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If there is any saving grace to Muskrat Falls, let it be the light it shines on Premier Clarks vow to get Site C past the point of no return.

Over the past year of reporting on Site C and looking into other dam projects around the world, Muskrat Falls quickly grabbed my attention earlier this year. In reviewing how the government of Newfoundland/Labrador decided to proceed with the project,the projects path to construction was eerily similar to our BC Liberals governments path to ‘get Site C past the point of no return’.

In fact, I have written about those similarities in 8 different blog posts since February of this year. You can read those posts, newest to oldest, here:

And today, following the continuing story at the dam site where land protectors entered over the weekend and brought all work to a grinding halt, I am again reminded of those blog posts in which I have questioned whether the premier will learn from Muskrat Falls or continue down the same path.

From the National Post ( gasp, YES!) :

Protests, ‘voodoo economics’ and soaring costs: How Muskrat Falls became a ‘boondoggle’

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. — Then-premier Kathy Dunderdale had a dismissive air when she rose in the legislature on Dec. 18, 2012, to answer another opposition question on Muskrat Falls.

Her Progressive Conservative government had just sanctioned the $7.7-billion hydro project, the largest publicly funded venture in Newfoundland and Labrador’s history.

It was a heady time for a province of 530,000 people — about the same as the Toronto suburb of Brampton — which was flush with oil riches and ambition. And a week before Christmas 2012, Dunderdale had little patience for skepticism.

“Mr. Speaker, this is a well-planned project,” she said.

One former provincial economist called Muskrat Falls a high-stakes gamble based on “voodoo economics.” Even Public Utilities Board reviewers said they hadn’t been given enough information to form an opinion about it.

No matter. The 824-megawatt development — which this month became a national flashpoint for indigenous rights — was touted as the cheapest option for required power, and Dunderdale was confident of success.

“We have imagined every scenario, everything that could possibly go wrong, and we have a remedy in case it does,” she said.

HN: How closely you’re watching the Muskrat Falls project in Labrador? It seems every couple weeks you hear something that’s gotten more complicated, or there’s another cost overrun there. How does B.C. keep from falling into a similar situation?

CC: The same reason we have a balanced budget and they don’t, and the same reason we have the fastest economic growth in the country and they don’t. We really watch our Ps and Qs, (and are) very careful about those financials. Important though to remember too—BC Hydro spent 10 years planning this project. This isn’t a back of the envelope project. That’s meant they have worked through almost every scenario and tried to risk-manage that. So it’s really minimized any of the risk that they have. That kind of extra work and the time that they took to do it is really paying off now. I don’t know very much of the background to Muskrat Falls, but I do know that in British Columbia we have proven ourselves and the country to be the leaders in managing the province’s finances well and that includes BC Hydro.

“Premier Bennett, you got it started and I will get it finished. I will get it past the point of no return.”
What Premier Clark forgot to say, was that Bennett didn’t finish it because he had the integrity to honour the decision of the BC Utilities Commission that said no to the project…but enough of Ms. Clark and her personal agenda for now… because CBC is reporting this tonight:

The new consumer advocate for Newfoundland and Labrador is not a fan of the embattled Muskrat Falls project.

Lawyer Dennis Browne, who previously served as consumer advocate from 1996-2004, was appointed to the role by the province’s Independent Appointment Commission on Thursday.

As protesters continued to fight against the planned flooding of Muskrat Falls amid concerns of methylmercury contamination in Lake Meville on Friday, Browne told CBC’s On The Go he’s never believed the project was a good idea.

“My feelings really have never changed. I always thought that it was a project that was flawed from the beginning,” he said.

Browne was part of the 2041 group, a team of lawyers who stood in opposition to Muskrat Falls.

“It was a project that should never have seen the light of day,” he said.

“It was a bit of a sad spectacle the way it was gone about, because anyone who was opposed to it was silenced or ridiculed, and they didn’t put it fairly in front of the Public Utilities Board.”

Sound familiar?  Dennis Burden knows all about that. It is hard being right when the wrong has already been done and I shared his thoughts here over the summer. But there is more.

As consumer advocate for the people of N.L., Browne said he worries about the cost of electricity once the project comes online.

“Everywhere you look where you need electricity, people are going to be burdened on account of this project,” said Browne.

While Dwight Ball’s Liberal government continues to deal with issues surrounding Muskrat Falls, Browne is deflecting the blame back to the people who made the decision in the first place.

