Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.
Steve Jobs
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)

Monday, April 25, 2016

Is Stan the Man?

Ed is out and Stan is in. The bell rings. The King is dead, long live the King. No one ever learns here. There was the blind faith placed in Danny Williams. "If Danny says it's so it must be so". Years of it. Now the province languishes on the door steps of insolvency. The caucus all rallies around Dunderdale as Leader and Premier. No one must challenge. We are on the same path. Push forward, and ask no questions thy nay-sayers. Vote Liberal! Dwight Ball will lead us to a stronger tomorrow. Look at his team. Look at its IQ. These are wondrous business people. Dwight and his team will sort it all out. It's a landslide. No point in opposing. We need an opposition - just not in my district. On and on it goes.

Now it's Stan Marshall's turn. Time to be the saviour and absolve us of our sins Stan. We can see you are so concerned about your fellow Newfoundlanders and Labradorians being buried in the Muskrat Falls mess, and the overwhelming financial crisis that you sacrificed a short period of your retirement for a mere $650K a year. It doesn't matter that you are one of the wealthiest people in the province, we'll gladly bend at the waste to pay you the same as the last guy. We know your intentions are as pure as the driven snow - right?

Now you see, there's a problem here. Good old Stan is the largest shareholder in Fortis. He may be retired, but he has a significant interest in seeing his old corporation, that he created, is taken care of. Looking across the pond he can see his old arch rival Emera challenging his beloved Fortis in the vast US electric market. On the other hand, he can see that the Nova Scotia Liberals are deregulating Nova Scotia's market - allowing his other arch foe into the fray - Hydro Quebec. How to stop Emera?  How about deregulating their cash pot market Nova Scotia, and then stripping them of all that free power they're meant to get from this province - after Emera's full in on the link of course. Wouldn't it be ironic if Emera took a bite too much and became a takeover target, for, let's say, Fortis?

Bottom line, there isn't one bone in my body that thinks Stan suddenly burst upon the scene at the pathetic begging of our illustrious Premier. There isn't one bit of me that believes Stan is not in a conflict of interest - a very obvious one. Hence the Premier of Nova Scotia's phone call to our Dwight.

But hey, let's not leave the new Board of Directors at Nalcor out of the fun. John Green, our new Chairman, was also Fortis's corporate go to guy lawyer up until at least 4 weeks ago. Yep, good old John supervised the last two major US takeovers Fortis completed. Kind of gives you the creeps thinking the Fortis take over lawyer is now the Chairman of the Board at Nalcor doesn't it? Sounds like a Fortis takeover of Nalcor almost - doesn't it? I'm sure Stan and John are as pure as the driven snow, and the fact they could destroy one of  their main competitors in the US market never crossed their minds - surely not.

As one who opposes the Muskrat Falls project I hope it is put on immediate ice, but does that mean I'll give Stan and John a free pass from scrutiny? Not likely. Liberal governments have a habit of jumping into bed with Hydro Quebec. Just look at who will enter the Nova Scotia market that Emera had a monopoly on. The big question is will the Liberal government here try and ink a deal with Hydro-Quebec that sorts out the Lower Churchill? Is it perhaps a case of the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Fortis takes out Emera and takes it over, Hydro-Quebec get's Labrador, and Newfoundland get's to shake its collective head and ask "what the hell happened". We'll have to keep a very close watch on our new saviour Stan. I don't believe in lilly white saviours anymore.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Racism in Newfoundland

Racism is always a tough topic to talk about, because it speaks to the ugly base emotions of the human condition. It is tribalism. It is virulent, and it is widespread here. Of course, Newfoundland is not alone in that department, but it takes a particularly nasty bent here - especially when money is involved. A fairly recent example was the case of Randy Simms, mayor of Mount Pearl and previously a radio show host on the provinces number one radio show. While having a debate with an Innu chief, over caribou herds, Simms referred to Innu people and aboriginals in general as "you people" and that they were "stupid". If you can stomach a tirade. that ought to turn your stomach, I've included two of the rants here . That was the most recent and publicly available example here in the province - until now.

Last week the Nunatsiavut government, representing the Inuit people of Labrador, presented a study conducted by Harvard University, which very specifically stated the Muskrat Falls hydro project would result, among other things, in a 400% increase in methylmercury in Lake Melville. Lake Melville is a massive lake at the bottom of the Churchill River where the Nunatsiavut people hunt, fish, and drink. It's been a critical part of their lives for thousands of years. The report states that under the high (worst case) scenario that once the Muskrat Falls reservoir is filled, with only partial clearing, that up to 66% of Rigolet residents would exceed the USEPA guidelines for safe mercury levels. Currently there are 20% of Rigolet residents that exceed the USEPA standards. Furthermore, the study found that among people living off hunting and fishing may see a rise in methylmercury levels of 1500%. These are some of the points from the study. I've included it here.

Under normal circumstances Newfoundlanders would be lightening quick to denounce the poisoning of woman and children. There would be outrage. There would be screaming and condemnation in the House of Assembly - if for no other reason than to score political points. Case in point the fracking fiasco at Corner Brook. Community outrage at having fracking drilling conducted near their watershed caused the development to be stopped in its tracks. An example of the outrage is a quote from a local opponent:

"When the health of the community is at stake, when mothers have to give their children water near fracked wells, there should be a scientific consensus that the practise is safe... Why would you experiment with the health and safety of our children and not your own?

Great words and sentiment, but one problem - the government never reacted when the Inuit said the same thing after the monumental Harvard study. In fact, the public never reacted either. In fact, not one word or one question was raised in the House of Assembly about the study be the world's foremost expert on the effects of methylmercury from Harvard. There were a few short stories in the media that covered the Nunatsiavut press conference. Then nothing, except the three daily radio shows whose hosts tried to enlighten people on the issue.  However, the three open line shows were almost devoid of any talk from people calling in about the poisoning of the Inuit. By the way, the Innu would also be poisoned in a similar if not worse fashion as they live closer to the dam site.

