Thursday, 21 September 2017

IN PICTURES: NALCOR DUMPS MILLIONS

Nalcor’s lack of quality control on the Muskrat Falls project failed to detect a faulty transmission cable, containing a "popped" wire, which was strung — with the defect — on a large section of the Labrador Island Link.


CBC reported the issue in June 2016. Flabbergasted by what he had read, James L. Gordon, the Canadian engineer who has written repeatedly on the Uncle Gnarley Blog, contacted renowned transmission line designer J.P. Schell, P. Eng. (Ret’d) and asked him to examine the issue. Mr. Schell wrote a piece entitled Design Engineer Baffled By Extent of Muskrat TL Flaw Reported by CBC for this Blog.
The transmission cable (170 km X 2 lines = 340 km of D.C. conductor wire) was spun at the factory, shipped, stored and erected before anyone at Nalcor noticed — testimony to a management ill-equipped for the roles they fill.

Monday, 18 September 2017

MUSKRAT WILL DESTROY UTILITY SYSTEM IN 2020

Guest Post by PlanetNL

PlanetNL1: Like a Hurricane - Muskrat To Destroy Utility System in 2020

This guest blog series is offered to demonstrate the true value of Muskrat Falls (aka Lower Churchill Project) and to expose the risks and burdens imposed by it on Newfoundland ratepayers and taxpayers.  The view will be predominantly forward looking, relying on best available project and market information to deliver plain economic analysis that can be appreciated by a wide range of people.  There will be little ranting as the dire economic concerns will speak for themselves. 

First up is a deeper exploration of consumer billing rates than Nalcor and Government have been providing.  The Nalcor rate projection has consistently gone up as the Muskrat project has advanced with cost overruns, yet it seems they have not given all the facts.  They already have a prediction of more than doubling rates after the project is commissioned in 2020 but PlanetNL projects that rates will actually shoot much higher.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

PREMIER NEEDS QUEBEC JUDGE'S HELP ON FORENSIC AUDIT

GUEST POST WRITTEN BY CABOT MARTIN

So is the Muskrat fat finally in the fire?
Premier Ball’s nostrils are definitely offended by the stink from Muskrat Falls but it’s Nalcor’s method of paying it’s top end workers that seems to be the immediate cause.

We’ll have an inquiry into Muskrat, he says, and it will even start before the site is deserted. We are working on the Terms of Reference, he says, 
... and this employment contract mess will be included and, of course, we cannot delay the project.
Opps!

A curious turn of logic. Big problem – long finger.
Premier – you are on the mark with the need for a Public Inquiry but you need a road map to get there.

Monday, 11 September 2017

RCMP MUST ACCOUNT FOR FAILURE TO INVESTIGATE NALCOR

The poorly conceived August 31, 2017 EY Report on the Muskrat Falls project was essentially irrelevant, albeit with one major exception. 

EY stated that “the Project [still] retains a high level of inherent risk”. The firm said that the risks included “a series of complex and significant activities” which will command a “high planned spend rate”.

Cited as examples were construction at the North and South Dams, continuing power plant installation, turbine and generator installation, HVDC commissioning, and the approaching winter.

Why should the issue of “high level of inherent risk” justify revisiting?

Thursday, 7 September 2017

EY REPORT ON MUSKRAT FALLS MOSTLY A BIG MISS

When it comes to auditing the risks and shortcomings of the Muskrat Falls project, and the incompetence of Nalcor, EY is no Liberty Consulting Group.

Plain-speaking Liberty, employed by the PUB to analyse the cause of the breakdown in service during DarkNL, persistently offered a clear narrative of what reforms might effect change.  

In contrast, EY’s prescription for Muskrat is so couched in practised opacity and bathed in bureaucratization that often only the innocuous is illuminated. The Muskrat Falls Report entitled "Assessment of Implementation of EY Interim Report recommendations" is essentially a document for politicians to point towards. It is strong on neither engineering nor cost-accounting. 

