Vindication, sort of

Despite all the confusing double speak, I suspect Bernard Lord feels sort of vindicated by the deal NB Power struck with Venezuela. I was very critical of this thing when it happened and after reading the government press release, I am still very confused and therefore cranky.

The press release says the settlement is worth “equivalent to $29 million annually”. What does that mean? Is it cash or equivalent? Is that future value dollars against present day costs or what?

I mean, how hard is it just to tell people things the way they are? NB Power and the government should have issued a press release that was direct and honest. It should have included this information:

1. A restatement of the cost of refurbishing Colson Cove.

2. The actual current day (present value) of this deal.

3. The net loss to taxpayers (if any) – someone said on this blog that the refurbishment costs were not a complete loss.

4. The total loss over the life of the deal from having to replace Orimulsion with a more costly energy source.

5. A clear statement from the utility on what policies and procedures have been changed to ensure that this kind of thing never happens again. Like, for example, a clear policy never to do deals with unreliable third world dictators.

But, of course, we did not and will never get this type of information. Further, I suspect the journalists in New Brunswick won’t ask these questions either. In fact, I heard the News 91.9 report and it was basically – drum roll please – a restatement of the government press release – almost verbatim. Is that journalism? Or is it reading transcripts? Maybe that is journalism these days.

I’ll end with a few choice snippets from the government press release. This is heady stuff. It looks like the Libs retained the best of the spin doctors from Lord & Co.

“I am very pleased that the settlement of the lawsuit will result in such a significant reduction in the cost of electricity for the benefit of all New Brunswickers,” Energy Minister Jack Keir said. “The end result, a reduction in NB Power’s rate increase from 9.6 to 7.1 per cent will be of tremendous benefit to all ratepayers. This is great news for all New Brunswickers.”

Now, once again, are they just assuming we are all stupid? We are being led to believe that the Orimulsion ‘fiasco’ was actually “great news” and “tremendous benefit”. Huh? If our power rates go up by X% because of Orimulsion and they get reduced by Y% as a result of a settlement, how is that “tremendous benefit”. Maybe it’s just semantics but if I was Keir I would have said this “lessons the impact of this terrible ordeal. We will learn from it and work to ensure it never happens again”.

Of course, that is not likely because of this:

NB Power is pleased to have reached a mutually acceptable settlement and looks forward to working with the Venezuelans in the future.

This speaks for itself. Unless they can say (and I don’t know because they are not saying) that this ‘deal’ ended up providing us with at least the same fiscal benefit that the original Orimulsion contract would have provided, how can we possibly say we are “looking forward to working with Chavez again”? Of course, ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil are pulling out but NB Power is gleefully telling us how excited they are to work with the Venezuelans in the future.

Am I wrong about this? Read the press release and tell me I am wrong.

Here’s a parallel. I enter a deal with you where you agree to fix my house for $500 (the Orimulsion contract) but I have to give you $200 upfront (the refurbishment cost). I give you the $200 and you decide not to fix my house (Chavez pulling out of deal). I go to court and you grudgingly give me $5/year for the next 20 years (the settlement).

I run and tell my family (voters) what a great deal I got from you and how I am looking forward to using your services again.

Now, based on this press release, it seems my scenario is correct. If they had issued a clear press release maybe I am totally wrong.

By the way, in that scenario, my wife would thump me over the head with that ‘deal’ wrapped around the baseball bat.