Monthly Archives: November 2012

What is “Mostly Support” anyway?

Stephen Harper is in the province today to announce the loan guarantee for Muskrat Falls. Interesting move since the approval rating on this project is waning.  So now we have the provincial government pushing the project through, the federal government pushing the project through and all on the backs of precarious support from the population as a whole.

In two recent polls the numbers have shown discontent, at very least.  Both polls surveyed 400 people (less than 0.1% of the population).  In the original poll, commissioned by the coalition I Believe in the Power of N.L. and conducted by Corporate Research Associates, reads that two thirds of the population either strongly supported or mostly supported the development of Muskrat Falls to meet the future power need of Newfoundland and Labrador.  A second poll commissioned by CBC showed slightly more opposition and asked more questions to get a greater sense of what the numbers are telling up.

The reality is, that interpreting that poll as if it was a simple yes or no question is as short sighted as assuming that voting for the PCs in our last election was equivalent to saying yes to Muskrat Falls development.

So let’s consider the numbers, and since the original poll is so wrought with ambiguity, let’s pick on that a little.  (The poll is here.)

If I were to tell you “I mostly support your project”, what direction would you proceed in?  Let’s assume I am your boss, I write your pay cheques, and I am only “mostly” supportive of your project.  Wouldn’t you want to then try to get me on board?  Wouldn’t the next step be to help me better understand what you are telling me and maybe work with me so that we are both on the same page?  I would think so.

Yet, the coalition is being so bold as to say that they have the support of two thirds of the population.  Further interpretation suggests that if they remove those who were unaware or on the fence about the project, they have 80% of the decided public on side.

I think there is a different interpretation of this poll.  Considering the above scenario, as I look at the numbers I am reading that Muskrat Falls has the support of less than one third of the population (28%) another third (38%) is asking to be convinced, and the final third (34%) you really need to talk to if you think this should go ahead!  And then we get to the next problem with the assumptions being made.  When I suggest “talk to,” I mean TALK TO … I do not mean push their opinions aside as if they don’t matter, I do not mean belittle them in front of their fellow citizens, I do not mean have them call you and assume that if they do not they support you!

If our elected members will not get out into the public to ask their constituents their opinion and rational about such an important matter, how is their vote going to reflect their riding?

Of course one other major issue comes up, whose opinion matters most?  Assuming this poll was fully randomized, around 24 of those 400 would have been from Labrador.  How is it even ethical to get “permission” from people all over the province on a project in Labrador?  It is a financial risk for people in St. John’s, however those living close to Grand River will bear the financial risk, experience the environmental devastation, be exposed to physical risk (such as dam failure and mercury poisoning), loose eco-tourism opportunities and perhaps most importantly, they will have a culturally meaningful significant location completely removed.  Yet as part of less than 6% of our population, their opinion carries inconsequential weight.

Stephen Harper is ready to commit the rest of Canada to this project; certainly, it is not in their backyards either.  However there is still a vote to be had.  I cannot tell you one way or the other how this might go.  There is a lot of people assuming this is a done deal!  But how many calls does it take for your MHA to at least reconsider their vote?

I have been filling this blog is information from everywhere.  I have been trying to stay on top of the developments, but like most of us, I have a job, and volunteer projects, a family and a home.  I am not a politician and rarely so political.  Yet this project boils my blood and I am incensed that our MHAs are not searching for the opposition in their riding’s and trying to understand all sides.

I do not hide that I am wholly against this project.  But there is something bigger wrong here and it is in the group of individuals who “mostly support” the project. Contact your MHA, copy your premier, share your thoughts and let’s tell them what we think! How many people do they need to hear from to realize that this is not a yes or no question?  We need more answers, we need to let our government know – and they need to know by Tuesday!

Denise Hennebury

Environmental Educator living in Mount Pearl


Values, Carbon and Culture

After listening to clips from the house yesterday on CBC I heard the beginning of CBC On The Go.
Without a lot of “sitting and waiting” time on my hands, and because I feel so disjointed speaking off the cuff, I decided to write in.  Here was my email, the response, and my follow up.  Might get highlighted Tuesday afternoon.  If anyone has the ability to do the math out on some of the Carbon issues I would love to talk with you!

Anyone else, please share your thoughts.

Photo by Jacinda Beals

From Denise Hennebury: November 19, 2012

It scares me that Kathy Dunderdale it talking about the other parties in the house as if they are nagging siblings tryi

ng to get their way.  Government is not meant to be run by a single party taking ideas from the others only as they see fit. Yet here we are. And then Dunderdale comes out and says they have been as fair as they can be!  Personally, I don’t feel I can even have an open discussion with my MHA, let alone that the PCs as a whole do not appear open to discussion.

As things got hairy, the government created a giant flashy ad campaign to share all of the benefits of the Muskrat Falls project and then did a small poll to see if their tactic worked.

