Conscientious objector

I got an email last night from an old colleague I have worked with for almost 20 years.  He calls himself a conscientious objector to the NB Power sale.  After some thought, I think this is a good term to describe many of the people I have talked to about it.  They make half-hearted attempts to attack the deal on its merits but in the end, for them it really is a matter of conscience.  Something just doesn’t feel right.

From Wikipedia:

A conscientious objector is an individual who, on religious, moral or ethical grounds, refuses to participate as a combatant in war or, in some cases, to take any role that would support a combatant organization armed forces.

With a conscientious objector it’s not about facts. 

I can live with this position more than the generalized rants about losing sovereignty and Quebec putting the screws to New Brunswick somewhere down the road.

18 thoughts on “Conscientious objector

  1. PS – to the person railing against Frank McKenna this am, just for the record I agree with Frank. This decision was courageous. Even if you believe it was a wrong decision, you have to admit it too guts. Politically, there are very few points to be made from this.

  2. I agree it’s a legitimate position and an understandable one given the complexities involved and all the “if this then that” scenarios. As far as the McKenna business, a few days ago I posted “False Arguments and the NB Power deal” with links to lists of false arguments. A lot of the discussion, from both sides, makes appeal to arguments that are false. For what it’s worth:

  3. You are correct that this deal will not score political points and I certainly respect a leader willing to make decisions that he believes are best for the province, not himself.

    However, I also expect a leader to be consistent. His/her values, policies and principles ought to allow for a certain amount of predictability. This about face in policy, a direct contrast to a solid election promise, would be in contrast to this leadership characteristic and indicates something has been substantially influential in changing his mind. Perhaps this contradictory action is what causes some of us to have an uneasy conscience.

    I am afraid that boils down to the big power users (not big business) whose continuous crises and lobbying have led to major changes in other policies such as taxation. I am all for helping out these companies; I do think we have to ask ourselves just how much help is enough. You can gain a sense for the influence on policy. Today’s TJ has a picture and major coverage of comments from an ex Premier who retired over a decade ago (there have been 4 premiers since). Mind you he is respected and did great things for NB but the leader of the current opposition, a party that won the majority of the popular vote last election, also commented about the deal and has his column jammed down the side of McKenna’s with no picture. I don’t think this is accidental. Earlier in the week, prime space was made available for Flakeboard to make their case for the low power rates. Not to make too much of this but it is an indication of the influence the premier is under.

    I am all for successful business and a vibrant economy. I just don’t appreciate the lack of transparency with this deal. The deal is really about acquiring competitive power rates for a select group of heavy power users. Agree or disagree with that strategy, we should at least call a spade a spade and not distort the situations with suggestions of fictitious disasters at NB Power and other such diversions.

  4. There are few POLITICAL points to be made, but there’s a reason Frank set him up to meet his pals in Toronto (check out the nauseating article in the Gleaner). Screwing people in politics doesn’t take guts IF

    1. You are never going to publicly face them.
    2. Your decision guarantees you a nice career and income afterwards.

    This is happening more often in politics, where guys are making the short stay once in power and making decisions that help out large corporations which gives them a lucrative living -far more than it would if you were say, a substitute teacher.

    It’s said that Bernard Lord was a millionaire by the time he left office, he certainly wasn’t BEFORE that. WIth decisions like this it becomes clear that they aren’t in it ‘for the people’, and more and more evidence arrives who they ARE in it for.

    Graham did one short interview on CBC and then scooted off to Toronto, who are more than happy to hear about decisions in some place most of them know nothing about.

    But of course conscientous objectors don’t get policies changed. IF Graham really wants to be Premier, then the real courage is to face protestors and call a referendum. IF he was so sure this was a good deal. The CBC SHOWS that its not a good deal, and not from the point of view of sovereignty.

