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)

Thursday, February 13, 2014

The Ghost of Premiers Past

Danny Williams is what my father would say is a promoter. That is they are big cheer leaders when it comes to other people's money. As premier he spent like a drunken sailor. The $10 billion or so he went through in oil revenues was poured into a provincial economy which, until that time, was like a fire starved for wood. Property values, wages and inflation sky rocketed as they do when that sort of thing happens. Locally it was referred to the "buddy boom". What he didn't do was pay the biggest bill the province has - the unfunded pension liabilities. Kind of like a teenager with a new job spending all his money on a new car and not paying his rent.

What he did do was get the Muskrat Falls dam project on course. He spent years, from 2003 til 2009 drafting pieces of legislation here and there that gave the province some false hope on taking power from the Upper Churchill, and setting the course for Muskrat Falls and his land development in the suburbs of St. John's.

So this past week was a home truth week. A week when many buried issues came home to roost. The Conference Board of Canada came out with its study stating our province would see a dramatic drop in population, by 2035, to about 482,000 people - worst in the country. Williams, true to form, lashed out at the Board's credibility and called their study "bull shit". Well, unfortunately for Williams, he is the one who is full of bullshit. The demographic change has its roots in the decade 1985-95 when 140,000 Newfoundlanders under the age of 25 left the province. A massive hole in the demographic of the province that could only be reversed by an immediate and similar size immigration.

However, Williams isn't much for people raining on his parade. The very same day as the Board's statement on population decline, Williams was back in Newfoundland from his sunny mansion in Florida, to promote his new, massive land development. Seems Williams was quite disturbed by the idea that he would be foolish enough to build 10,000 new homes when the population is receding. In typical Williams style, he lashed out at the Board for being "negative". Apparently, not good for business.

He also took the opportunity to promote a new power line from the Upper Churchill to Lab West for Alderon Iron Ore Inc - estimated to cost the taxpayers $300 million. In fact, he called it a "no-brainer". The problem with that assessment is it's not entirely clear the Upper Churchill facility can be modified without the consent of Hydro-Quebec, and it's definitely not clear the Water Management Agreement he imposed on Hydro-Quebec to make Muskrat Falls possible is legal either. None the less, it's a no-brainer. Perhaps, being a person who stands to gain a great deal from the Alderon mine development would say such a thing. Williams is a hired "strategic consultant" at Alderon, as is his girlfriend, and he holds 1,250,000 share options and 100,000 shares in it. You never hear that bit in the media here for some reason. So, like the population decline affecting his glorious housing development, the power line is a must for his mining development.

Of course, Williams says he would never put his reputation on the line for such small things. However, the facts say when it comes to his self-interest, Williams takes care of business. But does that mean he's right? Take the case of Bill Barry. He's a self-made wealthy businessman dealing in the fish industry. He's also bluntly honest, and not a fan of Muskrat Falls, or many other of Williams' decisions as Premier. On the same day as Williams made the proclamations from on high above, he also took the opportunity to falsely accuse Mr. Barry of wanting to: privatize Nalcor; privatize health care; and privatize education. He said Barry stated all these things in a memo sent to caucus for support in Barry's leadership bid for the PCs. The truth is Barry said none of them, and when Barry published the memo, Williams was caught in his lies.

It seems that Williams is still caught up in the days of being Premier, and spinning people lines that they took hook, line, and sinker. The truth of those lines is starting to ebb to the surface. Case in point, Wabush Mines. It announced this week that it's closing a mine in Labrador. The reason? No business case. So Williams "no-brainer" case for running a publicly funded $300 million power line to a mine, he holds the single largest share options in, looks self-serving and not in the public's interest. To build a new mine with borrowed Chinese money when the market is clearly flooded is one thing. To build a dam and run power lines for mines with the public's money is another.

It seems that the ghost of Danny Williams still haunts the Province.

1 comment:

  1. The truth of what you have written here will be accepted eventually. The sad part is already too late. Billions of dollars have been pissed away on a hair brained power development, and the planners and schemers are living in Florida.


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