What is the government afraid of?  If they are so sure of this project, meaningful open debate should be allowed.  I guess they are worried that if it gets out that there will be environmental devastation, cultural crippling, that the carbon emissions will not be significantly better then those at Hollyrood and that there is real scientific risk of mercury bio-accumulation in the river and Lake Melville that will last decades; maybe more of their support will wane?

Yet it seems to me it would only be fair, that the same money tree that affords the government to inundate us with pro muskrat falls information should also fund a pamphlet about the concerns so that we can decide as a people where our values lie!

Denise Hennebury
Environmental Educator from Mount Pearl

Reply from St. John’s On The Go: November 19, 2012

Thanks for your email. We’ll read from it this afternoon on OTG.
Can you please give me a bit more detail on two of your points?
how could MK be “cultural crippling”,
and how might “the carbon emissions… not be significantly better than those at Hollyrood”?
Response 1 from Denise Hennebury: November 20, 2012
Thanks for asking 🙂
Here are my thoughts on the carbon question
the culture question is to come…
It is hard to numerate the environmental costs associated with the project, especially when you consider the long term effects. However Holyrood is an established site, and that is how we have to compare it to the next project. Don’t get me wrong, I do not condone the burning of fossil fuels, however I do believe that the math could support that there would be no net benefit of Muskrat Falls over Holyrood in the next 20 or maybe 30 year. And we could use that time to develop wave or tidal plants (consider Scotland’s huge wave energy industry).
At Muskrat Falls, when the land is prepared for flooding not all the organic material is removed. In fact even if the locals wanted to take some of that wood, they have been denied access in the past (not that such small scale removal would make much of a difference, so I digress). The valley is too steep in many places to remove the wood, and still not all the organic material will be removed where it can be cleared (roots, topsoil). The rotting vegetation will release carbon dioxide and methane (methane being the worse or the two for green house gasses). But that may be of little consequence considering the creation of such a large facility at such a remote location. The carbon release in clearing the land, moving supplies and moving people in and out of the site for 6 years needs to be considered as well.What I am suggesting is that between Rotting Vegetation, Harvesting Trucks, Concrete mixers, sewage removal, helicopter trips, security measures, construction personnel, the carbon foot print will be astronomical in a process that began a year ago and will go until NO SOONER than 2018.If we were to truly compare the numbers, it has been said by people smarter than me that in the short term we will be in no better of a situation, and in the long term we could have make less ecologically sound choices.
Response 2 from Denise Hennebury: November 20, 2012
Culture ..
For full disclosure, I live in Mount Pearl.  That is important because it is not just those downstream that will feel the loss of this river.  Here I am heart sick about this project!  Such a significant piece of our Natural Heritage will be destroyed.  Such a key aspect of the shape and integrity of our land will be dismissed for the relatively short term gains of a generation.  The Earth heals herself, she changes, fish populations will be poisoned and reduced, and the water will continue to find its way.  However in a culture that embraces so strongly our link to the land, this sorts of disrespect for our past and the loss of that connection for future generations will never be healed.  Those children will never know the largest river in the province … they will know 3 giant reservoirs.
I also am in conversation with a lot of Labradorean (none of whom I even knew 3 months ago).  I hear their pain and loss and sense of betrayal ever day.  Many Southern Inuit of the region still eat wild game, berries and especially fish. With poisoning of the waterways with methylmercury, there will be another ban on the consumption of these species from these waters. An advisory from Environment of Canada has listed Lake trout and Northern pike for limited use for food from Smallwood reservoir and a distance below … STILL!
Like our language, food is a major part of any peoples culture. Add to that the spiritual refuge the river provides to the local people, and the history it embraces!  There are spirits at Muskrat Falls, and to hear the people talk about it give you chills.  Those spirits cannot be content in a concrete wall.
Hope this answers you questions.  Sorry so late!
Off to my next appointment 🙂
Denise Hennebury

Let’s Be Heard!

There have been some amazing things happening over the past few weeks!

On November 5, I had the pleasure of joining (and meeting for the first time) Dennis Woodrow Burden. With about ten others who mobilized and coordinated through the internet in about 48 hours, we held a small demonstration of commitment to protecting Muskrat Falls.  First we stood on the steps of Confederation Building for about an hour greeting the people coming in.  The security guards, however, locked all of the doors.  Then the next hours we spend on the sidewalk on Prince Philip Parkway waving flags and banners.  All very well received!  If you didn’t see, we got coverage by CBC, NTV and the Telegram!

People’s Assembly BLOG Coverage

On the evening of November 5th the People’s Assembly had a meeting at Harbourside Park to coordinate a rally that will occur on November 18th.  There is a lot of opposition to the Muskrat Falls development, and a lot of different reasons for the opposition.  However one thing is common: the PROCESS has failed.  The People’s Assembly Rally is focusing on the lack of transparency.

People’s Assembly

As of November 6th, our government has officially refused to hold a special debate and it trying to blame it on the Liberals because the are sticking to their guns and want to insist on having the experts in the house during the debate.  The NDP and Tom Osborne had agreed to debate without experts (I assume feeling that something is better then nothing), however I have to admire the Liberals for standing by their beliefs that the PCs are not running the show here!  Or at least they should not be.