“It’s on those who passed that legislation, the [Kathy] Dunderdale government and those who were with them.”

“They stood in the house when the other two parties were trying to get some common sense in the regime to get it to the Public Utilities Board and denied all due process.”


Nalcor ( their hydro company) actually admitted right at the end of June – while most people were busy with the end of school and plans for the short Canadian summer-that Muskrat Falls was the wrong project for Newfoundland/Labrador. Their CEO also admitted their estimates were wrong, along with pretty much everything else. You can read that and listen to it at this blog post here:

I said then, as I say now, that admission should serve as a chilling warning to the BC government, because they exempted the Site C dam project from the independent review of the BC Utilities Commission….kind of how the Newfoundland Labrador government of the time rammed it right through.

Newfoundlands public utilities board was not given the proper information to review Muskrat Falls… just as the BC Utilities Commission that already rejected the Site C dam project twice, was not allowed to review Site C this time around.

Both Nalcor and BC Hydro have claimed their estimates were correct, double checked and tripled checked by their own team of professionals…and good for them but when the public regulator is not allowed to do its job properly, this is the result. Their estimates were wrong. Their numbers were wrong. And it’s the good people of Newfoundland Labrador who are paying the price for their political incompetence.

And yet even in June of this year, Newfoundland columnist Russell Wangersky had pretty much summed up  why this matters in an excellent column every single British Columbian who worries about their Hydro bill should read. And when you read it, substitute Site C for Muskrat Falls please :



The cost to each individual resident of this province of Muskrat Falls has just risen from an already-astounding $14,509 to a staggering $22,353.
Got two people in your household? That’s $44,706 you’re on the hook for. Four? Try $89,412. And, unlike the provincial debt, it’s money every electricity user will have to pay back.
And we’re just getting started here.

The leap in costs for the Muskrat Falls project — from $7.4 billion at sanctioning to $11.4 billion now (and the expected increase in the price of electricity, from 11.9 cents a kilowatt hour now to 21.37 cents a kilowatt hour five years from now) — is so staggering, its satellite effects are hard to comprehend in advance. But there are going to be additional spinoffs, and they will be coming from your wallet, too.Problem is, electricity is so ubiquitous that price increases there are like general tax increases. (Plus 15 per cent HST that will added onto any increase.) The concept is, quite simply, budget-blowing.Take a look at Confederation Building — not too long ago, The Telegram did an access to information request looking at power bills for the Confederation Building’s West Block and newly renovated East Block. The power bill for Jan. 1 to May 8? $1,024,592.28. Multiply that bill by the anticipated increase in power rates, and you get $1,839,961.09. So, where do you think the extra $815,368.81 is going to come from?What about food? Well, your local grocery store has to keep the lights on and the coolers cool. They don’t do it out of charity, so expect to see their increased electrical costs reflected in the price of food.Got a streetlight on your street? Well, your city or town has to pay to keep that light on. Two weeks ago, the City of St. John’s paid $475,852.51 to Newfoundland Light and Power for electrical services. A month earlier, they paid a bill for $425,213.86. The combined increase for those two bills alone under the expected new rates would be $717,067.10 — and that’s not spare change that city council is going to be able to find under the couch cushions. They will have to find it in the pockets of municipal taxpayers.

Say you work in the fishing industry — if you’re a plant owner, you know how much it costs to power a blast freezer. How do you increase those costs to almost double what they are now and manage to stay competitive in a marketplace where other plants in other provinces or countries are paying less for power? You can’t even pass the cost on to your out-of-province customers, because your competitors can undercut your price. And once again, you’re not running a charity.

Problem is, all of this should have been expected. The Muskrat Falls project was rammed through every step of the way without undergoing the most basic financial examination — someone stopping and asking the question, “What if our basic assumptions are wrong?”

Other people — other utilities — were already learning about that the hard way, even before we moved ahead with our particular money-sump.

Four and a half years ago, before the project was sanctioned, I wrote, “Muskrat Falls is based on a series of informed assumptions — but those assumptions could be wrong. They have to be tested independently, right down to their underpinnings — and frankly, that has not been done yet.”

I wrote that because Manitoba’s electric utility was seeing project costs balloon on hydro dams (a 50 per cent increase, almost exactly what we’re seeing now with Muskrat Falls), because natural gas prices (and therefore electricity export prices) were dipping sharply, and because oil supplies were ballooning with the shale gas revolution, even though the current price slump hadn’t hit yet.

