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Tuesday 30 September 2014


At the outset, let me state that anyone knowledgeable of how government operates will not be pleased with the Office of Auditor General let alone his Report into the Humber Valley Paving (HVP) affair.

I have read the Report.  I am quite certain this is the stuff of Judicial Inquiries. One should be called forthwith. 

How Premier Paul Davis responds to the findings will constitute the standard of integrity that will mark his Office. 

The A-G’s Report, despite its shortcomings, leaves little doubt that the public purse was of secondary importance alongside the Minister’s political imperatives in advance of Frank Coleman’s nomination for the P.C. Leadership.

I cannot remember a time when a Cabinet Minister presided over such evidence-based proof of an abuse of power.  Though the Premier denied having been informed in advance or that he was a party to the cancellation of the contract, it bears remembering that Premier Marshall stated, following the revelations, he believed Minister McGrath made the right decision. Perhaps, now the media will stop eulogizing his short tenure and acknowledge his terrible lack of judgement. We should all be grateful he is gone.

Still, questions remain which the quick resignation of Nick McGrath do not resolve.

This Post should be entirely about the Minister and the other parties who played supporting roles in an affair that stinks.  Instead, my comments are directed towards the Auditor General, the necessity for which, I find disconcerting.  I am sure I will get back to the subject of Nick McGrath later.

Monday 29 September 2014


Two weeks ago, delegates to the P.C. Convention and those listening in, via radio and television, got to experience their first delegated leadership convention in 20 years. Some had previously participated in one or more. They likely took for granted Steve Kent’s move to Paul Davis following the first ballot results. Not so the newbies who seemed quite surprised by the drama that unfolded. For them, it seemed, shifting loyalties produced a range of emotions.

Welcome to the delegated convention!

Imagine there were five or six contenders or more; think the surprise, the sense of excitement, disappointment, as hopes are dashed and promises once assured are replaced with those to higher placed and more likely successful contenders. Think of the sense of fear when the votes of a candidate who is dropped are up for grabs.  Will candidate X ‘release’ his delegates? Will he deliver his (sic) delegates to another contender, as did Steve Kent asked his supporters? How many will follow? (In case you were wondering, Kent’s arrival on the platform to thank his delegates and encourage their support of Davis constituted a breakdown in the protocol of Convention management.)

Monday 22 September 2014


When news broke of City Council’s decision to award the IceCaps a subsidy of $700,000 over two years, in a private meeting no less, I waited for the key words which might help explain what gave rise to the decision. 

Councillor Galgay supported the measure, spoke at length, but said little. Next day, as social media went viral, in a local context, Councillor Art Puddester acknowledged he was the one who leaked the information and that he had voted in favour.  He explained why he had broken the protocol of ‘private’ Council Meetings but did not address the merits of Danny Williams’ demand. 

Finally, Deputy Mayor Ron Ellsworth, noting the need to respond to widespread public rebuke, acknowledged he had voted against the subsidy and stated:

I just felt we never had enough financial information from the IceCaps, with regards to looking at their financial statements…looking at what the impact of the million and half dollars would have on them and their bottom line. Those are the things I would like to have at the table to make a decision.
Ron Ellsworth confirmed what I had suspected.  The IceCaps did not open its books to Council in order to justify an award of $700,000!

Thursday 18 September 2014


Written By "JM"

The New York Times recently published an article "Large Dams are Just Not Worth the Cost".  The opening line foreshadowed the main message of the article:

THAYER SCUDDER, the world’s leading authority on the impact of dams on poor people, has changed his mind about dams
Now in his 80’s, and after a lifetime of promoting large dams, Mr. Scudder has had a Gus Etchegary type of enlightenment.  He is now preaching caution against an industry that he spent his life promoting.  He was compelled to go public with his revised assessment after reading the Oxford University study released in March of this year.

The Oxford Paper, written by economists Ansar, Flyvjberg, Budzier and Lunn, is well worth the $10 purchase price for any person who is interested in public policy based upon mega-hydroelectric development.  It is especially relevant for those who want to assess the record of the Muskrat Falls project in a global context.  