No Debate – The Telegram

This week the paper version of the Muskrat Falls website in mail boxes. Between this and the website and the television adds I feel we have certainly spend our money wisely!

The Power is in Our Hands

If this plan is so good, wouldn’t one think it could stand up tot he scrutiny of opposition? Seems to me that a lot of money is going into advertisement campaigns.  Maybe this money could go into the transparency they people are requesting instead of trying to convince us we are wrong.  But I digress.

Thursday night November 8th the NDP held a meeting with their constituent and anyone who wanted to join in.  Over 100 (NTV reports 70, however I heard 120) people gathered with the St. John’s NDP MHA’s to hear the voice of the people and give them a venue to share their concerns about the project.  The reality is, that the more people learn about this development, the LESS comfortable they are with the whole idea.  Surely this is not the way it should be with a rock solid deal like the Muskrat Falls project! The NDP’s town hall meeting sparked the NDP to create a petition to ask that the Muskrat Falls project go back to the PUB for assessment along with ALL over alternatives!

NTV Coverage

NDP Petition for you to print off an collect signatures this week!

So where are we now?  As far as I can see, resentment is growing, people are going from concerned to angry, and over all, those who are in opposition to this project are feeling so ignored by the PD party that they are doing everything they can to be heard.  The most recent protests started in Labrador and the fire is spreading across the province.  There are a lot of possible outcomes, but surely SOMETHING has to change with the current project or the PS government will have a lot to answer to if even the slightest thing goes wrong!

The Next Big Step

Get involved and help tell government that democracy is about the people!

There will be a Rally on Sunday November 18th including a march from Harbourside Park to Colonial Building. Get involved and learn more.  There is a problem with the system of our current government.  Having a majority government has given them the false impression that when we voted them in we all believed in EVERYTHING they said.  However if we only voted for the candidate who we agreed 100% with we would never have a government.  We need to remind the PCs who they are working for.

MORE DETAILS on the Rally on this Facebook Event Page

Get involved.  Invite your friends. Learn more. Read more!

There is so much wrong with this deal.  In my opinion, the math is good.  However this is about so much more then the math!  My next blog — True Cost Accounting!!  Look it up 😉



Have you visited the River?

Dear Friends,

Have you seen these videos (below).  These are to expressions of a connection to the Grand River that most of us could only hope to have with any natural place.  The Grand River Keepers are working to keep us connected to the majesty of this river before we loose it forever.

The Muskrat Falls and Gull Island Hydroelectric projects are about much more then damming a river!

It is about more then the politics of who is right or wrong.  It is about more then the money it will generate and who will get that money.  And it is certainly about more then the couple hundred dollars that Islanders might save in a decade after its construction.

This is about protecting a way of life.  It is about how a whole region of communities will be affected by interruptions in seasonal changes and worries about the heath of their food source.  It is about not being able to fish in the river for another twenty or more years and it is about those who may anyway because that is all they know.  It is about families and culture and history and our own sense of pride in a beautifully rugged and untamed land.  It is about damming the largest river to drain and refresh Labrador and the 7th largest river in the country.  This is about more then just damming a river.

This is my Line in the Sand.

Maybe this is not the last straw.  But sadly, I do not believe that we will know which river will be the last one we “can” destroy, suddening tipping the scales and leaving us only to look back and wonder, what if?  This is not about right or wrong.  It is not about politics and who has the bigger budget or can rally the most support.  This is about looking in to the eyes of your children’s children and having to answer to them why we let this happen!

For me, this isn’t about one river, but it has to start with one river.  And this is my Line in the Sand.

In a dark quiet corner of Canada, where the aboriginal community is small and quiet, it is hard to hear the cries like those fight in the west; in a province, whose population is only 2% of the entire country, it is hard to get the national coverage that such issues as Tar Sands and Pipelines receive.

With a government that seems so set on pushing this project through and whose rally cry is that to be against this project is to be un-Newfoundland: I challenge you!  I suggest that it is exactly our rugged beauty and pristine environment that makes us who we are.  We are quick to pick up that banner and wave it around for all to see.  Our tourism ads count on it, our university and travel brochures rely on it.  Even the new website to inform people about the Muskrat Falls project is using that same imaging to sell its destruction.  We talk about bravery and courage, so let’s be that.  Courageous enough to say let’s cut our losses and find a better plan.  Brave enough to believe that we do have the power in our hands and with the sea and wind that shapes the land and with the resourcefulness of our people, see clear to that better solution!

Please, take a few minutes and enjoy these videos.  The beauty and enormity of the river is astounding just to begin.  This place and its people deserves our respect:

1) Grand River, Labrador’s Treasure, Newfoundland’s Secret #1(This video won Honourable Mention at the Waterwalkers Film Festival! Excellent work everyone!)

2) Grand River, Labrador’s Treasure, Newfoundland’s Secret #2