link (ML). But, NS sees an opportunity to benefit and who can blame them.  They are doing what ‘states’ do: they act in their self-interest. If Premier Dunderdale had consulted Brian Peckford on Nova Scotia’s antics, during the Atlantic Accord saga, she and her Ministers might not have so quickly earned the mantle, ‘babes in the wood’.

Tuesday 23 July 2013


Monday, July 22, 2013 will go down in infamy as the date on which the wheels finally began coming off the Muskrat Falls Project. 

Some would rightfully argue that the wheels, on this Project, were never properly attached anyway. Who, except Kathy Dunderdale, Ed Martin, Jerome Kennedy and Cathy Bennett would disagree.

Likely, at this very moment, the Dunderdale crowd, in Confederation Building, are enjoying the relaxation of summer; the House of Assembly is closed, Ministers are off to their country places and the oppressive heat, wrought by an angry public and pesky Pollsters, is a distant memory for a battle weary Government.  I doubt that a single one of them appreciate that the Dunderdale train just got side tracked and is now hanging over a very steep political and financial precipice.

Monday 22 July 2013


"Nav, I am nearly finished 'Why Nations Fail' and I suggest that you take it with you when you leave here this evening.  But do you fancy something a little stronger than a coffee?" 

The old man's grin clearly communicated that this was a question of a rhetorical nature.  We began the walk to Erin's, one of Uncle Gnarley's preferred watering holes. 

"What is peculiar about Nalcor, Uncle Gnarley continued, is that they put ‘on airs’ about being an open and transparent company.  They produce an annual transparency report, hold public meetings and they even have an annual general meeting for their shareholders".

"Uncle Gnarley what is peculiar about that?"

"Nalcor have created the illusion of transparency, but once you scratch the surface they spew an awful lot of baffelgab.  Combined with their subsidiary, known to most as the Premier’s office, they have worked to undermine the pre-existing democratic institutions such as the Public Tendering Act, the Public Utilities Board, and also the fiscal governance responsibilities of the House of Assembly.

Thursday 18 July 2013


The following comments are not mine, though they mirror the views expressed in The Nalcor State: A Clear and Present Danger.  Comments get placed on Uncle Gnarley Blog or arrive by private email.  

The words speak to frustration with a Crown Corporation engaged in high level secrecy and obfuscation and to a bewilderment as to why an elected Government is complicit and approving of  Nalcor’s behaviour.  Equally, there is the realization that, while the Government is blind, the public is offered no protection because Muskrat Falls is exempt from review, even from an independent regulator like the PUB.

Monday 15 July 2013


Sunday evening turned out to be one of those special times when the City of Legends lived up to its billing.  Inspired by the sunset, I decided to take a stroll down to my favourite coffee shop on Water Street.  After ordering a low fat latte, I saw from the corner of my eye a man who was clearly out of place with the nouveau architecture. 

Uncle Gnarley was perhaps better suited to unemployment boots, while traversing the island in search for a great fishing pool.  This evening he wore Birkenstocks and a tie-dyed shirt while drinking an Italian coffee.   After all these years, I have learned never to be surprised by my old friend. 

Uncle Gnarley was totally engrossed in his book.  The firm grip of his teeth on his bottom lip was a tell-tale sign that he was in a state of higher concentration.    I went over and nudged him "I thought you would be up the Gander River by now?"

He was clearly not pleased, slowly rotating his head to look up.  The clasped lip was quickly replaced by the unmistakable grin.  "Nav, the water is too high on accounts of all this rain.  This fine evening, I am taking my pleasure in a cup of coffee and a book.  It is called Why Nations Fail,
written by a couple of economists from Harvard.  It is simply written, but it does outline a very thought provoking theory.  You might enjoy the simple concepts, Nav”.

With that I knew that this was not to be a quick encounter.  I took the chair which was graciously offered. 

Thursday 11 July 2013


Yes, they’re off!  Finally. The second ‘natural’ governing Party in the Province wants your attention. The ads will start soon. Don Cherry has already tweaked a well-worn script for Kathy Bennett.  It goes something like:

She may not know Liberals

But, she knows the Tories

And here’s the kicker:

My friends at the Board of Trade know her, so check her oout!

(This paid political message brought to you by Nalcor. “We’ll keep you in the dark”.)


Now, will Dwight Ball please tell us what he stands for? I hope so.  It’s hard watching a martyr not knowing if he has religion; though he does look like a fellow with a lot to confess.

Monday 8 July 2013


Likely, most people believe that the Muskrat Falls Project is out of reach of cancellation.  That may be true; still, the public expects their Government to keep a tight rein on Project costs and to report frequently. 

So far, the Dunderdale Administration has shown no sign that it is either concerned, or that it even cares, whether the public is kept informed.

The Government has sanctioned Muskrat Falls based upon a series of dodgy and ever changing arguments.  But, having passed over complete discretion on how billions of dollars of public money will be spent, to a cabal of unelected bureaucrats at Nalcor, represents an unparalleled dereliction of duty, by elected officials.

The performance of Nalcor CEO Ed Martin, during its recent Annual General Meeting (AGM), is significant.  Russell Wangersky raised the issue in the June 30th edition of the Telegram.  He cited several specific examples of the Corporation’s refusal to disclose essential information regarding major Project contracts and expenditures. In a nutshell, Nalcor is making copious use of the “can’t tell you” strategy: it responds to many enquiries, with either “no answer” or “too commercially sensitive to answer.” As a backgrounder to this piece, Mr. Wangersky’s Column, "Variations on a theme - questions and non-answers", is well worth reading. 

Thursday 4 July 2013


When I go for a haircut, my Barber understands my little idiosyncrasy.  Not a word is exchanged, once I sit in her chair.  She knows exactly how much to cut, anyway. 

There is a reason for this bit of unfriendliness.  It’s not that I want to be anti-social; I just tend to be inquisitive and want to hear what the other customers are saying.  You can really pick up some interesting tidbits in a Barber Shop. 

Now, this Saturday, I went to get my ‘ears lowered’, as a friend describes  a hair cut.  I nodded the usual greeting, to my Barber, and sat in the chair.  The occasion was rather timely because, only a moment earlier, the next chair had received a patron; he and his Barber were already in conversation.

Monday 1 July 2013


Attempts at defining ‘leadership’ might suggest one can write a prescription for why one Premier can command popular support and another fails. Declining popularity, for Premier Kathy Dunderdale and her Administration, certainly puts the question under a critical spot light.

Leadership is a tricky matter; for political leaders in trouble, it says more about their ability to ‘connect’ with the body politic, than the public’s excess of expectations.  Such a connection determines not just how much latitude they exercise, but how far the public’s patience can be stretched.  Those who successfully bond are skilful and confident.  They can expect that, if the relationship diminishes, it might be rekindled, later.

Leadership is truly as complex as the person at the helm. Those who possess leadership’s essential qualities seldom need the affirmation of opinion polls.

Why isn’t this Premier connected with her ‘body politic’?