    However, sovereignty isn’t a BAD thing. There’s national soveriegnty, provincial even local and institutional. There CAN be too much, but a public utility is certainly better than, say, our hockey team is better than yours. People SHOULD be ranting about sovereignty in this issue, because its definitely part of the equation. THEY paid for it, Shawn Graham only paid his tiny little percentage for it.

  5. mikel :But of course conscientous objectors don’t get policies changed. IF Graham really wants to be Premier, then the real courage is to face protestors and call a referendum. IF he was so sure this was a good deal. The CBC SHOWS that its not a good deal, and not from the point of view of sovereignty.

    This assumes that voters in New Brunswick are actually capable of making an informed business decision for the rest of the province. A huge percentage of the voting population votes on color alone, and they treat their political allegiance in the same manner as they do when choosing between the Leafs and the Canadians.

    Winston Churchill once said that ‘the best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter”, and there is a lot of truth to that statement. If you read the majority of the comments in the NB papers, most people aren’t even informed on the details of the sale, but instead are going on “fat cat” and “ivory towers” rants. As a commentator fro Quispamsis put it, there is a union mentality in New Brunswick, and he is absolutely correct.

    If this went to a referendum, the deal would be sunk as a result of spite-voting rather than the virtues of democracy that every “little guy” in the province is suddenly so proud of. People think far too highly of their intellectual abilities and, for a province with some of the worst literacy educational scores in the country, I’m not incredibly eager to put the fat of my children and the rest of the province in their hands. I think that the Liberals recognize this and they have decided to take the slings and arrows for a year in order to make this deal happen.

  6. “This about face in policy, a direct contrast to a solid election promise”

    That’s a major problem for Graham to be sure. He has made a number of reversals when faced with opposition and now he has reversed himself on a promise made to the electorate.

    I think that what he has to do is produce some detailed analyses showing how the NBP debt and the costs associated with the existing power stations will affect NBers. If the analyses hold up to scrutiny then he might sway some of those sitting on the fence, or some of the conscientous objectors.

    One advantage that Graham has is that, should such an analysis be seen to be solid, the fact that no one has come up with a feasible alternative then plays into his hands. The political opposition would have to produce something real, not just bluster.

  7. Jon Doe makes valid points …..if we had a dictorship rather than a democracy.

    Keep in mind that the sale of NB Power has been discussed before with a similar level of passionate polarization of views. Premier Graham specifically promised that NB Power was not for sale in his election platform. He is now about to act in complete opposition to his promise, perhaps worse as we are not privatizing NBP but handing it over to another government.

    Even if this is good for NB, it is bad for democracy. What would be the value in considering political policies or promises if leaders simply dictated what was good for us once they got elected? When an elected leader completely reverses his policy on a major issue, he should have the ethical commitment to put it to a vote. There is an election within 6 months of the ficticious deadline for this deal. There is every oppotunity to respect democracy. If we are going to ignore promises and policies and allow someone to dictate what is best for us,we are wasting a hell of a lot of money on elections, politicians and government.

  8. @Jon Doe

    I think the overall thought behind this entire comment is quite arrogant. Regardless of whether or not the average NB voter is sufficiently versed in billion dollar power deals, you’re assuming that the powers-that-be are that much better informed and prepared than the rest of us. Shall we assume that the thirty-odd Liberal MLAs, who are the only people who can really decide if this thing goes ahead or not, are all able to independently assess and score the benefits and pitfalls of the MOU?

    As far as the “union mentality of NB” goes, I would imagine a pro-union province would give the NDP better than 5% of the popular vote. I’d also ask Jon Doe to read the comments on any story about the CLAC workers at the LNG plant, or the auto bailout of last winter, to find out what people really think of unions. Those same commenters who are attacking Irving et al would be the first to accuse IBEW or CUPE of working against the best interests of Canadians. It’s not mistrust of big business, it’s mistrust of any authority what so ever.

