Wednesday, October 31, 2012

POWER TO THE PEOPLE: REDUX

Friday, September 7, 2012


My initial support for the Lower Churchill development's most recent incarnation was based on my personal belief that it makes sense to put money made from dwindling non-renewable resources into long term investments that will produce revenue and opportunity for generations to come.

Muskrat Falls' significant costs and potential for cost overruns, and its momentous fiscal/political/policy implications, mean the government would be wise to consider using a democratic tool which has only been employed on four occasions in our history.
I believe that a direct vote by the electorate is needed before the project is sanctioned. Only a referendum would give proponents the moral, and political authority, to proceed on this issue of major fiscal and political significance.
Newfoundland and Labrador has a history of using direct democracy to settle weighty political issues. Two referenda were held in 1948 to settle the Confederation question. In 1995 and 1997, a direct vote by the people provided government with a clear mandate to amend the Terms of Union to disband the denominational education system.
At this point, fair or not, the decks are stacked. The huge PC majority will exercise its constitutional power in the legislature to proceed. The gateways, the ring-fenced public hearings and the MHI review are all window dressing for a political agenda. The debate in the House of Assembly will be a dog and pony show, with little sideshows playing out on open line.
At this point, I honestly believe that a majority of citizens lean toward supporting the proposed deal. Reasons vary from transferring non-renewable windfalls to a renewable generator of revenue for generations to come, to unlocking the physical barrier to markets personified by Quebec.
I also think, however, that the vast majority of people want to be better informed, to be more confident that this is the right way to go. Folks just do not feel that they have all the information they need. Of course, opponents may never feel comfortable.


Premier Dunderdale does not command nearly the same level of confidence put in Premier Williams. The leadership on this file has not been inspiring. If anything, lack of leadership and mangled communication has made selling this deal on its merits very, very difficult.
The Premier should consider showing bold leadership by allowing each and every one of us the opportunity for a direct say in the redistribution of our province’s wealth. She could borrow a page from Premiers Wells and Tobin and hold a national referendum to settle the issue.
A final vote after an informed debate would clear the air once and for all on the single most important public investment since the construction of the Newfoundland Railway.
Sure it might be expensive. Democracy costs money. We have the ability, the need and the infrastructure to ensure that everyone in this province is not only consulted but registers their vote.
All that is needed is a commitment to direct democracy and leadership.



A REFERENDUM MAY BE THE ONLY ANSWER

MUSKRAT FALLS PROJECT: REFERENDUM IS THE BEST WAY

4 comments:

Cyril Rogers said...

This matter absolutely deserves a REFERENDUM vote, Peter. Unlike you, I am strongly convinced that Muskrat Rat is a rotten deal for the people of the province.

However, if the people vote for it, in spite of the compelling evidence to show why it cannot ever be a net benefit to the average person, then I will sadly accept the outcome.

Anything short of that will be a travesty and an injustice to our people!

Peter L. Whittle said...

I think the people should demand a referendum. How frigging crazy is it that the government/Nalcor website is "the power is in our hands". It sums up this process. Telling the people that the power is in their hands but refusing direct democracy!

It is a real shame. As for supporting it, I am no cheerleader, nor am I convinced that this is the lowest cost alternative. I am trying to figure out how this project unlocks Labrador - considering the infrastructure is not going to carry the voltage that Labrador can produce.

I am also not impressed with MHI review or believe the cost increases truly reflect the overuns.


Unfortunately, the government is set on arrogantly moving forward with out getting approval from the public. So much for the democratic process.

Cyril Rogers said...

The "naysayers", and others who have legitimate concerns, ARE demanding a referendum but the government is not listening.

As I write, I am listening to Backtalk, and Jerome Kennedy is on telling us that, without Muskrat Falls, our power bills will go up twice as much. Show us, Jerome! Give us some numbers to justify such statements or I will regard them as irresponsible statements!

The government MHA's and NALCOR are fond of telling us that the alternatives are not viable but what is basis for their position?

FIRST, there is no power shortage and there will not be one for at least a couple of decades, even with NALCOR's inflated predictions. So what is the rush, when the Upper Churchill will give us all the power we will ever need in less than three decades?

SECOND, replacing Holyrood with wind is not what I am suggesting, but it could supplement significantly the amount of power we would otherwise produce from Holyrood.

THIRD, we STILL need thermal generation systems going forward, to act as backup to the grid. It may not be Holyrood but will still burn oil when utilized. This is a scam!

FOURTH, we can look at demand management and greater conservation, via more efficient heating systems, that would possibly reduce or eliminate the need for some of these proposed smaller projects.

FIFTH, Mr. Kennedy's assertion, that we need to get on with it because we have been looking at it for forty years, is preposterous in terms of our needs. He would indebt us for $8-10 BILLION, and yes it will cost that much if ever completed, all because we need to have done it before now. The bottom line is that it was not done before because it was uneconomic or the optics were wrong. The Grimes deal was marginally profitable but the political gods were aligned with Danny Williams and we all know how that ended.

SIXTH, Kennedy is being patronizing and condescending on the issue of a debate and is trying to justify his government's unwillingness to open this up to a transparent process. It may work in the courts, Jerome, but you are sentencing the people of this province to a lifetime of heavy debt without their being able to say "Yay" or "Nay". Is that your idea of democracy?

SEVENTH, the PC's spin on the last election being a referendum on Muskrat Falls is disingenuous at best. For one thing, their numbers and the information available at that time was far less than adequate and people had not had sufficient time to truly analyze the project. We are much further along now and there are numerous concerns that are making people much more aware. If you are so sure, Jerome, PUT IT TO THE PEOPLE.

Peter L. Whittle said...

I think we need to show the government that the power is with the people..by marching on MHA's offices, major government offices and the confed building.

This would take a lot of coordination but with social media it could be done...involve student organizations, call out unions (although the trades unions may not be interested) Nape, teachers, Cupe, pensioners..

Demand the vote we all should have. I am up for it?