Nfld. & Labrador

Premier 'lacked empathy' during power outage: Shawn Skinner

Former Tory minister Shawn Skinner said Premier Kathy Dunderdale didn't handle last week's outage across Newfoundland in a very efficient manner, and it may cost her dearly.

Province's PUB review welcomed by opposition parties

Shawn Skinner says Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale seemed to lack empathy with people of the province who were freezing in their homes during that massive power outage. (CBC)

Former Tory minister Shawn Skinner said Premier Kathy Dunderdale didn't handle last week's outage across Newfoundland in a very efficient manner, and it may cost her dearly.

Newfoundland and Labrador's Public Utilities Board said on Friday it will be launching a formal inquiry into outages in the island's power system following mass outages that started last week.

Skinner said there was a lack of quick response from the premier when residents across Newfoundland lost power to their homes, and businesses were forced to close.

"I think she was slow out of the gate, she was absent, really, for a while and I think that absence cost her dearly, and then she tried to make it up by holding three press conferences in one day, three or four days later," Skinner said.

"But in fairness, I think the premier was slow to respond to this and I think that she's paid the price for it."

According to Skinner, the premier wasn't well informed about the issue by the people surrounding her and was generally out of touch about the situation.

"There are people who had pipes bursting, there are people who had tens-of-thousands of dollars of damage done. There are businesses that closed, there are businesses that had to relocate," he said.

"There were people, including people on this panel, who were freezing in their houses. There were people all over this province freezing, and the premier, I think, showed a lack of empathy and compassion and understanding when she said there was no crisis."

On Point with David Cochrane airs Saturday night at 7:30 p.m. NT on CBC with more from Skinner, and the rest of the On Point panel.

Opposition welcomes PUB review

Members of the provincial New Democrat and Liberal parties said they're pleased the province's PUB decided to conduct an inquiry.

Liberal MHA Tom Osborne said he doesn't understand why the province and Nalcor didn't notify people on the island earlier about issues with the power system leading up to the outages.
Tom Osborne says government and Nalcor should have informed the public earlier about the possibility of wide-spread outages. (CBC)

Osborne said Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro and the provincial government knew in mid-December that there was the potential for some serious problems.

"There were three of four plants that were giving problems, so it was a cascading problem that kept growing and growing and growing on them," he said.

"December 29th, they started putting together their contingency plan for power shortages or conservation. [On] the 31st of December they knew the weather was going to be a major factor with a deep freeze, yet Nalcor and government knowing this didn't inform people up front to carry out conservation measures."

According to Osborne, it may have been possible to avoid some of the problems if people had been advised to employ conservation measures earlier on, but the more serious matter is that government did not advise people to prepare emergency supplies knowing widespread outages were possible.

Answers needed to move forward

NDP MHA Gerry Rogers said public faith in the province's power system has been shaken, and residents want to know what happened.
Gerry Rogers says it's vital to know what information was known leading up to the wide-spread power outages so the province can move forward. (CBC)

Rogers said knowing what happened to force much of the island into darkness is the first step to moving forward and improving the current issues that the province still faces.

"I think it's absolutely imperative that it [the review] happen. We're living in a modern technological society, we have to have a power source that's reliable," she said.

"What we saw in the past week was like a whole house of cards that came tumbling down, and the public confidence in our power supply has been absolutely shaken."

Rogers said she would like to see what information was known in the days and weeks leading up to the massive outage, so the province can figure out what needs to be done to ensure an effective power system can be established.


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