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The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Worst possible time for HQ deal #nlpoli

If the rumblings from Labrador are correct, an opinion column in lapresse – “Why Quebec should regain Labrador” – this weekend both fits right in and provides a cautionary tale for us all.

Pierre Gingras  – right – spent 31 years with Hydro-Quebec (1966 to 1997) building large hydro-electric projects like Manicouagan and James Bay.

Gingras thinks the time is right to rescue tiny Newfoundland from itself and a very old injustice done to Quebec.  After all,  Gingras notes, people in Quebec should recall that, owing to what Gingras calls the “shenanigans of certain [but unnamed] financiers”  the Privy Council  in London tore Labrador from Quebec in 1927 and gave it to the British colony of Newfoundland without any protest from Canada.

“On se rappellera que le Labrador a été arraché au Québec (et au Canada) par le Conseil privé de Londres en 1927, à la suite des manigances de certains financiers, pour être rattaché à Terre-Neuve, alors colonie britannique, et ce, sans la moindre réaction du gouvernement du Canada.”

Quebec cannot buy power from Muskrat Falls as it is right now, according to Gingras, since the existing transmission lines are at maximum capacity.  But a new transmission line costing $3-4 billion would make it profitable to develop Gull Island.  Such a project would also allow for the development of many smaller projects in Labrador and along the Quebec North Shore that are currently held up, according to Gingras, by the uncertainty over the border.

Talk of a potential deal with Hydro-Quebec on the Lower Churchill has been swirling for months.  Stan Marshall has done nothing to dispel public concern with his comments in August that he is busily improving the relationship between Nalcor and HQ.  In June, Marshall said that Nalcor was looking at ways of boosting revenue from Muskrat Falls in conjunction with Nalcor’s existing partners Emera and Nyro-Quebec.

Nor did Premier Dwight Ball calm concerns when he said a couple of months ago that there were “no talks about Hydro-Quebec taking over MuskratFalls.”  That sounds like one of his patented denials using very precise and misleading language. The deal apparently in the works would have HQ buy a significant interest in a much larger project that, as Gingras described it, would involve development of Gull Island.  That isn’t about taking over Muskrat Falls, so Dwight’s comment would be literally true, even if it did not tell the whole truth.

The worst possible time

This is the worst possible time for Nalcor to be talking with Hydro-Quebec about the Lower Churchill.  Nalcor and the provincial government are more vulnerable than ever before. Not only is the Muskrat Falls project spiraling out of control and unable to deliver its promised electricity,  the provincial government is in the midst of its worst financial crisis since 1933.  

Then there is the fact that the current government is in third place in the polls and the Premier is at the lowest point in the polls for any Premier since we have had polling information.  The last time a politician was even half as desperate to make a deal on the Lower Churchill, Danny Williams cut one for Muskrat Falls. It guaranteed free electricity for Emera for 35 years,  partially privatized the electricity grid in Newfoundland, and bound the province into the current mess.  Don’t forget either that Williams himself spent five years desperately – and secretly – trying to get Hydro-Quebec to buy the Lower Churchill.

Dwight Ball has already made it clear he, too,  is desperate to complete the Lower Churchill, despite the incontrovertible evidence that it is a mistake. His administration never completed a proper assessment of the alternatives to continuing the project, as it seems.  Ball is in an even more desperate position than Williams was, if that is even possible. The government is vulnerable, therefore, to even the weakest offer that would beggar the provincial position and give Hydro-Quebec precisely the level of control of resources that Gingras is proposing.

Make no mistake,  the provincial position had been strengthening in the late 1990s.  It has deteriorated sharply since 2003, most significantly since October 2010.  There is no reason to believe that the current Liberal administration – pot-committed to the ludicrous Muskrat Falls project – could produce a viable deal even with Stan Marshall. Indeed,  Marshall is already jammed into an impossible position since Ball and the current Liberal administration have denied him the most power option anyone has in any negotiation:  walking away from a deal. Marshall was interested in examining all options when he took over as chief executive at Nalcor.  Dwight Ball has made it plain his only option is to finish the project.

Ball and Marshall don’t have many options. The federal government cannot increase its financial exposure in the project as it currently stands. It is a boondoggle and, as a recent court decision in Quebec confirmed, Nalcor does not control water flows on the river.  As such, Muskrat Falls can scarcely produce enough electricity to meet the freebie Williams and Ed Martin gave Nova Scotia.   The federal government will not pour more cash into it.

