Wednesday, March 28, 2012

CUCUMBERS AND REGRETS: THE STAKES ARE HIGH

It was 25 years ago when a previous PC government undertook a massive expenditure of Newfoundland tax dollars to finance a project which could not loose. 

The result: 22 million committed, and lost by the Newfoundland government. 

There was massive public outcry, and with a change in government,  a Royal Commission was appointed to investigate. 

A synopsis from the Royal Commission is provided on the Newfoundland Heritage website. 
 



"Royal Commission Appointed 
In July 1990, the new government appointed a royal commission headed by Justice Seamus O’Regan to investigate the province’s involvement with the Sprung project. The commission reported two years later that the Peckford administration entered into the costly venture without proper investigation of the technology or its economic viability. Once the government signed the contract, it failed to consult with experts on the operation’s progress and unnecessarily sustained considerable loss of taxpayers’ money.

The commission wrote that although the province and Sprung were joint partners, “the financial risk of the project was almost entirely with the government without justification.” While Sprung invested $4 million in the project, it cost the province $22.2 million – considerably more than the agreed upon $11.4 million in the original contract. The commission found that the government acted in an “improper fashion” by failing to bring the various loan guarantees before the House of Assembly for debate. It recommended that independent experts should assess all future government ventures and that any financial commitments should be fully debated by the legislature."

Independent of one's personal view of the Muskrat Falls project, there can be no argument against free and open debate in the House of Assembly.  Our history has repeatedly shown that this debate is an essential element of a healthy democratic process.  The elected representatives should be given the opportunity to hear from their constituents and have the ability to ask questions. 

Unlike the PUB review, this debate should not be ring fenced by a narrow terms of reference.  The House of Assembly should endorse the project sanction, in a free vote.  A decision of this magnitude concerning Taxpayers money should not be made behind closed doors.  Especially when the PUB review was only a peep through the key-hole. 

History has a tendency to repeat itself.  
 
This time the stakes are much higher. 

2 comments:

Cyril Rogers said...

Sprung was a minor blip on the radar, compared to the Muskrat Falls project. It has been very evident from day one that the government is unwilling to fully discuss or debate this project. If it was such a good deal, they would have been truly open and transparent about it. There are major flaws in this project and they are afraid to let us scrutinize it thoroughly.

What amuses me is that people talk about the Sprung deal as though it was comparable to to this deal. Sprung was not even close but there was more outrage and people were actively engaged in the political process. Sadly, many people don't give a hoot now...it will be too late when they realize how bad this deal really is!

Anonymous said...

Free and open debate in the House of Assembly? After listening to Dwight Ball in question period trying to read questions on Muskrat Fall (written by whom I wonder), cannot imagine him or for that matter very few of them on that side of the House carrying on a debate. It seemed to me that Ball knew very little or nothing about what the answers to the questions he was asking should have been. The Government is doing them a favour in my opinion by not having a debate.