Monday, 4 September 2017

B.C.'s SITE C AND MUSKRAT FALLS COMPARED

Guest Post by David Vardy
Summary of Submission to BCUC
This is a summary of my detailed submission entitled "Site C and Muskrat Falls Compared" made to the British Columbia Utilities Commission relating to their inquiry into Site C. This inquiry was initiated by the new NDP government of BC and is directed towards the determination of the costs of continuing, suspending or terminating the project.  
In both provinces there were joint federal provincial environmental reports. In each case the joint panel recommended further detailed financial and economic analysis to confirm the wisdom of proceeding, recognizing that no strong business case had been presented for either Site C or Muskrat Falls.  Both provincial governments proceeded with little deference to the advice from the joint environmental panels.

Thursday, 31 August 2017

PUB SHOULD TREAT HYDRO'S RATE HIKE HARSHLY

When government agencies engage in self-aggrandizing claims, they really should try to support them with something more than rhetoric.

The public awaits PUB approval of a NL Hydro sponsored electricity rate increase of 6.6% in 2018 and another 6.4% in 2019. The PUB has adequate reason to reject at least a part of the request.

Hydro’s Rate Application (Vol. I, page 3.5) reads that the rates increases are necessary because: 

Hydro has prudently increased investment in its capital program. In 2016, Hydro spent approximately $204 million on capital work (infrastructure). In 2017, Hydro plans to spend $370 million. These investments, including the new transmission line TL267 from Bay d’Espoir to Western Avalon, are necessary to secure the long-term reliability of the system for Hydro’s customers. (bold added)  

Monday, 28 August 2017

BARD OF PYNN'S BROOK GETS WINDY

WIND 

Offshore mills!  The wind is strong:
A grandiose scheme, beat the gong.
Beothuk sings a heady song 
To let power flow To let  flow to Up-along? 

Think Muskrat Falls a precedent,  
A template for a cost-ascent
That promises our discontent 
As heat bills to the heavens sent.  

Wind power widely subsidized: 
Rates are low, cost high-sized.
Many projects ill-advised, 
Markets often un-realized. 

To fill Brakes Cove, what's the need? 
There's lots of wharf, and land in weed
Sees little use, that could be freed
To development if must proceed. 

For short-term jobs, the mayors bray:
Assemble mills in filled-in Bay.
The public signed for cost to pay?
To facilitate power give-away.

That old hype pattern on project moot. 
We can't afford the bill to foot -
The peoples bill! Who gives a hoot? - 
- Demand a stop to our cash input. 


John Tuach
Pynn's Brook
August 18, 2017 

Thursday, 24 August 2017

"EMPTY WORDS" FROM CONSUMER ADVOCATE DRAWS REPLY FROM ANONYMOUS ENGINEER

EDITOR'S NOTE: We haven't heard from the "whistleblower", referred to as the "Anonymous Engineer", in awhile. But it is important to remember that he is the engineer who originally disclosed falsification of the estimates for the Muskrat Falls project on January 30, 2017. His revelations were described in a post entitled Muskrat Falls Estimates A Complete Falsification and a second post on February 6, 2017 called Muskrat: Allegations of Phony Cost Estimates, as well as to the CBC. Writing today, the whistleblower responds to Consumer Advocate, Dennis Browne, whose recent public comments suggest he is confusing "Forensic Audit" and "Forensic Accounting". - Des Sullivan

Guest Post by the "Anonymous Engineer" 

The letter to the Editor of the Telegram and the concurrent discussion with the journalist Pam Frampton by the Consumer Advocate Dennis Browne of August 19th, 2017 was a futile exercise in public relations.

Mr. Browne did not say anything that the public had not already heard from Premier Ball, Minister Coady and CEO Stan Marshall. At least there is one remarkable element of consistency – they are all singing from the same sheet of music, which no one believes.

Monday, 21 August 2017

NALCOR LOSES $66.9 MILLION IN 6-DAY FAILED HEDGING SCHEME. PUBLIC NOT TOLD.