Having cut off every option for himself, Ball is clearly left with Hydro-Quebec and its deep pockets and experience as the only way to go.  That’s why Ball must stop any discussions involving Hydro-Quebec and the Lower Churchill immediately. If he persists and, God forbid, he tries to implement a deal,  Ball will precipitate a political crisis the likes of which the province has never seen.  Given the government’s precarious financial state, such a political confrontation crisis over what can only be an inevitably bad deal on the Lower Churchill would be one the province cannot afford.

-srbp-

. . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Worst possible time for HQ deal #nlpoli

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Old whine still sour #nlpoli

“I’m concerned that we have an aging asset,”  natural resources minister Siobhan Coady Siobhan Coady told CBC in explaining the most recent break downs at the Holyrood generating station.About two years ago, in the midst of darknl,  then-Pr… . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Old whine still sour #nlpoli

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Thank you, Danny Williams #nlpoli

Rob Strong has been a key player in the local oil and gas industry pretty much since the earliest days.  He knows what he is talking about.Strong pointed out to VOCM on Wednesday that the Hebron field won’t be the cash cow for the provincial gov… . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Thank you, Danny Williams #nlpoli

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Real change #nlpoli

“A positive, optimistic, hopeful vision of public life isn’t a naive dream,”  Justin Trudeau told Canadians after he won a truly historic victory in the October 19th federal general election.  That victory, said Trudeau,  “is what positive politic can do.”

“We beat fear with hope, we beat cynicism with hard work. We beat negative, . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Real change #nlpoli

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: More ways to lose than win #nlpoli

“What this province needs is not just someone with the brains to figure out what’s wrong with our economy,” future Premier Kathy Dunderdale wrote in 2002. 

“What this province needs is someone with the guts to start doing something about it for a change.”

Dunderdale’s letter to the editor of the Telegram appeared on . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: More ways to lose than win #nlpoli

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: The Legacy #nlpoli

There is a lengthy list of political stories in contention to be the top political story of 2014.

Start the year with #darnknl, the failure of Newfoundland and Labrador’s Hydro generation to supply the capital city and surrounding communities with electricity last January.

It led to Kathy Dunderdale’s resignation as Conservative leader and Premier, which . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: The Legacy #nlpoli

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: The Spectators and the “Me” Generation #nlpoli

The official media advisory describes the event at Confederation Building this morning as an opportunity for Premier Tom Marshall to thank public servants “for the support provided by their work over his time as Minister and Premier.”

In reality, this is another one of the grandiose celebrations that have become the trademark of Conservative Premiers . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: The Spectators and the “Me” Generation #nlpoli

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: All hail the Glorious Leader Trope #nlpoli

“Province to deliver on promise of whistleblower law”  read the headline for the CBC’s online story about the provincial government throne speech read Wednesday in the House of Assembly.

About half way down the story,  it says that “Premier Tom Marshall is fighting back  against the perception” that the government he’s been a part of . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: All hail the Glorious Leader Trope #nlpoli

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: The Sound of Silence #nlpoli

With all the talk the past couple of days about the relationship between the provincial government and the provincial energy corporation, it might be a useful time to ask a fairly simple question:

What does Nalcor do?

Might seem like such an obvious question that it you are laughing, but hang on a . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: The Sound of Silence #nlpoli

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Other people’s agendas #nlpoli

If you have not read Kathy Dunderdale’s resignation speech, take a moment and do so now.

What is most striking about the speech is that there is absolutely nothing anywhere in it that Kathy Dunderdale can claim as her personal accomplishment as Premier. There’s nothing she actually did during her three years in the most . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Other people’s agendas #nlpoli

Alberta Diary: Dunderdale’s departure relocates Redford deeper in premiers’ popularity sub-basement

Getting to know you… Getting to know all about you. Not necessarily a good thing with certain dancing partners! There’s just no way actual Canadian premiers, no matter whom they’re dancing with, ever look this good! Below: unpopular dance partners Alison Redford, premier of Alberta, Greg Selinger of Manitoba and all-but-departed Kathy Dunderdale . . . → Read More: Alberta Diary: Dunderdale’s departure relocates Redford deeper in premiers’ popularity sub-basement

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: The Second Longest Slow Good-bye #nlpoli

Provincial Conservatives will get together on Wednesday morning and eventually admit the worst kept secret in local political circles:  the local Tories will have a new leader before the next election.

Kathy always was an interim leader.  The original plan was to keep her for a few months to keep the lights on and some . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: The Second Longest Slow Good-bye #nlpoli

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Shifts and Changes #nlpoli

Kathy is going.

