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Monday 30 June 2014


Nalcor CEO Ed Martin, last week, delivered an update on Muskrat Falls.  It was a bit like listening to the corrupted Col. Jessop in the movie, starring Jack Nicholson, “A Few Good Men”. Questioned by Daniel Faffee, the Defense Attorney, who suspects him the real culprit, the Col. says: You want answers? To which Kaffee replies: I want the truth!   Col. Jessep responds: You can’t handle the truth! 

The public’s right to know is constantly filtered by both the Provincial Government and its energy Agency.  The truth is what Nalcor defines.  Ed Martin's justification for the new slate of cost overruns are those of one fearful the public might know too much, too soon.  

Martin says he is “comfortable with the cost envelope”. He thinks we, too, should be happy with his accounting.  He offers no documentation, no independent verification, and no evidence of the kind of contracts to which Nalcor is committed.  We only have his word.

When did Ed Martin earn our trust?

Monday 23 June 2014


One of the unfortunate consequences of the Tory Leadership troubles and the Humber Valley Paving affair is that the Muskrat Falls Project has slid off the public radar. 

The Government has given Nalcor sanction to spend billions of dollars in the absence of structured and resourced ‘oversight’.  The Agency essentially has carte blanche access to the public purse. 

Nalcor continues to post job figures and expenditures without offering proof of progress on the Muskrat Falls site.  

We are not in possession of the latest project cost estimates or a revised construction schedule; the latter a major concern of the Independent Engineer (IE).

Readers are reminded it is not the IE’s job to sound alarm; its chief role is simply to make sure the $5 billion Bond funding, on which the Feds have a guarantee, is not spent on overruns.

In short, the public is in the dark on the Muskrat Falls project. Take a look at a prime example, the $1 billion Astaldi contract. 

Friday 20 June 2014


The P.C. Party’s Convention Committee has backed away from plans to use the “Delegate List” chosen for the recent Leadership Contest. The Committee has issued orders to start over.  

A new Leadership Race became necessary when Frank Coleman stepped aside this week, having become the Premier Designate when Bill Barry dropped out.  The new delegate selection process will run from July 14 to August 14, 2014.  Nominations for leader will open on Monday, June 23 and run until July 7, 2014.  The PC Party will now elect a new leader on the weekend of September 12th and 13th.

Some Party insiders were irate that candidates running in the new leadership contest might have to be chosen by delegates selected for Frank Coleman. It seems Party members, elected to the Executive of District Associations during the same meetings, will keep their positions.   It is too early to say if their status will still be a bone of contention by candidates entering the new contest.

Wednesday 18 June 2014


The resignation of Frank Coleman, as Premier Designate, has given the P.C Party another chance for change though Tory insiders report the opportunity already squandered. 

There is no way to categorize the Tories’ current circumstance other than to characterize it a mess.  While it seemed improbable, at first, that former Premier Kathy Dunderdale’s unsuitability could be outstripped, the grocer version of the gong show has surely upped the ante.    

We are asked by Frank Coleman to take his word that the reason for quitting was due to a matter “significant” and “challenging”.  Yet, he has no storehouse of credit with the public against which such a huge good-faith demand might be charged.

The P.C. Party is in disarray and he, personally, can claim a goodly part of the responsibility. His acquiescence to Williams’ meddling, in the Leadership Campaign and his own engagement in the Humber Valley Paving affair, leave a Province more cynical about its politics and its patience tapped out.   

Monday 16 June 2014


When the Liberal Party Tweeted policy statements from its Annual General Meeting, this past weekend, Dwight Ball was essentially telegraphing a message to voters he had no intention of going near the  minefield chosen by Ontario Conservative Leader Tim Hudak.  

While Hudak may never win any awards as a strategist, he has also made sure no political leader in Canada will ever advance risqué ideas when the opposing Party is already on the ropes.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath brought down the Liberal Government of Kathleen Wynne even though it proposed a huge deficit which would be added to a large debt. Then, in a measure akin to ritualistic Harikiri, Conservative Leader Tim Hudak kicked off the ensuing election campaign by proposing tax cuts of 30% and axing of 100,000 public sector workers.  

