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LETTER: Naysayers, yea-sayers, the dumb and the mum

['The Muskrat Falls spillway was put into operation for the first time this week.']
The Muskrat Falls spillway

On Aug. 24 (“Stan Marshall and the boondoggle: too little, too late”) and again on Sept. 13 (“Silence from Fortis/Newfoundland Power”), Andy Wells of St. John’s had two similar letters to the editor printed in The Telegram.

The crux of the letters seems to be the silence of then-Fortis CEO Stan Marshall and Newfoundland Power CEO Peter Alteen at the time of Muskrat Falls project approval in 2011/2012.

The silence is explainable in that Marshall and Alteen were businessmen concerned only with their companies’ position and profit in the retail marketplace. Their fiduciary responsibility was to Fortis/Newfoundland Power shareholders.

They were not watchmen (certainly not watchdogs) and not guardians of the public interest.

Nor were either of these men being paid from the public purse nor had they been appointed to plum posts (Russell Wangersky of the Saltwire Network calls ’em jammy jobs) by a presidential-like premier or governor-in-council.

In his letters, Wells alleged that had Marshall and Alteen spoken up or out about the boondoggle-in-waiting or raised concerns about reliability issues, the Muskrat Falls project may well have been stopped or cancelled.

In this newspaper on Aug. 24, Wells wrote had Marshall and Alteen spoken up, then “Certainly, it would have provoked an honest debate and enabled the Public Utilities Board to conclude a proper review of the project.”

In his screed of Sept. 13 (a Friday), Wells wrote had Marshall and Alteen spoken up, “It would certainly have started a badly needed public debate of the merits of the project. … It would have certainly have lent badly needed public support to Public Utilities Board’s request for more time to properly evaluate Muskrat Falls. Instead they were silent.”

Why did Andy Wells, chairman of the quasi-judicial PUB, need or expect Fortis/Newfoundland Power to speak up in defence of the PUB, to lend aid so the PUB could do its job, to lecture the occupants of the executive suites at Nalcor Energy and the eighth floor at Confederation Building about hydroelectric development?

Everyone knows Wells has got a mouth. Some people (mostly the unkind) would add the adjectives big and/or loud.

But there was not a whisper, a whimper or whine, growl, mutter, or mewl from Wells. There was not a rant, rave or roar in any public forum in town or around the bay, the twittersphere, or blogosphere.

Can anyone explain his deafening silence on Muskrat Falls until he was on the campaign trail looking for his old, forsaken job as lord mayor, His Worship, of St. John’s back?

Afraid to lose your job is a piss-poor excuse when 250,000 customers/ratepayers/taxpayers are relying on you to protect them from an imperious and ham-handed premier and cabinet.

As the old ape-man thought to himself long, long ago as he climbed down from his tree, grasped a stout fallen branch in his left hand to use as a cudgel, stood erect for the first time, and set foot out on to the vast African savannah, “No guts. No glory.”

That, sir, is the unofficial motto of our species. That, sir, is what gets things done in this world, not waiting around for the other fellow to go first.

Man or wee timorous mousey is the ancient question.

Looking back on the disastrous lunacy of the Muskrat Falls project, the vociferousness of the warrior class and their well-fed, well-shod camp followers, the voices of the very few pleading caution, and the silence of the self-satisfied majority, it is clear to this observer that it is hard to speak up when your cake-hole is full of, well, cake.

In conclusion, Wells condemns the silence of civil servants and members of the House of Assembly from any of the parties and refers to their behaviour as astounding negligence.

By any definition, were not the members of the PUB also civil servants and the board but an extension of our House of Assembly?

Tom Careen,
Placentia


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