Tom Marshall gets to quit politics as interim Premier.

That’s if the reports on Tuesday night hold through Wednesday morning.

Here are some quick observations:

(Read more…)

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: The Confidence Campaign #nlpoli #darknl

The provincial government started its campaign to gain control of the political agenda on Thursday with its announcement that it would appoint someone to do something sometime in the future.

The conventional media outlets didn’t report Premier Kathy Dunderdale’s announcement that way.  The Telegram, for example, called it an “independent” review but acknowledged in the . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: The Confidence Campaign #nlpoli #darknl

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Dunderstan #nlpoli

In January 2012, Ed Martin and his nasally drone ridiculed the idea of shifting demand for electricity from one part of the day to another so that his company wouldn’t have a problem meeting spikes in demand during the winter.

He dismissed the idea as “theoretical” even though it’s widely used across Canada in places . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Dunderstan #nlpoli

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Crises within crises #nlpoli

The action of the Soviet Union, Winston Churchill once said, “is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.”

Some people in Newfoundland and Labrador likely felt that way after Day Three of Kathy Dunderdale’s one woman crusade to deny that the province is experiencing a crisis.

Most people just cock their heads to . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Crises within crises #nlpoli

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: A tale of two crises #nlpoli

Kathy Dunderdale did two major interviews on the first working day since the start of the Nalcor generation crisis.

One was with registered Nalcor lobbyist Tim Powers (# 777504-14002) who is currently holding down a guest spot hosting on VOCM.  The whole interview is actually online at vocm.com.  The second was with CBC’s John . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: A tale of two crises #nlpoli

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: The Great Blizzard/Blackout 2014 #nlpoli

Some observations:

1.  Yep.  It’s a crisis.

When you have a major utility cutting electricity to people in a blizzard at random, for random periods of time because it cannot supply enough electricity to meet demand, you have a crisis.

That’s what it feels like to the people in it.  That’s what it is.

People . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: The Great Blizzard/Blackout 2014 #nlpoli

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Moments #nlpoli

There’s something perverse about the way politicians these days use a memorial to the dead of two world wars in the last century as a backdrop for their own political spectacles.

That’s what Kathy Dunderdale did – yet again – on Tuesday night to tell Newfoundlanders and Labradorians about something she regards as truly wonderful.

. . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Moments #nlpoli

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Grits gain from Cons and Dippers #nlpoli

Premier Kathy Dunderdale doesn’t govern by polls.

That’s what she told reporters – yet again – as they asked her about yet another poll that showed the provincial Conservatives aren’t doing so well with eligible voters.

Then Kathy explained to reporters that the polls told her that she and her colleagues must do a better . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Grits gain from Cons and Dippers #nlpoli

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: The 2013 Harbour Grace Affray #nlpoli

Kathy Dunderdale told reporters on Tuesday, while the polls were still open mind you, that the by-election results would be no big thing.

Life would go on. 

The world would turn.

And the Conservatives had two years left in their mandate.

That’s when everyone in the province understood that the provincial Conservatives had . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: The 2013 Harbour Grace Affray #nlpoli

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: The Old Fraudsters #nlpoli

There’s no greater fraud,  former Premier Danny Williams once said, than a promise not kept.

In the House of Assembly on Monday,  his successor claimed that Conservatives “do as we say.”  Premier Kathy Dunderdale was making a dig at opposition leader Dwight Ball over his leadership campaign expenses.

That’s a rather dubious claim of moral . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: The Old Fraudsters #nlpoli

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Softball #nlpoli

No wonder the Conservatives are smiling a lot these days.

Not only have the New Democrats imploded as an effective political force but their leader has decided her job is to serve as a cheerleader for the government.

(Read more…)

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Firm and Unfirm #nlpoli

With the House of Assembly open again, the major topic of Question Period was Muskrat Falls and the second version of the deal to ship power to Nova Scotia.

Premier Kathy Dunderdale explained it on Monday in terms of firm and “non-firm”.  Firm power is what you know that the hydro plants will be able . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Firm and Unfirm #nlpoli

The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Talking down to people #nlpoli

A very smart guy scolded someone in a Twitter exchange recently with the observation that people don’t like it when others  – especially politicians – talk down to them.

Well, here’s a good illustration of the point:  the provincial Conservatives. They love to talk down to people. 

Charlene Johnson and the sexual exploitation report . . . → Read More: The Sir Robert Bond Papers: Talking down to people #nlpoli