Introduction
Just when you thought the incompetence couldn't get any worse at Nalcor, along comes another scheme to up the ante on deceit and dumb.


This blogger has just learned that Nalcor lost $66.9 million following management's decision to place a bet of $1.82 billion - public money - in the “futures” market.

Nalcor even tries to put the blame on U.S. President Donald Trump.

To add insult to injury, Nalcor and the Ball Government did their best to cover up the failed scheme.

The losses occurred in May of this year. An eagle-eyed Nalcor watcher, able to parse Nalcor’s most opaque assertions, brought the contents of the corporation’s last quarterly financial statement to my attention.

Thursday, 17 August 2017

REFLECTIONS ON THE MUSKRAT FALLS PROJECT

Guest Post by David Vardy

Introduction
The sanctioning of the Muskrat Falls project in December of 2012 was a huge mistake, one which has spiralled into a major economic and environmental catastrophe. 

The warnings of the joint federal provincial panel were ignored, as were those of the Public Utilities Board. These warnings relate to the lack of a business case for the project, the high risk for a small province, the adverse demographic factors, the lack of export markets and the high unit cost.
A Gamble that failed

In a Telegram article dated May 25, 2013 the Honourable John Crosbie said that “Muskrat Falls is worth the risk”, quoting T. S. Eliot on the subject of risk: Only those who would risk going too far can possibly find out how far you can go. Since then we have sailed on a sea of risk and reaped the whirlwind. 

Monday, 14 August 2017

THE AG AND THE CONSUMER ADVOCATE DO THE PROVINCE A DISSERVICE

“If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn't. And contrary-wise; what it is, it wouldn't be, and what it wouldn't be, it would. You see?”

Alice in Wonderland (1951)
Only within the upside-down world of Alice would much of what is occurring in this province make any sense. Still, the behaviours of such an inverted some would say perverted place, their origins in the Premier’s Office, ought not to extend to our few institutions.

But they do.

Politics in NL has been turned upside down.

An excessive level of stupidity, denial and self-interest far more than normal has infected our political process. That the Ball Liberals have prolonged the madness begun by the Tories does not make it any less mad. It has been allowed to run through the senior bureaucracy, too try as the government might to create the perception of normalcy.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

COADY WRONG ABOUT NORTH SPUR REVIEW, SAYS SENIOR ENGINEER

Guest Post by James L. Gordon, P. Eng. (Ret’d)

THE NORTH SPUR DESIGN HAS NOT BEEN REVIEWED BY
MULTIPLE GEOSCIENCE ENGINEERS!

The presence of quick clay and soft sensitive clay has been known ever since the Spur was first investigated in 1965. Several consulting engineering companies have looked at the Spur and issued reports on their investigations. Many have proposed solutions to stabilize the Spur.

However, all this work can be regarded as preliminary since the geotechnical investigations were incomplete. None of the proposed solutions were “approved for construction”, nor intended to be. They were the first attempts to find a suitable solution to the instability demonstrated by the many landslides in the vicinity of the Spur, and on the Spur.

SNC have undertaken further geotechnical tests and have developed a design which has been “approved for construction”, and has been built.

However, the design has not been reviewed by senior geotechnical engineers with experience in sensitive and quick clay, contrary to the assertions of Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady.

Monday, 7 August 2017

NL NEEDS A REVOLUTION. YOU WILL HAVE TO LEAD IT.

NL needs a revolution. It’s just possible that the seeds of revolt are germinating. A recent VOCM “Question of the Day” Poll may have revealed such an undercurrent.

It wasn’t a scientific Poll in the tradition of CRA, MQO or one of the many market opinion research entities offering political parties and detergent retailers essential feedback.

Neither did it offer a representative sample of a defined population or even a statistical probability of accuracy (as in 19 times out of 20).

But it boasted three compelling components which, taken together, stand out: it was strikingly relevant, offered a choice of unambiguous answers, and attracted a high level of respondents in excess of 10,000.