Those assumptions weren’t ever tested.

Now, new Nalcor head Stan Marshall is pretty blunt about exactly that: the core problem with Muskrat Falls, he said Friday, is that “it was built on false assumptions, faulty assumptions, and it went from there.”

When people asked for reviews of specific aspects of the project, they were told they were stupid, and that smarter people had everything covered. When others asked hard questions, politicians told them to shut up, go away and stop being unpatriotic. (I know precisely and personally what that back of the hand feels like.)

Look what it’s gotten us.

And  while affordability is a huge issue in this province of BC right now…it is so much more than just the cost of electricity for every person in Newfoundland… or British Columbia. The numbers may be different here but the sentiment and truth behind them remains the same.

Here BC Hydro is clearing the path for the dam while two court cases from the two First Nations directly impacted by the dam await a decision. Landowners Ken & Arlene Boon are being evicted by BC Hydro by December. And yes while everyone with a BC Hydro account will pay for this dam in BC whether they realize it or not, the reality of flooding an entire valley with highly productive farmland, unique ecosystems and a cultural significance that continues to this very moment, is priceless.

I don’t understand why it is so hard for politicians to admit they have made a mistake. We all make mistakes, that is what makes us human. The first step to making things right is to admit the wrong… and in Newfoundland that happened in June. But to now make things even more wrong by not clearing the reservoir to prevent a build up of methyl mercury in the fish and waters they inhabit…it’s akin to a slap in the face considering Nalcor already admitted the project should never have happened. This… is not right.

Make it right Premier Ball. After all this, it is the least that should be done. You may not have started this mess but you have an obligation to to fix this now.

And please, have a good long conversation with Premier Clark when you have a moment.

Because if there is any saving grace to Muskrat Falls, let it be the light it shines on Premier Christy Clark and her vow to get the Site C dam project past the point of no return.


    • It doesn’t matter from which perspective you look, its just wrong.And it keeps getting more wrong as every day passes.

      I’m really surprised no media outlets have done the comparison between the two. The fact that Nalcor had so much wrong with regards to their estimates and admit that now…. and the same for BC Hydro…. Alarming.


      • Laila.
        Your comment
        “I don’t understand why it is so hard for politicians to admit they have made a mistake.”

        It misses the point.
        Politicians dont care.
        If this , or any other unnecessary mega project (BC Place Stadium’s 600 million dollar “roof” comes to mind) goes horribly over budget…….

        They aren’t personably or criminably liable for these ridiculous “legacy” projects.
        And until they are…..nothing will change.
        And since these self same politicans appoint the judges, prosecutors, etc AND create the Laws.
        Dont expect anything to change until WWIII or the Zombie Apocalypse
        Speaking of Zombie Apocalypse
        I was thinking of dressing up as Christy Clark for Hallo’ween this year and telling everyone I’m a Scary Clown


  1. Such a shame I have to carry my theme over from your previous post/blog on Site C and the Campbell River dams but…

    Will the next image we see of Mr. Horgan be of him boarding a plane bound for Site C?
    Not images of said plane landing.

    Not images of him actually showing the people of BC what is really taking place away from the Yaletown pet spas and baby boutiques, where most of the votes are and where any 3 people could not point to Strathcona, Bella Bella or Peace River on a map.

    Not images of Mr. Horgan in conversations with the affected people of the Heiltsuk First Nation.
    Heiltsuk First Nation?
    That’s Bella Bella.
    On the BC Central Coast, folks.
    That’s where an American company from Texas ran a tug and oil barge off course and aground two weeks ago.
    That’s where less than 50% of the leaking fuel has been removed from the sunken tug.
    That’s where already endangered Abalone are now covered in diesel.
    That’s where the annual clam harvest, that produces stock for the Hurricane Grill’s chowder, is wiped out.
    You all know where the Hurricane Grill is, right?

    Not images of Mr. Horgan at Campbell River, Elk Lake, John Hart or in conversation with those affected voters.
    Do most folks even know where Campbell River is?
    No folks, not Powell River.
    Campbell River.
    Tough one, I know.

    Not images of an actual conversation with Nick and Arlene Boon.
    Nick and Arlene Who?
    Yeah, right.

