Listening to CEO Ed Martin last week, spin and propaganda are alive and well in the people’s Crown corporation, Nalcor.
The project is behind schedule, there are significant cost overruns and first power is delayed until 2018. But to help with the spin, Martin stood in front the massive concrete spillway structure, and with a bit of smile on his face, essentially said all is going well.
Martin framed the new cost overruns as a 10 per cent increase, which doesn’t sound too bad. But that’s just over the past year.
In fact, comparing the new cost of $7.65 billion to the original sanction cost of $6.2 billion yields a real cost overrun of some 23 per cent.
Furthermore, at the same time Martin was spinning his “all is really OK” news story, the government’s own oversight committee released information suggesting interest during construction will bring the total cost of the Muskrat Falls project to more like $9.06 billion.
Contrary to the spin, Muskrat Falls is worrisome, and no one should be surprised. Let’s recall what the PUB said in its March 30, 2012 report to the government before King Danny removed it from properly evaluating the project.
“The board concludes that the information provided by Nalcor in the review is not detailed, complete or current enough to determine whether the interconnected option represents the least-cost option for the supply of power to island interconnected customers over the period of 2011-2067, as compared to the isolated island option.” (That’s from page four of the executive summary.)
This project was denied its proper scrutiny by our duly constituted public watchdog, the PUB, because the government of the day did not want it to be subject to an unbiased, apolitical and transparent evaluation.
Despite all the bravado and promises of accountability, in 2018 who will really be accountable for the final significant cost overruns and the inordinately high household electricity bills?
Will it be Danny or Kathy or Paul or Ed? Not likely, and no amount of their rhetoric will pay those bills.
Accountability should mean consequences, but there can be none for the players and decision-makers in this fiasco. It will be the rate-payers who will reap the negative consequences.
Given the social, economic and political upheaval associated with the original Upper Churchill Hydro-electric project, it was dubbed as the most notorious venture in our province’s history.
We will never let a fiasco like that happen again was the war cry of successive governments and political leaders.
As the great Yogi Berra once said: “It’s déjà vu all over again.”
The only difference is, this time we won’t be able to blame Joey!
Ken Kavanagh, Sr., Bell Island