The question read simply: What measures will you take if power rates continue to increase?

Thursday, 3 August 2017

THE RISE AND DECLINE OF CATHY BENNETT

When I wrote “Cathy Bennett’s Days in Finance Are Numbered” little more than ten months ago, I seriously doubted her tenure would last more than a few weeks.

I had assessed the province’s financial position and her first Budget. It was easy to see that the restraint measures she proposed — mostly increased taxation — were the work of a hapless political amateur delaying the axe-wielding necessitated by a widening fiscal chasm. 


The exigencies of politics demanded execution at the start of the government’s term. Even if one cared not a whit about the province’s finances, delay bore far more political landmines than decision.
Admittedly, the September piece had poorly assessed the importance of ego, partisanship and ambition over common sense. Still, in the circumstance, a savvy Minister of Finance should have presented an ill-equipped Premier the fiscal ultimatum commanded by a dreadful Tory legacy.

Monday, 31 July 2017

(REAL) RATE MITIGATION REQUIRES SPARKING THE LARGEST LAWSUIT IN CANADIAN HISTORY.

If you were disturbed by the Telegram Brian Jones’ “apocalyptic” editorial last week (finally, it seems, ‘mainstream’ meets blogger) which forecasts the inevitable shutdown of Muskrat Falls because it will prove to be too expensive to operate – you will be equally frightened by the fact that the Premier’s assertions around rate mitigation are grounded in ideas that are just as fraudulent as those that brought us this project.  


Of course, JONES IS RIGHT.  But that’s another story.
The province has limited wiggle room to escape the apocalyptic; so it's time to listen up. The smart money should anyway.
As if to prove he doesn’t get it, the Premier promises rate mitigation engaging a Committee which will include Nalcor letting the fakers, possibly fraudsters, extend the deceit that pervades the Muskrat Falls project.

Thursday, 27 July 2017

FLUNDERING JEEZE!

FLUNDERING JEEZE! 
(Urban Dictionary - Flunder: A repetitive nature to be a  _uck up.”)

The union of a flounder and a blunder is a flunder
(Flailing on the bottom in the mind):
Repeating same mistakes with no learning in the stunder;
Ferries and fisheries, roads, are all a kind. 

Monday, 24 July 2017

WHY WE SHOULD RESPECT THE INCARCERATED LABRADOR THREE

None of the people who are alleged to have falsified the estimates, and possibly other aspects of the so-called “business case” for the Muskrat Falls project, are in jail.

Some of those responsible are probably still permitted to wield power, enter into contracts, spend public money, earn large salaries, and if they have been deceitful cover their tracks.

Although the consequences of their actions will imperil the economy and cause enormous human pain, possibly for decades, the politicians from the Premier down have made excuses to protect them from being held to account.

They enjoy immunity while their mothership Nalcor is permitted to swear affidavits and call upon the judicial system to grant injunctions against protesters making a mockery of transparency and fairness in the bargain.    

Thursday, 20 July 2017

MEDIA FOCUS ON 'CHASE THE ACE' HAS UNCLE GNARLEY OUT OF SORTS

Uncle Gnarley is in a foul mood.

The old economist and Petty Harbour fisherman called up just the other day to wail that the “Chase the Ace” lottery in the Goulds is getting more traction than possible fraud at Nalcor.

That the CBC had stationed a reporter in the community for the whole day - and planned to go back on-air to chase the outcome - didn’t sit well with him. “Damn blasted,” he could be heard, “sure the crowd at 'Here and Now' probably think Muskrat is something to chase, too.

"A bunch of innocents thinking a church lottery makes better news than fooling people and squandering billions", he growled. 

He was not happy. And not because he didn’t have a ticket.

Yes, it’s July. And readers are likely saying ‘for the love of Pete, knock it off… we don’t care if Nalcor is responsible for every iceberg on the north-east coast as long as winter is over by Regatta Day!

