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)

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Muskrat Falls is a Done Deal

Those were the words I heard many times in the past from our former morning radio star, and current Mayor of Mount Pearl, Randy Simms. It's a done deal. Imagine, then, the surprise I felt when Randy, who also writes for the Telegram, came up with a story this weekend that Muskrat Falls is not a done deal. To be fair to Randy, many people around the province said the same thing. Half the time it was hard to decide if they were trying to convince you that further struggle was futile, or that they really believed nothing could stop it.

People who fought, and continue to fight, to stop the Muskrat Falls project were called "nay-sayers" or "known critics" by the government, and its mouth pieces. We were constantly referred to as "people without credibility". In Newfoundland "credibility" is code for the boy's club (the business/political backroom of the province) nod of approval. People who are "not credible" are not sanctioned and, therefore, akin to loose lipped fools - too stunned to understand the vision.

However, my education and experience gives me a whole different definition of "credible". Firstly, I try not to use the word, because it is judgmental and personal. Just because someone else has a different vision or understanding does not mean they are "not credible". To me, a person's ability to synthesize all aspects of the Muskrat Falls project, for instance, is necessary to have a "credible" opinion on the entire project - that doesn't mean they aren't a credible person.

Factors that need to be sorted through, and integrated with each other, are things like: international financial and energy trends; environmental impacts; proven science; domestic and inter-boundary demographics; Canadian and International law; provincial and corporate debt/capacities; sub sea line technology; overland line capacities; dam capacities; geology; previously existing contracts; and the list goes on. In the military we used to call it "factors that limit the objective". In other words, we have an idea, but what stands in our way from achieving it?

For two and a half years now I have been fighting the Muskrat Falls project: not out of spite as some have said; not because of personal vendettas; not to meddle; and not to be political. These are things I never evaluate anything on. They are small minded and petty. I have been fighting Muskrat Falls because from the beginning it struck me as not making sense.

The many reasons why it doesn't make sense can not all be listed here - that would take a book. The bottom line is it doesn't - albeit for different reasons than those that flagged the project to me in the beginning. So where does that leave the government - started as we are?

Well, where this government finds itself is exactly where the man whose brainchild this is left it on course to be when he scuttled out the door. Yes, this is all Danny Williams. It concerns me that frankly he put the gullible Kathy Dunderdale to take the fall for the inevitable failure while he smells like roses as the hero manager of a temporary hockey team. It may be his plan to escape the blame, but we are just as determined to remind people where the blame really lies. It's not personal. It's called responsibility to the public, that as premier, he screwed.

Now the proverbial rubber has hit the wall - the wall of reality. The PC government, Williams team, is stuck in guerrilla warfare. Dunderdale recently stated publicly that the PCs had planned for every contingency. Sorry, but that's simply not true. The legislation and laws put in place, like the Water Management Agreement are about to be blown apart. The coveted federal loan guarantee, necessary for financially downgraded Emera to raise capital is similarly doomed. It must be free of lawsuits and have all aboriginal issues settled before the feds will give the green light. Expiry date on that is December 31 - or about 2 1/2 months away. Law suits pending to date: five. Chance of settling any of them in one year: zero.

And so it goes. The nay-sayers, that small crowd of loud, non-credible, known critics have the boys club's pet project on the ropes. The boys club aren't admitting it yet, but here is one big clue: we are negotiating with Hydro-Quebec. Yep, the same folks who not more than a month or so ago Dunderdale and company were popping veins in their heads whilst they screamed such things as: revenge of the French.. well you get the idea. Necessity is the mother of invention, and a politician, and more importantly an entire boys club, will do almost anything, and talk to almost anyone, to avoid eating that much crow. Watch for Dunderdale and company to trade in some part the Old Harry oilfield to Quebec for some political accommodation on the Lower Churchill.

Here's the thing. What bothers me, poisons me to use a Newfoundland word, is how our so called "credible" group in St. John's can be so easily and obviously out flanked at every turn by Quebec and the feds - yet they refuse to listen to people who may know how to deal with these types. They are not just a danger to themselves, but to all of us present, and all of us in the future. They are so reckless, and clueless that they should have never passed the gate keepers watching the halls of power. Perhaps the gatekeepers are equally endowed.

In any case, here we are, checkmate. The new Hydro-Quebec loving premier in Nova Scotia will no doubt reopen the issue of the Maritime link, claiming the public good, and seeking "competitive" bids from Hydro-Quebec. Hydro-Quebec will likely offer Nova Scotia the complete package - a Power Purchase Agreement for all Nova Scotia's power needs - which Newfoundland and Labrador can not match. That will leave us with no market, a partially built project, and a void water management agreement ( without which Muskrat Falls dam can not run at more than 20% capacity on average). We will be in an even more disastrous place if we continue building the dam.

Of course, that's going to be kind of hard to do. It's hard to raise funds in a bond market or what have you while all those lawsuits sit there. That $2.5 billion we have sitting in short term investments has been waiting along time now for the rest of the money to show up. The lack of a federal loan guarantee will also create extreme difficulty in raising cash - hence the warning this month from the markets that our provincial government is on the verge of a downgrade in its credit rating.

When I started my lawsuit against this project one year ago, I wanted to out Hydro-Quebec now. Stop them from sitting back and waiting for us to cut our own throat over one man's ego, and then swoop in to take the pickings at pennies on the dollar. I know how they work, and this is how they work. With the Quebec government you need to understand but one thing - they don't care about you - they only care about themselves - period. To believe otherwise is foolish. To act otherwise is unforgivable.

So yes Randy, Muskrat Falls is not a done deal. It never was. If all the "credible" people in the St. John's boys club listened to those "not credible" types, perhaps you wouldn't be in the nightmare your mother warned you about. Perhaps you would have out flanked Quebec first. However, that would require knowing where your flank is.

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