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)

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Doing the Right Thing at the Right Time-Liberal Leaders

Disappointing. That sums it up. The recent Telegram article on the position of all five Liberal leadership candidates on Muskrat Falls was recently aired for public consumption. The reporter, James MacLeod, noted that the Liberals official position, including a vote against the project in the House of Assembly, has been solidly against the project. In his article MacLeod illustrated the readily apparent conflict between what the leadership candidates are saying now, and the position the Party has taken. Conflicted indeed.

There was the predictable: Cathy Bennett cheerleader full stop; Danny Dumaresque opposed full stop; Dwight Ball and Jim Bennett arguing the deal is done so make the best of it. The one most bizarre response came from Paul Antle.

I had very high hopes for Antle. A well educated man now a resident of Ontario, he seemed to bring some very needed business counter-balance to Cathy Bennett's blinders-firmly-on point of view on Muskrat Falls. Yet, after MacLeod's article, that hope seems fully dashed. Consider this quote attributed to Antle in the article:
"No one is going to stop a hydro development that is half-constructed. No one would do that in their right mind, but we can revisit how this thing is financially engineered." Think that quote through for a moment.

First thing that jumps to mind is that Muskrat Falls is nowhere close to being half built. The transmission lines, one third of the project haven't even cleared all the aboriginal and environmental hoops yet, let alone constructed. The Labrador-Island sub-sea cable system and conversion sites are not constructed at all, ditto for the maritime link, same goes for the powerhouse and dam at Muskrat Falls or the much debated reinforcement of the quick clay plagued North Spur. In fact, the only real work that has been half completed is the site clearing at Muskrat Falls.

There is the obvious political critique of this position. Within the last month the largest poll ever conducted on Muskrat Falls showed support for the development free-falling. A project that once enjoyed a solid 70% support by the public was now reduced to 49%. In effect, Antle's position may be alienating the majority of the electorate (when I say Antle you can include the majority of the candidates in that one). Then consider the positions of the other two parties. The NDP is becoming the only Party opposing the project, and the Liberals are being portrayed as essentially of the same mind as the terminally ill PC party. Not a position most would conclude is enviable. Does the Liberal Party really want to frame itself in the public mind as PC lite? Or perhaps even more damning: Liberal Tory, same old story? These are dangerous political waters to be in, and already one toe has been dipped in the water to check the temperature. As MacLeod said: "scrambled eggs".

Then there is Antle's statement that nobody in their right mind would halt a half built project. Really? Hmm. Don't tell the Ontario Liberal government that. They just did that very thing by cancelling two partially built natural gas plants designed to produce electricity. He should know that - he's a Liberal and he lives there in an Ottawa mansion. The cost to the Ontario taxpayers is $800 million plus, but they stopped throwing good money after bad - apparently. There are also cases like the hydro-dam being built in Brazil that have been halted half built. Some may argue that cancelling the contract with SNC Lavalin would create too much cost, yet Hydro-Quebec and a number of private corporations have done just that.

Apparently, these governments and corporations are not in their right mind? Or are they? Does the responsible person realize when they have made a mistake? Do they have the courage to stop the damage before it becomes financially fatal? The answer is yes they do, and they do it all the time. Antle, and the other Liberal leadership hopefuls have seemingly lost sight of the number one essential ingredient of all great leaders - courage of conviction. If you accept that Muskrat Falls is flawed then you must advocate it be halted until those flaws are corrected. It may be the case that those flaws cannot be corrected in a financially viable way. If that is the case then it must be halted permanently. No corporation would do any differently. The Board of Directors would be sanctioned by the shareholders if they acted in such a way. They would even be legally responsible for such a decision.

So what does all this boil down to? Well, frankly, a lack of judgement. If you portray yourself as a responsible guardian of the public purse, one that would treat that budget as if it were your own, then you must make that your position in all things relating to how you intend to govern. To paint all those who want to see this project stopped as not in their "right mind" is to disrespect us all. Frankly, we get a lot of that from the existing PC government. We certainly are not looking for that in the replacement government. Food for thought gents.

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