Wednesday, 19 July 2017

BARD OF PYNN'S BROOK TAKES ON MUSKRAT - IN VERSE, OF COURSE

Editor's Note: John Tuach, a geologist, is well-known to the mining and mineral exploration industry. It seems, in addition to a keen skill for staking promising mineral claims, he has a talent for poetry - of which I was unaware. Known to most only by his surname, Tuach, the 'bard of Pynn's Brook', has written several of what he calls "Muskrat rants". They can be found at www.jinglejohn.com .The Uncle Gnarley Blog has never considered the appointment of a Poet Laureate - always thinking playwright, never settling on whether comedy or tragedy. But Tuach - in verse - sets one to thinking!

Monday, 17 July 2017

MUD LAKE VS. PENNECON: GIVING PROFIT A BAD NAME

When Barnard Pennecon LP was asked to comment on a letter which a senior company executive wrote to Nalcor, blaming them for the Mud Lake flood, it denied that the letter reflected its official position on the issue.


On Monday, July 10, 2017 the Uncle Gnarley Blog released a series of quotations contained in the one-page letter from the North and South Dam contractor. The executive told Nalcor that had it exercised “reasonable diligence [it] could have prevented the blockade by properly managing the downstream flows.”


The flood triggered a gate blockade at the entrance to the project; protestors blamed Nalcor for the flooding.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

FILLED RESERVOIR WILL CAUSE NORTH SPUR TO FAIL, STUDY PREDICTS

Guest Post by James L. Gordon, P.Eng. (Ret'd)

THE MUSKRAT NORTH SPUR WILL FAIL!

Mr. Robin Dury, an engineering student at the LuleĆ„ University of Technology, Department of Civil, Environmental and Natural Resources Engineering, INSA Lyon, has undertaken a geotechnical analysis of the North Spur as part of his studies towards a Master’s degree in Geotechnical Engineering. He concludes that –

For assumed material properties and geometries of failure, the critical load-carrying capacity is below 1000 kN/m whereas a rise of the water level with 21 m (to El. 39m) will give an increased load of Nq  = 2420 kN/m. This is more than twice of what the ridge may stand with the assumed properties.

In other words, the North Spur will fail when the reservoir is filled.

Monday, 10 July 2017

NEW WHISTLEBLOWER REVEALS NALCOR RESPONSIBLE FOR MUD LAKE FLOODING

A new whistleblower has contacted the Uncle Gnarley Blog — shedding new light on who is responsible for the severe flooding and evacuation of the community of Mud Lake in May.

The confidential source has leaked a copy of a letter sent by Bernard Pennecon LP, the contractor building the North and South Dams, to Nalcor’s subsidiary, Muskrat Falls Corporation. The document states that the event was due to Nalcor’s “failure to manage the downstream flows which resulted in the flooding of the Mud Lake Community.” (Bold added to all direct quotes from the Barnard Pennecon letter.)
The letter dated 23-May-2017 was given exclusively to the Uncle Gnarley Blog.

In January another whistleblower, the "Anonymous Engineer", gave the Uncle Gnarley Blog details of how the estimates for the Muskrat Falls project had been falsified in Nalcor's bid to get sanction, a process which continued until after the 2015 General Election.

Thursday, 6 July 2017

ANONYMOUS ENGINEER SAYS ED MARTIN'S STATEMENT MAKES NO SENSE

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is a Guest Post written by the whistleblower, who I have dubbed the "Anonymous Engineer". He originally disclosed – on this Blog - falsification of the estimates for the Muskrat Falls project on January 30, 2017 . At that time, his comments were recorded in a post entitled Muskrat Cost Estimates "A Complete Falsification". A second post called Muskrat: Allegations of Phony Cost Estimates provided significant additional details of both low-balled estimates at sanction and even after sanction. — Des Sullivan

Guest Post by the "Anonymous Engineer"
I read Ed Martin’s “Statement” of June 26th, 2017 with a sense of regret and dismay. Regret – because it represents  an accelerated demise from an exalted position; dismay – as most of the “Statement” made no sense.

