Marshall acknowledges a numbers mix-up in the legislature

James McLeod
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Muskrat Falls will not, in fact, pay a $3-billion dividend in 2040, Premier Tom Marshall told the House of Assembly Tuesday.

It was only one day earlier when Marshall raised eyebrows by claiming in the legislature that Muskrat Falls would mean massive annual — and steadily growing — dividends to the province.

“In 2019, I expect the dividends that will come to the province from Muskrat Falls will be about half a billion dollars a year,” he said Monday.

“I expect that before the Upper Churchill comes back, I think those dividends are going to amount to $3 billion a year, each and every year.”

It turns out that wasn’t quite true, and at the start of question period Tuesday, Liberal Leader Dwight Ball called him on it.

“Yesterday the premier said that the Muskrat Falls project will pay $3 billion in dividends to the province in the year 2040 — that’s one year — but Nalcor’s own documents to the PUB show a profit of $517 million in the year 2040, so I ask the premier, will you please clarify the difference of the $2.5 billion you presented yesterday?” Ball asked.

Marshall said that the numbers were right, but the part where he said “Muskrat Falls” was a little less than accurate.

“The figures that I was referring to were for all of Nalcor. I inadvertently used the word Muskrat Falls, but it is all of Nalcor,” Marshall said.

“I talked about how the investment that is being made in a company that is owned by the people of Newfoundland will pay dividends and create wealth for the people in the future.”

That means the dividend payments will include oil and gas money and the Muskrat Falls portion would just be a fraction of it.

Ball said he accepted Marshall’s explanation, but he then pressed the matter. For weeks, the Liberals have been demanding that the auditor general (AG) be ordered to go in and scrutinize Nalcor’s books — the Muskrat Falls project in particular.

“Accurate information from any government is important,” Ball said. “This is one of the reasons why we have asked for the oversight committee on the Muskrat Falls project to include the AG.”

But Marshall repeated the same thing he’s been saying to Ball for weeks — the government lets the auditor general look at anything he wants, but as an independent officer of the legislature, they won’t order him to look at anything in particular.

And he pointed out to Ball that last week on the evening news, Ball inadvertently referred to Marshall as “finance minister” instead of “premier” — getting Marshall mixed up with Finance Minister Charlene Johnson.

“We all make mistakes,” Marshall said with a wry look across the legislature.

“I do not know how you could have mixed the two of us up.”

Twitter: TelegramJames

Geographic location: Muskrat Falls, Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • Charles
    April 03, 2014 - 05:27

    @ Fredrick, I guess you didn't understand my comment, I said to put the brake on Muskrat Falls, Do complete over haul of everything concerning that project, If Mr Ball was a better leader, How come he not saying, what I said about the project, After all he did say he was listening to people. I would never vote for Cathy Bennett she believe in supporting foreign workers, I believe in supporting our people.

  • Tony Rockel
    April 02, 2014 - 12:16

    Three out of every four hydro projects have major cost overruns, on average by 96 percent. I'm sure that this will do wonders for our "dividend" (read "debt and deficit").

  • Charles
    April 02, 2014 - 11:55

    There only one thing to say about Muskrat Falls, Put the dam BRAKE on, Do complete over haul of the book, see EXACTLY what's taking place, But its would take some one with CHESTNUTS, Has of now, we just have anyone, who got the guts to say it. Do any one out there, besides myself, who think VIRGINIA WATERS , is Cathy Bennett?

    • Fredrick
      April 02, 2014 - 15:13

      Where have you been Charles? Just about everybody knows that Cathy Bennett was/is a big booster of Muskrat. She was on the NALCOR board when it went down and she staunchly defended it during the leadership race. Indeed, I believe it was one of the reasons she did so poorly in that race. On top of that, I'd say she's probably too busy to be posting here under someone else's name. Thankfully I'm not in her district because I'd have a hard time choosing. I'd probably go with her because, while she is terribly misguided on economic issues, she's not a stupid person. But if I voted for her it would, in fact, be a vote for Ball who is the better leader of the better party.

  • Jon Smith
    April 02, 2014 - 11:31

    Liberals need to ask more questions. Is the $5 billion loan which is guaranteed by Feds in place? If not what conditions have to be fulfilled before it can happen? Are questions about the Upper Churchill contract by Quebec holding it up. Are other conditions by the Feds hampering the loan implementation. If the loan guarantee is not snagged/shagged up, why are we still sending truckloads of cash to Nalcor? Are we still paying for the sunk portion outside the fixed loan. Are we any closer to the projected final cost: $ 8, 10 12 or 20 billion??

  • Henry
    April 02, 2014 - 11:20

    Marshall cant get it right. Reporting numbers were never his best suit. Does any body remember past budgets where Mr. Marshall screwed up the financial projections? Do you remember it was Mr. Marshall whom was responsible for the 2013-14 budget which reported the huge deficit which ultimately layoffs hundreds of hard working young public servants with families, not to mention the cutting of needed services to ordinary citizens. I ask do you really believe Mr. Marshall's financial projections now? I predict that their is more then a even chance that some one else will have to make additional corrections to his projections long after he is gone..... That the way I see it. I will not vote for this nonsense any more...

