"We can't allow things that are inaccurate to stand." — The Word of Our Dan, February 19, 2008.

Saturday, June 03, 2006

What nobody asked Ed Byrne

On Thursday, Natural Resources Minister Ed Byrne was Anne Budgell’s guest on CBC Radio’s Crosstalk. [Link to .ram file]

Setting aside the question of what happened to his definite articles (the Minister, bizarrely, invariably refers to “Lower Churchill”, without “the”, as if his native language was Slavic), several questions jumped out as having not been asked by neither guests nor host.

1. Starting at approximately 3:50 into the audio file, in the intro, Ed Byrne says:

“Financially, we believe, based upon our conversations with bondholders and the financial markets, based upon our improved financial position as a province, based upon the commitment made by the Prime Minister of the country, all of the independent advice that we’ve received is that this is, in moving forward ourselves, without exposing the people of the province to any undue or unnecessary risk, that this can be done ourselves with long-term power purchase agreements.”
And at 19:26, in response to a call:

“…the commitment from the federal government with respect to this project…”
Questions: What commitment has the Prime Minister of the country or the federal government made? When and where did he (they) make it? (Hint: it wasn’t here.) Does it involve a loan guarantee? If so, up to what dollar value?

2. At 7:57 he says:

“[transmission of Lower Churchill power to coastal Labrador] is the issue that has come up in terms of access to cheap, reliable power. That’s being assessed right now. We’re not in a position, and it would be unfair for me to make a commitment to that, because we’re not in a position to make that commitment, because our assessment has not been completed...”
Meanwhile, in response to Tom Kierans, at 21:12:

“You haven’t heard the government of Newfoundland and Labrador proposing, either the Premier or myself, say that we’re not proposing [using Lower Churchill power within the province]. What we’re proposing is a balance in terms of export of power. We’re also talking about reserving a significant block of power to advance and attract industry in Labrador, to develop the economy of Labrador.”
And in response to another caller, at 25:55:

“If we looked at an interconnect, or the Anglo-Saxon Route, or Maritime Route, whichever acronym [sic] we wish to use, it would be approximately about [sic] $2-billion… We haven’t confined ourselves to any single option… All options, including that option, are currently on the table.”
Questions: Given that last October, Ed Martin poured a large dose of cold water on the idea of a Lower Churchill “infeed” transmission line to Newfoundland, why is Ed Byrne still holding out the apparently false hope that Newfoundland might have access to Lower Churchill power? Has a transmission line to Newfoundland been assessed, such that Ed Martin could reject it last October? If it is still being assessed, as Ed Byrne said on Thursday, then why did Ed Martin cast doubt on it? If it isn’t feasible, why is Ed Byrne still suggesting that it’s a possibility? But if it is part of Dan’s Grand Plan, why not come out and say so? And if a transmission line to Newfoundland is part of the plan, why the hedge on transmitting the power to the Labrador coast that a Newfoundland line would have to cross in any event? If the plan is to use power “in the province” in Labrador, and not in Newfoundland, why be ambiguous about it? Isn’t Labrador an integral part of the province?

3. At approximately 12:01 Ed Byrne describes one of the benefits of Chairman Dan’s Lower Churchill plan as:

“providing not only revenue to the province, but hopefully an opportunity for that power to be used to expand our industrial base in Labrador, and to offer cheap power to expand the economy, and ultimately to reduce rates for the ratepayer or homeowner…”
Questions: Does this mean that the plan is to use Lower Churchill revenues to cross-subsidize other people’s power rates? If so, whose? Labrador’s? The entire province’s? Just domestic customers? Commercial? Industrial?

4. Starting at approximately 50:05, in response to a question from the host, he says

“…the Premier has acknowledged, the government has acknowledged, that unless there is an agreement reached with the Innu Nation, that there will be no project, so those discussions and negotiations are occurring as we speak.”
Remember that the Premier promised, during the 2003 election campaign:

We will involve the Labrador Metis Nation, as we will representatives of all residents of Labrador, in the process of negotiating a Lower Churchill Development Agreement.
Questions: How are the LMN and “representatives of all residents of Labrador” being involved in the negotiating process? If they aren’t now, then when will they be? Why don’t reporters ask about this element of Danny’s Lower Churchill policy? And why do the government’s own, unprompted statements about the Labrador hydro proposals, while always taking great pains to include the Innu Nation, and properly so, never mention the LMN or “representatives of all residents of Labrador”?


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