Wednesday, 5 July 2017

VARDY/PENNEY SEEK EXPERT PANEL ON NORTH SPUR

Guest Post by David Vardy and Ron Penney

The recently released SNC Lavalin risk assessment report identifies the dearth of geo-technical investigations as one of the highest risks of the Muskrat Falls project. In his Uncle Gnarley post of June 29, 2017 Cabot Martin cites this report to confirm his claim that the North Spur is one of the major threats to the project and to the people living and working close to the site. The SNC report refers to “major scope change.” Cabot states:

Now “major scope change“ with regard to an admittedly unstable dam component like the North Spur is engineer code for “Your proposed North Spur stabilization design could be unsafe and to make it safe will require as yet unknown and un-costed extra work.”

And also unstated is that geotechnical conditions may be found (like Quick Clay) which will in effect be impossible to cure.

Monday, 3 July 2017

PUBLIC SHOULD BE AFRAID OF POSSIBLE CORRUPTION

SNC-Lavalin was responsible from the start in devising the financing strategies and engineering design for development of the Muskrat Falls project. When such a company throws down the gauntlet to its employer, Nalcor detailing incompetence, a lack of technical and logistical readiness, and recklessness and neither Nalcor nor the Provincial Government performs their duty and investigates, it is time for the public to step in.

Describe it as one might, but the public interest is under attack on an unprecedented scale.

The evidence, detailed in a 2013 Risk Assessment Report only now brought to light by CEO Stan Marshall illuminates a Government seemingly incapable of responding to the allegations against its own crown corporation. Those accusations, by any standard, constitute the worst crisis that has faced a public sector agency since Confederation.

Thursday, 29 June 2017

SOME NOTES ON HOW THE MUSKRAT SCHEME IS FALLING APART

Guest Post by Cabot Martin

We now approach the Muskrat tipping point.

It will be painful – a prospect emphasised by the recent release of the SNC-Lavalin May 17, 2013 Risk Assessment Report following on the revelations of the “Anonymous Engineer” on pre-sanction “book cooking”  as first revealed on Uncle Gnarley.
Stand by for more and escalating leaks.

But the surest sign of the coming storm is the return to public airways of one Ed Martin, former Nalcor CEO.
Like a character in poorly made sequel of a powerful horror movie, Mr. Martin continued on CBC TV to spout the same sort of World Class nonsense that has helped put us in our present terrible Muskrat bind.

Monday, 26 June 2017

PREMIER'S CLAIMS ABOUT FORENSIC AUDIT ARE FALSE SAYS ANONYMOUS ENGINEER

EDITOR'S NOTE: The following is a Guest Post written by the whistleblower, referred to as the "Anonymous Engineer", who originally disclosed falsification of the estimates for the Muskrat Falls project on January 30, 2017 in a post entitled Muskrat Cost Estimates "A Complete Falsification", says Engineer, in a second post on February 6, 2017 called Muskrat: Allegations of Phony Cost Estimates, and to the CBC in early May. This piece is his direct appeal to the Premier and Minister Coady for a Forensic Audit of the Muskrat Falls project. Des Sullivan

Premier’s and Minister Coady’s statements are false – June 23rd, 2017
The statements made by the Premier Dwight Ball and Minister Coady at the televised press conference on June 23rd, 2017 are false. The Premier stated that performing a Forensic Audit, now, will delay the project. He made an array of other false claims, evidently with an intent specifically to delay a Forensic Audit as long as possible. There is not a grain of truth in these claims.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

BRIAN PECKFORD'S WAKE-UP CALL


It was a somewhat older, less feisty, more comfortably confident Brian Peckford who ascended the stage as guest speaker at the closing of NOIA’S 40thconference. But time had not altered his powers of communication or any of his enormous capacity to be singular with his audience, to entertain them and, concomitantly, to leave them feeling slightly less comfortable than when they first sat down.

