Muskrat fails to top issues

Barb Sweet
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Muskrat Falls

Muskrat Falls is a distant second-place election issue in the Corporate Research Associates (CRA) poll done exclusively for The Telegram, but the poll also reveals most respondents are in favour of the costly, proposed hydroelectric deal.

The Telegram first reported poll results in Thursday’s edition, showing the PCs are in the lead and the NDP and Liberals are fighting for second place.

While that result is no shocking revelation, the in-depth poll  has a large sample size of 800 and examines voter leanings in detail, as well as what’s important to the electorate.

The Weekend Telegram will also feature stories and analyses of the poll.

The poll was conducted between Sept. 29 and Oct. 3 and has a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points with a confidence level of 95 per cent.

Twelve per cent of respondents — without being prompted by choices — placed Lower Churchill/Muskrat Falls as the top issue for them in the election, far behind top issue health care, which was mentioned by 31 per cent of respondents.

In fact, more people — 17 per cent of respondents — said they don’t know or had no answer than the percentage of people who named Muskrat Falls.

Asked specifically about the hydro deal, 23 per cent of respondents said they completely support the deal, followed by 35 per cent who mostly support the deal.

Only 14 per cent of respondents indicated they mostly oppose the deal, followed by 11 per cent who completely oppose it.

The strongest support for the deal lies with those in higher income brackets, particularly those who earn more than $75,000. They may be looking at the economic spinoffs of the project and may not be as concerned about rising power rates. Support for the deal is also strong among respondents with higher education levels, CRA president and CEO Don Mills said.

Older people are less likely to support the deal, possibly because they are out of the working world and so won’t see the economic benefits, and they don’t want to see their light bills go up.

The $6.2-billion Muskrat Falls project, if it goes ahead, will generate 824 megawatts of electricity.

That juice will flow over transmission lines from Labrador to the island.

An estimated 40 per cent of that power will be used to meet this province’s needs. The remainder will be redirected over a maritime transmission link.

Nova Scotia’s Emera — a 29 per cent partner on the transmission link but not the generating plant — will take 20 per cent of the power.

The excess electricity — initially about 40 per cent — will then be put up for sale, likely in New England, where it would be traded like a commodity.

Nalcor officials acknowledge power rates will rise if Muskrat Falls proceeds, but caution the cost of electricity will rise even higher if the project doesn’t go ahead because of power demands and the high cost — both price-wise and environmentally — of continuing to burn Bunker C oil at the Holyrood generating plant.

Mills said obviously Muskrat Falls is not the priority issue among the general electorate that some politicians, open-line callers and pundits say it is.

“It’s not to say the Lower Churchill/Muskrat Falls is not an important issue, but in terms of an election issue it falls quite a bit below,” Mills said.

The Liberals have placed priority on Muskrat Falls as an issue throughout the campaign.

“The Liberal party is getting killed in this election so that issue is not helping them,” Mills said.

Speaking to reporters in Gander about The Telegram’s polling, Liberal Leader Kevin Aylward consistently pivoted back to the party’s cornerstone issues: the fishery, rural Newfoundland, forestry and, most of all, Muskrat Falls.

While he also named health care as a perennial issue, Aylward said the reason he tends to talk more about issues like Muskrat Falls and the fishery is because they affect the economy, and by extension, the provincial treasury.

Aylward suggested that there may be a major shift in public support coming, as people consider the proposed Muskrat Falls hydroelectric deal.

“We could easily see a move — especially when it comes to deciding on Muskrat Falls and where the future is going with four and a half billion dollars worth of debt,” Aylward said.

“This is going to affect health-care spending, it’s going to affect our budget.”

Tory Premier Kathy Dunderdale said the Tories are not getting much talk of Muskrat Falls as they knock on doors.

“When it is mentioned, the majority of the commentary is in support of Muskrat Falls. It’s not an issue at the door,” Dunderdale told a Telegram reporter while on her campaign bus.

