Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Faced with Backlash, Premier Defends Response to Newfoundland Power Failure

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Faced with Backlash, Premier Defends Response to Newfoundland Power Failure

Article excerpt

Premier facing backlash over power failure

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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Premier Kathy Dunderdale is deflecting a backlash over her handling of a major power failure in Newfoundland as political observers say she missed a much needed chance to shine.

Dunderdale said Tuesday she understands that people are fuming over four days of rolling blackouts caused by bitter cold, a blizzard, maintenance issues and equipment malfunctions.

People have pointedly noted on social media and radio call-in shows that she waited until two days after rolling blackouts started last Thursday to hold a news conference. When she did speak Sunday, she has been accused of initially downplaying a major system collapse by saying it was not a crisis.

The power failure at its peak Saturday affected 190,000 customers in a province of about 527,000 people.

Dunderdale said her ministers were available from the start and that she was working behind the scenes.

"Now, is the message being heard? Some people are mighty angry and upset and inconvenienced," she told reporters Tuesday. "We're getting the system back to normal as quickly as possible and we've ensured that people are as safe as we could make them in the meantime."

Newfoundland Power said Tuesday that electricity had been restored to all but 50 residential customers. But the company was still urging conservation as another winter storm hit parts of the province with high winds, freezing rain and water buildup from melting snow.

Memorial University, College of the North Atlantic and almost all schools on the island of Newfoundland will remain closed through Wednesday due to the disruptions.

There have been reports of nine cases of carbon monoxide poisoning in the province since Saturday, including one death.

Tim Powers, a Conservative commentator and vice-chairman of Summa Strategies in Ottawa, has spent hours on the air as a guest host for local radio station VOCM since the blackouts began.

"The premier has not been doing well in the polls," he said Tuesday in an interview. …

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