As an ‘old’ staffer of Premier Peckford, in the 1970s and 80s (full disclosure), I had watched the performance many times, often jealously the rapport quickly established, the bond of trust unmistakable, all given an articulation that found clarity only because it was as physical and emotional as it was verbal. Like him or hate him many did both, and some at the same time he was a master storyteller.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

SIOBHAN COADY'S BEHAVIOUR PUZZLING

When the Minister of Natural Resources, Siobhan Coady, released the report of the Muskrat Falls Oversight Committee last Friday the first in fifteen months she tried to leave the media, and the public, with the impression that a new impetus was at work in matters of oversight.

The Minister was not being honest.

Given the evidence that, both prior to sanction and afterwards, the MF project estimates were falsified, it is reasonable to think that the Minister would not want to be mired in the deceitful culture that has grown up around Nalcor and her Department. But the Minister demonstrates no such caution.

It is one thing to say, as she has, that the government has questions about the project estimates, as did the whistleblower engineer. But a verbal expression of concern, alone, is not enough.

One might expect that Coady would not only want to know the origins of the alleged deceitfulness, and who is responsible, but that she might set new standards of disclosure for her officials to follow.

She has shown no interest in doing any of those things.

Monday, 19 June 2017

NL POLITICS: THE STATE OF PLAY

The latest poll from CRA does little more than reaffirm prior perceptions held by the public about the Premier and the Ball Administration.

The polling group found that 34% of decided voters supported the Liberals, 40% backed the PCs, while 24% stood behind the NDP.

Two other statistics offer confirmation that the Liberals are in deep trouble: satisfaction with the government stands at only 28%, while in leader preference Dwight Ball receives 23% support against 36% for PC leader Paul Davis and 16% for Earle McCurdy of the NDP.

The results essentially mirror those reported when Ball’s popularity dropped off a cliff last year.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

TIME TO CHANGE UNNECESSARY ELECTION LAW

Guest Post by Kelly Populous

Imagine a law so badly misunderstood that politicians and parties tolerate an unwanted, unpopular premier in order to avoid an election. A government without the political capital to change important public policy becomes trapped with unwanted leadership and winds up paralyzed. The public grows more apathetic or, worse, angry... and the whole province suffers as a result.

The scenario would seem crazy if Newfoundland and Labrador hadn't already suffered through it under Kathy Dunderdale. Now, with Dwight Ball flailing badly as the province’s First Minister, it seems that we have lost the ability to determine a course to provide renewal of the province's political leadership. 

It does not have to be that way.

Monday, 12 June 2017

SIOBHAN COADY: WAITING FOR GODOT?

Waiting For Godot is a celebrated play by Samuel Beckett in which two characters, Valdimir and Estragon, are waiting for a person Godot who never arrives. The Ball Administration serves as parody for the tragicomedy. Like the government, as one writer says of Waiting For Godot, “the sheer emptiness and randomness of the plot causes the audience (or reader) to wonder if anything is going to happen”.


Ball and Coady especially resemble Valdimir and Estragon though possibly the tramps, Didi and Gogo, too because, like them, they seem to have no part to play.  


Our play departs from Beckett’s a little, but only because Coady can expect an appearance from the Auditor General, just not with the package she pretends he is carrying.


The Minister knows he will offer no guidance on the “falsification” issue over which Nalcor’s whistleblower has sounded the alarm. Her performance is simply the pretense that he will.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

EY REPORT CONFIRMS NEED FOR FORENSIC AUDIT SAYS WHISTLEBLOWER

"Falsification of information on a massive scale.” That’s what the Anonymous Engineer told the Uncle Gnarley Blog in January, 2017 about the estimates for the Muskrat Falls project.

The public now awaits follow through by the Premier and the Minister of Natural Resources on his call for a forensic audit. The audit would detail the origins and extent of the “low-balled” estimates and confirm whose signature(s) authorized their use.

In a conversation with him recently, the engineer reflected upon his disclosure and the response of the Government. Said he:

“Even though Minister Siobhan Coady has already indicated she accepts what I have said as part of the narrative and that she has questions, too, the Minister must know my warning was completely supported by the EY Interim Report, which the Government commissioned.”