    Such a shame the leader of the Official Opposition has to be Laila Yuile.


    • Hawg, I’m not sure I’m following you.

      Horgan was at Bella Bella on Oct. 21, looking into the diesel spill. Are you saying he should NOT have gone… or that he should have (but you weren’t aware that he did)?

      NDP MLA Jennifer Rice spent a day there, working with clean-up crews.

      Rice and Horgan got the news out on Facebook, though if it didn’t make it to the mainstream media, that could be down to the media choices, not the NDP.

      Regarding Horgan’s absence at Site C, that’s all down to him and his pre-election think tank. I suspect he doesn’t want to feed into the “Party of No” branding. It’s a careful bit of stick-handling he’s got to do — but yeah, he should show his face at least as an observer. The media won’t care, though, unless he lights his hair on fire… and we know he can’t do that too often.


      • G. Barry;
        My post was like a pinball, I get that.

        “Horgan was at Bella Bella…”
        Yes, you know that, I know that and the other regular knows that.

        While thinking of a response, Lew was typing.
        I can’t top that.

        Mr. Horgan should be making it known which of the media outlets he invites along and which ones fail to show.
        He, not we, should be getting the message out.

        Pretty yellow slickers on Facebook is competing with Trump and 3 legged cats.

        I am about to start openly supporting Christy Clark and predicting a Liberal win next May.
        After all my prophecies worked for Dix, and the Jays.


      • Frankly, GBS, if self immolation would work, I would buy John the fuel. They HAVE TO DO SOMETHING! We have no one else to turn to. My MLA has been collecting a salary and costing us double that in expenses ‘meeting’ and ‘hearing’ from her constituents with precious little else for twelve years! She makes $150K a year in salary and benefits and will collect a golden pension forever even if she quit today. We, in our community have received exactly $0.00 from the provincial and federal government (except the small school they threaten to close every year). Unacceptable. That is simply too much waste, too much stupidity, too much tolerance and for too long a time. Why SHOULD she even WANT to form a government? It’s a good life the way it is. Time to vote out crooked Liberals. Time to vote out complacent, enabling NDP. Damn them all! I’d vote in Rhinoceros at this stage of the game and I am not alone. Similar idiots to me south of us are contemplating Trump. I am NOT that stupid but I feel their frustrated pain if not their biases and bigotry. DON’T defend them!


  2. How can they be defeated? There is NO opposition. They run unopposed. There are rumours that John Horgan does not even exist. There WAS a John Horgan up at the Peace River area recently but he was surveying opinions on campsite fees. The NDP are like the Pillsbury Doughboy, no threat to anyone and able to be eaten for lunch!


  3. It is amazing that we are pretty much told to shut up and mind our own business because we the voters and taxpayers don’t know anything. The government knows best. But at the end of the day just like the Muskrat Falls fiasco.
    We get to pay for this huge debt but nobody wanted our opinion or paid any attention to our protests.


  4. In this interview BC Hydro CEO Jessica McDonald was asked about Muskrat Falls. Note her answer and the lack of follow-up.

    Any serious journalist would have pressed her, since she said Site C is the obvious parallel, what the specific parallels are, and what specifically BC Hydro has learned from Muskrat Falls that is being put into play on Site C. That didn’t happen.

    Meanwhile our local pro journalists sit giggling about how Christy dons a hard hat periodically and kicks sand in John Horgan’s face over Site C politically, without ever doing any serious investigation on Site C financial, ethical, environmental, or future demand realities. That work is left to Laila, Norm, Rafe and others who have the public interest top of mind.

    Smart pro journalists (oxymoron?) should be using these blogs as a resource, not competition to be avoided. Jon McComb at CKNW gets it, but he and the station could do more.

    And Mr. Horgan and his invisible sidekick Adrian Dix, who is after all, the Official Opposition critic for BC Hydro, should prove they’re capable of running a government by showing us some creative initiative and innovative ways of getting the hard work of Laila, Norm, Rafe and others in the face of that part of the electorate that doesn’t read blogs and thinks it’s being properly informed by the likes of traditional media. On this and many other critical issues. The anemic methods the NDP is using aren’t working, and they need to change that quickly.

    Otherwise, Christy and her cronies move into the only part of government they care about for another four years. That part, for those keeping score, is the treasury.


  5. It would be reasonable to conclude the Premier of NFLD cares about as much for first Nations people as the Premier of B.C. Not much. Whats a little mercury poisoning of citizens when there is a monument to themselves to be built.