The paper reviews the record of large dam construction on the basis of cost overruns, schedule variance, and overall benefit to the economy of the host countries. It is rich in historical references, and global context.  Had the research been available during the Muskrat Falls debate it would have provided an evidence based comparison with the performance of similar projects and provided a much needed challenge of Nalcor ’s billing of the project.   

Monday 15 September 2014


Inside the P.C. Convention Hall, on Saturday, Progressive Conservatives did their very best to display the intense excitement for which delegated leadership conventions enjoy a special distinction.  As the meeting headed into the second ballot Tories must have felt that, finally, the acrimony of the Dunderdale leadership and the Frank Coleman fiasco had passed into history.

But when the second ballot was counted and a one vote lead by Paul Davis still did not afford him victory, Tories must surely have felt under a curse.  Luckily, the third ballot confirmed what the second intended.  An incorrect and untimely interpretation of a ‘majority’ came close to splitting a Party already demoralized. 

Mr. Davis deserves our congratulations; his two competitors, John Ottenheimer and Steve Kent, can be proud of their participation in an important endeavor; after all, political parties are the foundation of our democratic system. Even when the process delivers a leader of questionable choice, but functions without self-interested interference, we are at least left with the confidence the system is still viable.

Whether Paul Davis is also Danny’s man will eventually become clear.

Thursday 11 September 2014


Written By: "JM"

When the Muskrat Falls story is fully written, the date July 22, 2013 may be given prominence as one of those pivotal moments when Nalcor management ought to have counselled the political leadership to change course on its strategy for Muskrat Falls. 

On the morning of that day, the Utility and Rates Board of Nova Scotia (UARB) rejected Emera’s application for approval of the Maritime Link (ML) stating the deal had to be sweetened by $700 million to $1.4 billion (Net Present Value); otherwise the construction of the Link would fail as the lowest cost option for that Province.  

That same afternoon, the Nalcor CEO was advised that Hydro Quebec (HQ) had filed a declaratory judgment in the Quebec Superior Court requesting clarification on the interpretation of the 1969 Power Contract. The contract clauses requiring interpretation by the courts initially appeared routine, perhaps even innocuous in nature.  However, this challenge threatens the very foundation of the Muskrat Falls business case. 

Monday 8 September 2014


The Consumer Advocate to the Public Utilities Board (PUB) is not on your side.

What other conclusion can be drawn from the actions of an Office that gives so much energy to providing cover for Nalcor's devotion to secrecy?  Newfoundland Power, another paragon of conflicted loyalty, is also unsure of the constituency to whom it owes the greatest duty.  It, too, needs a comeuppance.

What is going on?

The PUB has convened a “Paper Hearing” to deal with a request from Newfoundland Hydro (NLH) to quash the requirement that Nalcor answer a list of questions submitted by the Grand River Keepers (GRK) of Labrador and Danny Dumaresque.  Both GRK and Dumaresque are interveners in the PUB’s investigation into DARKNL.  The PUB is compiling information for Phase II of its Report dealing with the “adequacy and reliability of the Island Interconnected system over the short, medium and long-term…after the commissioning of Muskrat Falls”.

Nalcor does not want to answer GRK’s and Dumaresque’s questions.  It is telling the PUB that they are not relevant to the issue it is investigating.

What is wrong with those questions? Let’s take a look.

Monday 1 September 2014


Written by "JM"
Edited by Des Sullivan 

The DARK-NL investigation being undertaken by the Public Utilities Board is playing an important role and not just by getting to the root cause of the Province-wide power outages last January. 

Robbed of the protection a narrow reference afforded Nalcor, during the 2011 PUB review of Muskrat Falls, the Crown owned corporation must now answer new questions posed both by the PUB, interveners, and others relating to security of supply after Muskrat is commissioned.  

The new information illuminates the deficiencies in Nalcor’s filings with the PUB, in 2011, and exposes key aspects of a plan which ought to have been released at that time.
The Public may now finally understand Nalcor’s true intent for the Province’s electrical system when the interconnections with both Labrador and Nova Scotia are completed. 

Let’s begin by asking: what has been identified as substantially different from the plan first proposed by Nalcor, in 2010, and what are the implications?