Monday, 5 June 2017

FLAWED HUSKY DEAL GOES LARGELY UNREPORTED

If any member of the public as much as frowned last Monday when the Ball Government and Husky Energy announced agreement on the White Rose Extension project, they might have risked exile to the Funks or worse. Politicians, industry officials, hangers-on, the compradors (fixers and agents) and, of course, the media were all found ‘cheek to jowl’. 

Ditched, along with the champagne corks, was even the tiniest bit of perspective on the flawed deal even if, admittedly, it was an important one.

There is no question that the failure of OPEC to keep prices as high as Ed Martin had decreed, the end of the Vale and Hebron projects, and the consequent downturn in the housing sector, have everyone longing for the good “old” days. But economic challenges are not a time for governments to lose their minds, or embrace a future with a duration running only until the next election.

Siobhan Coady seemed within a nudge of shouting “we got it”, her restraint tethered only by the star of Galway who long ago appropriated the phrase with dubious claim.

The truth is the Premier and the Minister had only Husky’s ‘win’ to announce.  

Thursday, 1 June 2017

WHO IS DWIGHT BALL AFRAID OF?

When malfeasance on a grand scale is alleged against senior government officials by credible people, what are we to make of it?

According to Stan Marshall, the decisions were directed at a senior level, but he says he doesn’t know who is responsible and doesn’t want to find out.

Yet the consequences are enormous. NL society has been laden with an unspeakable debt and a failed project, fallout from which will cause great social and financial pain over many decades.

The situation begs another question: do the authorities have an obligation to investigate and to hold the complicit to account, in keeping with the laws of civil society?

Is the Ball Administration’s seeming disinterest in the matter proof that what is still if only barely obscure should remain that way; that a higher standard applies to those wielding power?

We will return to this question. 

Monday, 29 May 2017

HALF-TRUTHS AND LIES: THE MEDIA SHOULD TRIPLE CHECK NALCOR'S "FACTS"

A bit of an odd story by CBC’s Terry Roberts, entitled No formal talks for ‘energy transactions’ with Nova Scotia says Nalcor (May 22nd), was seemingly intended to recognize the opportunity afforded Newfoundland by the impending completion of the Maritime Link (ML).

Roberts found Emera’s Rick Janega and Nalcor’s Stan Marshall in a celebratory mood about the savings opportunity available from “displacing costly Holyrood power by importing electricity from the Maritimes”.
The CBC story caught my attention because it has some understated and missing pieces.
The completion of the ML might result in some short-term savings for just three or four months. But by year's end, the Labrador Island Link (LIL) will be also be ready, if Stan Marshall is to be believed. This event will allow transmission to the Island of the unused portion of the Recall power from the Upper Churchill. But the commissioning will also trigger a levy on ratepayers for a large portion of the debt raised to build the Muskrat Falls project.

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

ANONYMOUS ENGINEER HAS ADVICE FOR AUDITOR-GENERAL

Some critics of the Muskrat Falls project, including this scribe, had hoped that the Auditor-General (A-G) might review the activities of Nalcor several years ago. Confronted directly on the issue, during a presentation on the province’s fiscal position at Memorial, the A-G excused his Office based upon a limited budget and a shortage of resources.

Then in November, 2016 Terry Paddon – with no evident change in those resources - suddenly got energized. He told the media he now planned “to take a look at Nalcor Energy (and) possibly Muskrat Falls."

The focus of the A-G has to be sharp and precise. In this instance to investigate the allegations of estimate falsification of Muskrat Falls.

In its Mission Statement the A-G’s Office states:

"As legislative auditors, we audit financial statements and other accountability documents, evaluate management practices and control systems, and determine compliance with legislative and other authorities.

Our purpose is to promote accountability and encourage positive change in the stewardship, management and use of public resources".

Contrary to the stated “Mission” there has not been any response from the Office of the A-G on anything.