    However, to get back to the original point, I think the average NB voter has just as much financial knowledge as those couple dozen Liberal MLAs. I have a hard time believing that we should just sit down, shut up, and let the grown-ups take care of things. This is our province, and our power company, and we ought to at least have a say in how things are run. In the end, we’ll get the government we deserve.

  9. Sorta like the same facts that led to the 2007 tax hikes (citing an unmanageable debt). I guess even the Liberals didn’t believe there own rhetoric as they cut taxes for both business and individuals the very next year. So much for worrying about their massive spending spree. 😉

  10. mikel :
    This is happening more often in politics, where guys are making the short stay once in power and making decisions that help out large corporations which gives them a lucrative living -far more than it would if you were say, a substitute teacher.

    I’m not a fan of politicians or big corporations but this is a little too paranoid to me, and a little to self-serving to the position you take. I think if you’re going to impugn motives you have to support it with something more than personal interpretation.

  11. “I agree with Frank” lolol. You think we didn’t know that? Basically the only reason you got this blog. The liberals set these blogs up just like the Irvings, to continue their sellout spin! The liberals promise of the North American Union!

  12. I see many fundamental problems about the current debate.

    1) Overestimating the growth of the electric export sector. Many people fervently believe NB Power is a big money-maker for the province and see NB Power as a corporation with a glorious outlook. They come up with pie-in-the-sky schemes (such as setting up 4,500 MW worth of wind farms for exports) or building a 2,800 MW hydro complex 1,000 km away without factoring the cost of transmission.

    Let’s be fair here: it’s not just a New Brunswick or an Atlantic Canada issue: many are guilty of the same flawed thinking in Quebec. I cringe every time someone compares Quebec’s hydro potential to Alberta’s oil.

    2) People are not very good at discounting the future value of a deal.
    Assuming inflation remains constant at 1.8% (as per Conference Board of Canada estimates), a customer with an annual power bill of $1000 would pay $914.66 (2009 dollars) in 2020 under the MoU. Under the BAU scenario (3% annual increase forever) the same customer would pay $1,124.33 (2009 dollars). It’s a no brainer, right?

    3) Information, or lack thereof: Nobody has laid out what kind of investment will be required in the next decade to keep the NB electric system in working order. We know about Mactaquac, but it would be nice to have a fuller picture. And financial information about the company is scarce and outdated. No quarterly reports. No annual report for 2008/2009, 7 months after the end of the fiscal year. No wonder why people can’t see whether there is a problem with NB Power. We lack the basics.

    4) The PR disaster. Jack Keir has trouble making the case, because he seems confused by the economics of the deal and he has no outside consultant report to show the press and the public how dire the situation is at NB Power. And the Irving papers are pushing the deal too hard. I’m not sure glowing editorials such as this one help make the case.

  13. Regarding the maintenance, whether it is NBP or HQ we will pay. The costs of maintenance are clearly addressed in the MOU.

    Same as the risk comments made by McKenna. He suggests that a surprise expense at Lepreau will be HQ’s problem. The MOU is clear that maintenace gets charged back to the customers. I cannot believe McKenna does not understand that; better get my money out of TD.

    WRT major upgrades such as Lepreau II or Mactaquac maintenance it is highly unlikely HQ would invest here rather than in Quebec and even if they did we would be charged in future maintenance and increased generation costs.

    Ironic how the pro side accuses the no side of not underderstanding the details. HQ is taking no risks with this deal. Any surprises or future investments will be charged back to us as detailed in the MOU.

    This deal is only a deal for the L class rate payers who immediately get HQ rates. Shawn is selling NB assets to further subsidize big power users and fabricating a NB Power crisis to rationalize it.

  14. @Anonymous
    I disagree.

    If the deal goes through, Mactaquac will be rebuilt within 10 years, you can bet on that (unless Ottawa says no). Building large hydro projects is HQ’s foremost expertise. I’m quite sure they can’t wait to start with this one! Imagine, a 672 MW dam where they don’t have to set camp, build hundreds of km of access roads and near a four-lane highway. Just like the Rocher-de-Grand-Mère project they did in the early 2000s.