  • Virginia Waters
    April 02, 2014 - 10:36

    Kudos to Dwight Ball for forcing Premier Marshall to admit that his statements in the House regarding expected returns to the Province from Muskrat Falls were not only untrue – they were preposterous. Now perhaps Mr. Ball can follow up with a couple of other questions: (1) given Marshall’s new explanation that the $500 million dividend by 2019, and the $3 billion dividend by 2041, are projected for NALCOR as a whole and not Muskrat as previously stated, what percentage is expected from NALCOR’s oil and gas holdings versus its hydro-electric assets; (2) of the foregoing, what portion is attributable to Muskrat Falls?; (3) with regard specifically to the projected 2041 dividend of $3 billion, what portion of this amount is attributable to the expiration of the Churchill Falls contract and to the expectant re-sale of this 2300 MW block of power under this Province’s ownership and control?

  • Marshall Plan
    April 02, 2014 - 10:09

    The Premier should come clean and disclose the facts about Muskrat Falls. This project will continue to require substantial public investment well beyond this year. In fact it will be years after it starts before the project will generate positive cash flow and it will only then reach that point after very significant increases in the rates for electricity. So the truth is that Nalcor will continue to require hundreds of millions of annual subsidy from taxpayers well beyond 2014-15. the premier promised the public he would be open and honest with the public but unfortunately for us this government is like so many before - the promises are very shallow and empty.

  • Tony Rockel
    April 02, 2014 - 10:09

    I guess Mr Marshall hoped no one would notice. ...and another half billion to Nalcor while we have patients lying in the HSC corridors for up to 5 days because of no beds. What an obscenity!

  • Jon Smith
    April 02, 2014 - 08:30

    Muskrat is an obscene giveaway white elephant-end of story.

  • Ed
    April 02, 2014 - 07:54

    Maurice, what you constantly leave out is that ratepayers are paying right now, to buy oil inventory from other countries. MF means rate payers will pay Nalcor for energy, which is owned by ratepayers, and profits get distributed back to NL, instead of people in other jurisdictions. Most of my electricity bill goes towards buying other people's oil right now. It will be nice when my bill goes to Nalcor, then back to the taxpayers.

    • Maurice E. Adams
      April 02, 2014 - 08:39

      Nalcor's 2011 media release shows NL ratepayers will provide Nalcor (FOR MUSKRAT) an average cash flow of $700 million every year (all out of NL ratepayers' pockets) --- about 7 times what oil for Holyrood cost on average per year from 2001 - 2010. ---- What will that do for power rates? How many NL ratepayers can afford to pay so much more for their power, especially when Holyrood provides only 10% of our needs? We pay about 4 times more than even Nova Scotia. What a scam.

    • Harry
      April 02, 2014 - 11:02

      Okay Ed if you believe that then you can pay my electrical bill as well..... I don't share your enthusiasm. Higher rates because of this project will hurt us all. That's what I believe.

    • Maxwell J.
      April 02, 2014 - 11:56

      So Ed, do you drive an electric car? Maybe, like millions of others, you've stuck with your gas-guzzler because you know that - as nice as electric vehicles might sound - they're too expensive and too impractical. Well Ed, that's the problem with Muskrat. I know of no one who is opposed to Muskrat because they prefer to burn oil. But anyone with the slightest understanding of economics will tell you an investment needs to make business sense - and Muskrat doesn't. It would have been far cheaper to upgrade our existing hydro generating facilities, replace or refurbish the generators at Holyrood, and institute a proper conservation program than to have exposed Newfoundlanders to an unnecessary $10 billion capital investment and still need the security of a back-up generating system on the Avalon. So yes, post-Muskrat less of your electrical bill will go to purchase oil. Great, but the problem is that - because of Muskrat's terrible economics - your electrical bill will be twice as large as it is now.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    April 02, 2014 - 06:58

    What our politicians are OK with letting people think, is that what Nalcor says will be dividends (for them) , or profit, as Ball would say coming from Muskrat ---- is ALL FROM THE POCKETS OF RATEPAYERS. The exception, is not in the billions or even hundreds of millions, but closer to the 30-60 MILLION dollar range from Nova Scotia. This paints a whole different picture that should be made clear in articles such as this one.

    • Morry
      April 02, 2014 - 07:47

      A dog and his bone.

    • Maurice E. Adams
      April 02, 2014 - 08:03

      And Morry, it costs NL ratepayers on average approx. $700 million per year every year for 50 years so that Nalcor can get back 30-60 million from Nova Scotia ---- What a dog and what a bone.

    • Corporate Psycho
      April 02, 2014 - 16:13

      We get it Morry. Jeez.

  • Crazy
    April 02, 2014 - 06:02

    LOL.. You have to understand, Dwight isn't that sharp. I come to recall, someone calling Dwight is like a hood ornament on a pickup, Only for look..