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Thursday 30 January 2014


When the media lavishes silence on an important public policy issue, is it any wonder the public are not tuned in?  That is what occurred regarding the NS UARB Decision on the Maritime Link, just before Christmas. 

The last push to secure the Federal Loan Guarantee demanded a large enhancement from Nalcor, called the Energy Access Agreement (EAA).  By then the media was bored with matters Muskrat; not that that issue had, at any time, stretched their capacities. The EAA may have gotten mere mention; but any explanations received neither reports nor analysis.    

I had promised comment on this state of affairs some weeks ago but the power black outs, though “not a crises”, coupled with the Premier’s resignation intervened.   The media still deserves a good lashing.

Monday 27 January 2014


After two years of non-stop acrimony, the arrogance and incompetence of a seriously battered Government is exposed following Premier Dunderdale’s banishment.

The concern, now, is that her departure has deflected blame that should be accorded her uninspired cabinet, particularly the two most senior cabinet ministers, Tom Marshall (now Premier) and the recently retired Jerome Kennedy. 

The truth is that not just the leader, but the whole Government, suffered a malady whose symptoms span spinelessness and unbridled pigheadedness. 

An isolated electorate, mad as hell, understands it has the last laugh.  They will have their say in a year’s time; but if this Government wishes to survive the ignominy of history’s dustbin, it will acknowledge that it is ship-wrecked.  It ought to claim salvage while there is still something to save.

The electorate is not laughing, at least not now.  It knows that the Dunderdale Government has unleashed an agenda whose worst parts may be irreversible. 

Thursday 23 January 2014


Premier Dunderdale’s resignation was not a question of ‘if’ but ‘when’.  If the decision had not been made now, following her unwise and unsympathetic response to the power “crises”, it most certainly would have been made after the House of Assembly closed in the spring.
The Premier’s loss of popularity began shortly after the 2011 General Election and the decline likely descended to a new low as the acrimony of the power outages unfolded.  At the best of times it is tough to build on an approval rating nearing 20%.  It is especially hard when fall-out continues from policies like Muskrat Falls, Bill 29, successive huge deficits, and an inability to recognize mutual respect as important mark of leadership.
How could the Premier command confidence when hugely important public policies were subject to the dictates of Nalcor, a Crown Corporation and its CEO Ed Martin, without as much as Department of Finance oversight?  The very idea of such a derogation of duty is repugnant within any context of ‘Responsible Government’.      
Even if one were to give the event a most generous appraisal, the resignation of the Province’s first female Premier, after only 27 months, is a disappointment.  Most people, regardless of partisan leaning, would have wanted her to succeed; a Premier’s success is closely related to the fortunes of the Province. Then, too, proof that the role of First Minister is gender neutral also needed affirmation.   At least on that account, the Premier succeeded.       
Dunderdale was in many ways an incomplete Premier; long-serving and ambitious on the one hand but, on the other, a politician lacking the disposition to share a common bond with the body politic. 

Wednesday 22 January 2014


Nalcor V-P Gilbert Bennett's second response to the questions raised in two recent Articles posted on this Blog, regarding operational issues at the Muskrat Falls Site, has been posted. Mr. Bennett's reply is available on this Link.  

I acknowledge the clarity of his comments and I will be paying particular attention to how this matter unfolds especially in relation to the Project’s schedule.

That said, now that I have Mr. Bennett’s attention, perhaps he might respond to some additional questions to which this Blogger and others have been attempting to obtain answers.

These questions relate especially to the Province’s ability to avoid ‘black-outs’ in the future.

The maximum output available to the Province, in the winter months will be a maximum of 824 MW from Muskrat Falls, in addition to the 80 MW remaining of Recall power from the Upper Churchill. 

Once transmission losses are accounted for, and the deliveries to Emera are made, the Labrador Island Link will contribute 645 MW to the island grid at Soldiers Pond.  If Nalcor commits 80 MW to Alderon, this will be reduced to about ~580 MW peak winter delivery at Soldiers Pond.  Following the decommissioning of Holyrood there will only be a net increase of about 120 MW available to the island grid.

Tuesday 21 January 2014


Nalcor has responded to the serious issues raised by the January 20th, 2014 Uncle Gnarley Post entitled MUSKRAT FALLS "ON ICE": NEWS FROM THE FIELD.

This Link will take you to Nalcor's Statement from Lower Churchill Project Vice-President, Gilbert Bennett.  You will note that it fails to answer these questions: was the road to the construction site plowed?  Was the fuel truck prevented from delivering the essential fuel with which to run the pumps at the huge excavation site?  Did the dewatering pumps run out of fuel? Was there a failure of management on the Project?

These are the fundamental questions.  

Nalcor can blame Astaldi Canada for the oversight as it pleases (as they are apparently trying to do), but the public needs to know if the pumps unexpectedly shut down as its reference to “negligible ice buildup”, in Bennett's reply, seems to confirm.  Please advise us if that is what occurred.

Are there now discussions between Nalcor and Astaldi Canada about the financial or other fall-out from this event?

I would hasten to inform Nalcor that regardless of its relationship with Astaldi Canada, Nalcor is responsible for everything that happens on the Muskrat Falls site.