The Ontario Liberal Party was exceedingly unpopular.  Referring to a Study conducted for the Paper, The Globe and Mail reported that “61 per cent of people who cast ballots agreed it was “time for a change in the Ontario government,” next to only 21 per cent who disagreed.” 

Former Premier Dalton McGuinty chalked up a record of lost jobs and lost industry, deficit spending, a costly and failed energy strategy as well as charges of corruption that saw the police search his former offices.  McGuinty’s low polling numbers fit well when placed alongside those of former Premier Kathy Dunderdale. 

But when the election was held last Thursday 12 June the Liberals were returned with a majority Government. 

Thursday 12 June 2014


Proof was not what was holding up Transportation and Works Minister Nick McGrath from resigning over the Humber Valley Paving affair; but another shoe has dropped. 
The Minister confirmed, on Wednesday, that the contract for road work in Labrador, from which Humber Valley Paving was released, will neither be completed on time nor on budget. In fact, the Minister confirms the additional cost, to the public purse, is $1.5 million. 
We do not have details as to whether that figure is accurate but the admission, alone, is large enough to invoke bewilderment that the Minister did not use the opportunity, in front of the media, to accept responsibility and resign.
I guess Mr. McGrath is not that kind of Minister.

Monday 9 June 2014


Nalcor’s Ed Martin recently released a redacted Report of MWH Americas Inc., officially the Independent Engineer (IE) on the Muskrat Falls project.  The critical financial parts were blacked out.  While that is not the fault of the IE there are other reasons its claim to ‘independence’ is under strain.

That is not to diminish the idea of an “independent engineer”; such oversight is critically important and has been a frequent subject of this Blog.    

Unfortunately, the Report lacks the robustness one would expect from an overseer with MWH Americas' mandate. 

Possibly, the Firm attempted impartiality. It may have simply missed the mark. 
To be fair, the IE’s Report offers some solid information and analysis, but one cannot dismiss its considerable limitations.

Thursday 5 June 2014


The recent combative, even feisty tones of John Crosbie somehow triggered my memory of a couple of lines from an old Simon and Garfunkel tune:

Where have you gone Joe DiMaggio
A nation turns its lonely eyes to you (Woo, woo, woo)

It may appear improper, even unfair, that anyone should possess large and unwieldy expectations of an octogenarian, especially one who has served the Province long and well. 

But when John Crosbie came out swinging, on Monday, with Danny Williams in his sights, he stirred up memories of the “old” days; after all his reputation wasn't built upon a single "we got it" which quickly evaporated.  

Inside political hot houses he was referred to, respectfully, as “JCC”.  Those barely weaned, in the ’60s and ‘70s remember him for his fearless rebuke of Joe Smallwood and his cronies, especially the carpetbaggers John Shaheen and John C. Doyle. Later generations remember him, too.  

Monday 2 June 2014


Dissatisfaction at the media’s handling of the PUB's Interim Report consumed much of the space afforded  DARKNL: WEAK MEDIA NO MATCH FOR DAMNING PUB REPORT  on May 19th.  The media's coverage of the Report was brief to the point of being inconsequential.  I thought the public had a right to expect additional detail and analysis of the PUB’s work into the causes of  the January 2014 'Blackouts'. 

Why? The chief reason is the sheer scale of the outages and their impact on so many lives and businesses. 

Another is that the level of condemnation by the PUB of Hydro management was unprecedented.   

While the media admittedly are an easy target, no one should think that it is solely their role to ask questions and to inform. 

The Opposition Parties and their leaders, and others, play a vital role in the process, too.  When media are not prodding them they ought to be prodding the media.  Typically they don’t, but now and again, as in the Humber Valley Paving affair, the Liberals show occasional energy.