    Not much has changed in this country in the past 150 years when it comes to First Nations people. they still don’t have adequate health care, clean water, education, etc.

    We heard all sort of great stuff from Trudeau, but what has happened since the promises?

    Neither Christy or the Premier of NFLD care about the First Nations People. Its all about their agendas, their wants and needs. So if First Nations people die or become ill because of mercury poisoning, I’d suggest they don’t care. We still have mercury poisoning going on of First Nations in other parts of this country. This type of poisoning would not be going on if it were in West Vancouver.

    With the increased costs of electricity in NFLD, many may start using solar energy and anything else which will reduce their costs, leaving those who must use electricity with even larger bills. In the end, it maybe NFLD has to declare bankruptcy. How can so few people pay off such a huge debt.
    Christy Clark will go ahead with Site C regardless of the cost or the number of lives which might be lost. Its all about Christy and her agenda. As I’ve written before, it is never to late to stop a dam, even if its built, you can drain it, blow up the dam and let nature takes it course.
    the work going on at Site C is not beyond the stopping stage. It might be that the court cases are won and B.C. Hydro has to compensate the people, but the B.C. Lieberals will continue with their dam, dam. The only way to stop the dam is to change governments and o ensure the new one is committed to stopping the dam. Yes, that will cost money, but at least we will still have our farm land, which in the end will be more valuable than the electricity or hasn’t Chrsity and her cabal been watching what has been going on in California.

    I have never believed this dam is about electricity. Its about the water. Once the water is behind the dam wait for Christy to start selling it to California, via pipelines. It will bring in more money than oil, Of course the down side of that is, once we start exporting we can’t turn off the taps even if we have a drought. Its all about the water, not the electricity.


  6. Speaking of dams; what a damn depressing vibe out there these days.

    Too bad about the world-class vibe disappearing. It was damn awesome.


    • I think the vibe among people in Labrador and Newfoundland was amazing today. Inspiring. They have a damn dam forced on them and even after the ceo admits it was the wrong project,they were wrong and it was a mistake, they keep building the damn thing.

      Me, I say they should have left it as a lasting Canadian monument. A reminder of why you must never trust when politicians and crown corps tell you they checked the numbers and everything is fine…..

      And although the agreement hammered out in the wee hours back there tonight is thin and leaves plenty of room in my opinion for not doing the right thing, one hopes Dwight Ball has seen the determination of residents and gets that he is on thin ice as the premier finishing this 11 billion dollar mistake.


  7. On the topic of Native Rights…a blogger reminded me of this encounter with pre eleiction Justin Trudeau. It definitely bears repeating. Stephen Wilson

    Prime Minister Justin Trudeau stated, “governments grant permits, communities grant permission.” In an Aboriginal Peoples Television Network virtual town hall held during the election campaign Trudeau was asked by anchor Cheryl McKenzie whether a no would “mean no under your government?” when he agreed that First Nation communities had a right to veto resource projects on their territory.

    Trudeau responded, “Absolutely.”

    Time for reconciliation with BC First Nations.


    • Good grief Lew, 31 minutes, what took you so long?
      Thank you and Salal for the spotlight.

      Laila, if you don’t have time for the whole piece, “Absolutely!” is at 25:17 but it needs to be put in context by listening to the previous couple of minutes.

      Oh the joys of a forever internet and the archives of Lew’s mind.


  8. Ol’ Just-in is reneging on other promises too, like electoral reform. I was pleased that he put a nice ‘face’ on Canada again but, really? Is he just a pretty face? One more year of nothing more than prancing and dancing topless and the verdict will be in. NO appeal.


  9. Meanwhile over in Newfoundland Dwight Ball is making like Stan Marshall of Nalcor never admitted this summer than Muskrat Falls was the wrong project and should not have been built, and pretending like they have now done something amazing for the people of Newfoundland Labrador….. Good God… this is politics at its worst.


  10. Site C is a lie, let it die,dont live a lie, save 10 Billion dollars BChydro flat demand for 12 years.BCHydro IPP private premium power =taxpayer paying 300% over open market rates.. so losing 1 billion a year
    BCHydro now 2nd tier IPP priority over BC24/7 BC now paying some IPP not to produce power.
    breach of public trust and or fiduciary duty?

    Liked by 1 person

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