On that point, I am obligated to note that  SNC-Lavalin was awarded a Contract to deliver engineering, procurement and construction management (EPCM) services for the Muskrat Falls project.  Management of snow clearing, if not the pumping systems, too, would normally fall within the scope of such management services.  

Are rumours of SNC-Lavalin's departure from the Muskrat Falls Site overstated?  


Related Reading on Uncle Gnarley Blog regarding world class experts:    


P.S. Astaldi Canada, Welcome to Labrador

Monday 20 January 2014


Nalcor’s competence at the site of the estimated $7.7 billion Muskrat Falls Project is being called into question again. 

 Two different sources have confirmed to this Blogger that a major management screw-up, in late December, will almost certainly delay the start of the next phase of the project and Project Completion.

The Christmas revelry seems to have caused Nalcor management to forget about a critical pumping system essential to maintaining the construction schedule.

All last year, huge equipment performed mass excavation to remove six million cubic meters of rock, according to Nalcor figures, creating a giant hole where the power house and spillways of the dam will be built.

Large pumps had been installed to keep the “giant hole” dry in anticipation of Astaldi’s arrival at the Project.  Astaldi Canada is the Italian Contractor awarded the $1 billion contract to build the powerhouse, intake, gated spillway and transition structures. 

Thursday 16 January 2014


Imagine that the Globe and Mail saw fit of a day to spill some printer’s ink our way!

Last week, Columnist Konrad Yakabuski, in an opinion piece entitled "Muskrat Falls and the Power of Obstinacy" had a lot to say about Newfoundland and Labrador Premiers, in just a few short sentences.

He was unimpressed that a bungling Premier Kathy Dunderdale’s response to our power black-outs could have been so unlike Ontario Premier Wynne’s deft handling of Toronto’s. Dunderdale, Wynne, he noted was “...sugar, spice and all things nice...” 

But it was Dunderdale’s characterisation of the outages as a “non-crises” and her assertion that, in retrospect ”she would not have done things differently” that caused Yakabuski’s to share his previously unknown theories about the collective peculiarities of NL Premiers. 

Dunderdale’s lack of empathy did not constitute news down here; we’ve seen it many times before.  For that reason there is far less certainty all our Premiers deserve Konrad’s assignation to any Dunderdale populated Club.

Monday 13 January 2014


Journalistic independence is a fundamental underpinning of a civilized democratic society.  Concerns about potential conflicts impacting editorial integrity need quick resolution. The public interest demands no less.  

In recent months, Radio station 590 VOCM has employed the services of Open Line Host, Tim Powers.  The public record confirms Mr. Powers, through his consulting firm Summa Strategies, is a registered lobbyist, to the Government of Canada, on behalf of Nalcor. The exhibit (next page), is located on the Registry of The Federal Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying.  Its reactivation date is 2012-12-01. 

Mr. Powers began Consulting for Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro (now a Nalcor subsidiary) having registered, as a lobbyist, in 2006 (Federal Lobby Registration #777504-14002).  The date is important because that is when Premier Danny Williams started putting the Muskrat Falls Project together and confirms Mr. Powers’ long standing relationship with Nalcor as one of the early planners of the Muskrat Falls Project.

Friday 10 January 2014


How angry are you with Nalcor over power problems that left most of the Province without electricity and several days of rolling blackouts? 

Well, at least one group of 5 people, apart from the Liberal Party, filed a formal complaint, on Thursday, asking the Board to investigate and hold public hearings.    

The five residents are: Brian Grant, Cabot Martin, Con O’Brien, John Parsons and Des Sullivan (your Uncle Gnarley scribe).

The group welcomes the decision of the PUB to proceed with both an inquiry and hearing under the Public Utilities Act, announced today.

Wednesday 8 January 2014


Photo Credit: The Economist
The phrase, popularized by Mark Twain, “lies, damn lies and statistics” is perfectly suited to those whose arguments are weak and are wont to engage in the art of the ‘spin doctor’.

Excuses for the current power debacle are in full flight.

Nalcor CEO Ed Martin attempted to explain away Holyrood’s current problems stating, on the public media, that the recent spurt of unseasonal weather spiked the Demand by 35% over the average for the last 5 years. The impression left was that the recent temperatures caused a situation that was totally unforeseen, blind siding Nalcor.

The public is expected to think that such an occurrence should be reason enough to forgive Nalcor having dropped the ball on its basic maintenance program; on ensuring the electricity infrastructure was capable of meeting Demand, that the 'experts' at Nalcor as Premier Dunderdale calls them, had us covered. 

Sunday 5 January 2014


I don’t know about you, but to me 220,000 people without power or suffering rolling blackouts, seems a rather compelling crisis. 

Not to Premier Cathy Dunderdale, though.  “WE’RE NOT IN A CRISIS” says Dunderdale at the Sunday News Conference. The Premier must have been the only one, in the whole Province, running a high temperature!  Appearing on the third day of, yes…a “crises”, to acknowledge something is afoot, perhaps it is still not clear if the Premier even knows the power is out.

If the outages failed to cause Premier Dunderdale frustration, anger and resentment that was not the outcome for most people.   

NL Hydro V-P’s admission, "we saw this coming" apparently applied only to his ability to read the next days’ weather forecast. Couldn’t someone have told him: when it gets cold, as it often does in Newfoundland especially in winter, the demand for power increases. It’s been happening since Newfoundland got electricity.  DA!!!!!