    In any case, HQ knows the rules and they know they have to build generation in New Brunswick because of NERC and NPCC reliability rules requiring sufficient peak capacity + 10-20% margin installed in each zone. Ans since New Brunswick is part of the Maritime zone and Quebec is not, HQ will have to build new generation.

    As for Lepreau II, forget about it. It’s too expensive. Nuclear is not flexible enough to replace heavy fuel oil and two nukes are clearly not needed to serve the New Brunswick market. Why spend 10 billions for an untested 1,000 MW concept?

  15. As for Winston Churchill, he held open respect for his good friend Joseph Stalin, thought he was a wonderful politician. After the conclusion of the second world war he wanted canadian, american and australian help to put down the rebellions in India, after they had just finished sacrificing for Britain. You’ll excuse me if I don’t harken too much to the words of el blimpo.

    That’s the usual ‘elite’ opinion. It’s the “I’m smart because this is my opinion but anybody who disagrees with what is so obviously right has to be an idiot”. People are RIGHT to go on big business rants, as Quebec openly said- Graham specified the rate deal. We KNOW that current large industrialists are getting a huge break, while residential and small to medium businesses are only getting a freeze and future large industries won’t get that rate-and a freeze in a deal that specifies how those costs can be recouped at the end of five years. So there’s VERY good reason for those rants, its as plain as day. But when people are on the side of what government is doing, that’s the usual retort. Even David, who so far in his blog has said virtually NOTHING positive about Graham’s deal making or leadership abilities, is all set to take it on faith that ‘they know what they’re doing’.

    The above is right, IF this were a dictatorship we’d all go smilingly along. But people on the pro side really don’t get just what an impact this has on what little democracy we have-hopefully they won’t be the same people in the future openly wondering why nobody votes. Why in heavens name WOULD you?

    I’d agree that many people simply don’t have the time and proclivity to go through every deal of the government-however, the MOU is only something like 10 pages long (I read it, but I’ve been reading a lot lately so don’t quite remember).

    People can EASILY understand what ownership means: do you want to sell it or don’t you? Personally, I don’t even think selling should be on the table for referendum, but questions about the direction in energy policy should. This is NOT such a complicated deal-hey, if a substitute teacher can understand it, how hard can it be? Of course most people don’t bother reading it, why would they? All they know is that its a ‘done deal’, so reading it is irrelevant. And of course the comments sections at the CBC only allow for very few words, and even fewer for the Irving papers.

    For Bill, that might seem ‘paranoid’ to you, but go look at polls on politicians. If thats paranoid, theres a LOT of paranoia out there (I don’t think paranoid is the word you were thinking of). McKenna bent over backwards for big business too, and immediately after leaving office was snapped up by the Carlyle Group, one of the most influential organizations in the world. If you happen to think that politicians’ by nature can’t be ‘bad’ or ‘self serving’, you should keep in mind that it was this crew who unplugged the legislative camera’s during Fredericton’s flood and while people were pre-occupied, voted in a new pension deal. Sometimes you’ve just got to call a spade a spade.

  16. Good point Claude. A new reactor with a 25 year life is worth $10 billion alone. HQ is getting a bargin.

  17. @Anonymous
    That’s not what I said. The ACR-1000, AECL’s new 1000 MW model was priced at 11.5 billion apiece, according to Tyler Hamilton, of the Toronto Star (OK, I underestimated a bit). The 635 MW CANDU-6 at Lepreau is worth $1.5 B tops ($2 B if you add the nuclear waste fund), after refurbishing.

  18. I would certainly not advocate an ACR 1000 for Lepreau II unless the federal government gave it to us and even then I’d think long and hard about it. Lepreau II should be a CANDU 6. And if we can get one for $1.5 B, I’d suggest looking at 3 more for the site.

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