I was shocked, ashamed, and embarrassed at the members of our House of Assembly. Ordinarily, such a report would provoke a furor. The only reasonable explanation is they just don't care enough to even bring the matter up. Why don't they care? Because it's just a few "natives" up in Labrador. Racism. Pure and simple. there is no other explanation. Even the NDP, in their third party status, couldn't muster up a single question. No outrage. No questions. As if it never even happened. There is currently a petition on line requesting Labradorians separate from the province. Is it any wonder? The Inuit, Innu, and Nunatukavut (Metis) peoples form a good portion of Labrador's population, and an even greater share of its landmass. Yet this is how they are treated by the white folks down in the pearly gates of the House of assembly in St. John's. Is it any wonder they may want to leave so they can protect themselves from the townies? Newfoundlanders would be no different, and the Newfoundland government would scream bloody blue murder if the federal government did the same to them, and have. Racism is ugly. Racism justified by nationalistic dam projects is even uglier. It's evil, and it's unforgiveable.

EPILOGUE - Randy Simms, the man who made the racist tirade, ran for the Liberal Party here in 2015, lost, and word is he's been hired by the Liberal Party as a policy strategist...

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Where we're at

There is no question that Newfoundland and Labrador is in the "hurt locker". A self-inflicted hurt locker. During the period of 2004-2014 oil gave the province a sense of invincibility - fueled by the nationalist oratory of then Premier Danny Williams. He had massive, overwhelming public support. The kind of support I often refer to as the pied piper of Newfoundland leading the children into the sea. Over the last five years I have done my best through the open waves and the courts to stop the damage his agenda was going to inflict, but to no avail - a personal failure on my part. The people here simply, and blindly followed him into the sea. Now they are underwater. The betrayal will last as long as this place lasts.

But where does that leave us now? Now that the oil-fueled potential has been frittered away ($25 billion in 10 years), and the normal revenue brought in by taxation, etc has been similarly blown ( about $60 billion in 10 years), the window for making Newfoundland and Labrador a place we can all live in with ease has gone. That leaves us with the aftermath. Those of us that remain. People like David Cochrane of the CBC, who regularly trounced those of us that tried to stop the government from  building the suicidal Muskrat Falls project, will probably leave. Cochrane was gone off to Ottawa's CBC office before the ink dried on the Liberals devastating budget. Expect to see a lot more of that.

Here is where we are at today. The government is borrowing another $3 billion this year - for normal operations and capital projects ($1.3 billion of it going to Muskrat Falls). In addition, they are looking at borrowing similar amounts for at least the next five years. If that transpires as planned, Newfoundland and Labrador will have a gross debt of $33 billion by the end of 2021. Now, that's not the end of it, because that doesn't include Nalcor's debt. Nalcor right now owes just north of $10 billion. That puts the gross debt at $43 billion. That's not the end of it either. Our population was already on the downswing as the fastest aging demographic in North America. That means a lot less people to pay for this new massive debt.

That's not the end of it either though. Within the next three months the Quebec Superior Court is about to hand down a decision on who has the right to operate the Upper Churchill and how much power Nalcor is entitled to take from it. We are going to lose on both counts. Not because it's a Quebec court as all the nationalistic types will proclaim. No, the language of the Power Contract is very clear - very clear. This is simply another Williams/Nalcor bid at the high stakes gambling department with our money, and, as I've said in Court and on public media, we will lose. What happens when we lose? Our Water Management Agreement, which is basically a hostile takeover of the Upper Churchill, will be null and void. It will be unlawful to "bank" power. Without that provision, and the provision to force the Upper Churchill to run at full capacity, Muskrat Falls can only operate at 20% firm capacity. That means in order to break even power bills in this province will have to triple at  a minimum.

Think that's far fetched? Well it isn't. The math has already been done. That math by the way used the original cost figures for Muskrat Falls, and as we know those figures have grown from $5 billion to now over $9 billion including construction interest on the debt.

The point is that we are now on the edge of insolvency - bankruptcy. The same people who called us nay-sayers and alarmists, even dangerous zealots, will say this statement is similarly untrue. However, they were wrong then and they would be wrong now. At some point in time people must look past the spin and recognize the people who have been right all along. Not with parades, but with their ears and minds. Realize that a combined debt of $43 billion renders a population of 500,000 (or less) bankrupt. In default. That is the truth. You won't hear it come from the lips of the lying politicians in Confederation building, but do the math for yourself. Read the annual budget estimates. Understand the debt we have accumulated already and the debt the government intends to accumulate. Understand that failing to stop Muskrat Falls, with serious damage already caused by it, is a death sentence to the province. That is the fact and the truth.

The Liberals are already spinning in the press that we would default on the federal loan guarantee if we stopped the project. So be it. At this point defaulting on the federal loan guarantee is preferable to provincial bankruptcy. That being said, how many of you believe a Liberal government in Ottawa, who owns all seven seats in Newfoundland and Labrador, and which contains a Newfoundlander as Trudeau's right hand woman (Judy Foote) would place this province into a position of default? With a Liberal provincial government? It is do or die time Newfoundland and Labrador. We either stop the bleeding with emergency surgery or we die on the operating table. It is that simple and clear cut. Recovering from our current debt is almost impossible for a population this small to sustain. Recovering from the combined debt of Muskrat Falls and government operations over the next 5 years is impossible - period. Don't be fooled by what the politicians say about it. Don't be led by any more pied pipers. Do the math. Stand up. Be counted. Don't be a sheep to the slaughter. Fight. Be a fighting Newfoundlander and Labradorian.