NDP Leader Lorraine Michael concurred when she spoke to The Telegram during a phone interview from Labrador.

“On the doorstep, we’re certainly not hearing much about Muskrat Falls. I did hear a bit about Muskrat Ralls (Wednesday) night at the gathering in (Happy Valley-Goose Bay),” she said.

“There, the concern is that (Muskrat Falls) is not going to benefit Labrador.”

But she said on the island, the issue isn’t a big deal.

with files from James McLeod,

Steve Bartlett and Dave Bartlett

Organizations: Corporate Research Associates, NDP

Geographic location: Muskrat Falls, Newfoundland, Don Mills Nova Scotia New England Gander Happy Valley Goose Bay

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Recent comments

  • Wake Up
    October 07, 2011 - 16:10

    Before this project even breaks ground, the global economy needs to improve. We are on the brink of mass layoffs once again, and Government wants to gamble tax dollars!? Foolish at best. When the pot runs dry during construction, what then?

    • Economist
      March 09, 2012 - 10:52

      Are you crazy? Govn't spending will actually stimulate the GDP, and this project is not consider as crownding out because private sector can't provide this. THis project actually will stimulate the economy

  • newffie
    October 07, 2011 - 15:04

    i like to be on a big drunk with all you poster`s

  • dianne
    October 07, 2011 - 14:18

    Where is the money coming from...Because right now the in the RED...There is no SURPLUS for years...All because they took over Grand Falls paper mill...which is going to take 1.2 BILLION to clean. Just ask Mr Marshall...that why seniors are living the way they are...that why so many people are leaving this is our kind of party

  • Oh My
    October 07, 2011 - 13:58

    Well the 12% (Liberals) are out in force today. Don't like a poll, criticize it, don't like that other people don't support your cause, criticize them to. And they wonder why they're becoming less relevant everyday.

  • MBC
    October 07, 2011 - 12:36

    HOW ABOUT A POLL ON POLLS ? 1) Do you agree with polls? 2) Do you always give true replies to polls ?

  • Eli
    October 07, 2011 - 12:26

    There are any number of reasons why Muskrat is not an issue at the door. You can bet your sweet bippy the PC candidates won't ask the electorate what they think about it for the simple reason they themselves are in the dark about the details.

  • bob
    October 07, 2011 - 11:36

    easy way to find out if muskrat falls is worth it how much are we paying for power now when muskrat is completed, how much will it cost for power then simple math unless we are paying little to nothin for our own power after the deal, no deal is worth it btw: how annoying is dunderdales voice

  • sarah
    October 07, 2011 - 11:10

    I think the Liberals will do ok. There are NOTt a lot of people supporting this hydro deal, regardless of what the Conservatives say. Don't care what polls say. People would be mad to vote for it. The only ones benefitting are the upper crust who will reap profits from it. The lower half have everything to lose. People cannot afford their housing or utility bills now. It's a bad deal, Lower Churchill and one we will pay dearly for as NL's. The main focus should be to help the ones not benefitting from this mini oil boom. That would be the essential of life. Shelter, Food and Clothing. Right now the shelter costs are out of reach including utilities for 1/2 the population. Food prices are outrageous. Forget the clothing. I think any gov of the day should be looking after all its people, not just the upper 1/2 or upper crust who will benefit most profit from this deal along with politicians and their pay scales and retirement pkgs. But this hydro deal will be on the backs of others - the least advantaged, so vote wisely. Pretty soon, many NL's won't be able to afford to live in NL, including seniors/ pensioners, those sick or ill or other misfortunates or unemployed. If gov's can't look after the basics, Food, Shelter, Clothing - then what can they look after. Except making themselves and others at the top rich. I neither see much happening with housing breaks or new social housing being built. Health Care is a write off still in this province, always mismanaged, as is City Council with their hands out once again. We need true leaders, not leaders who avoid or downplay or misconstrue issues on behalf of their own pocketbooks and the rich who will support them to get their own pockets line, and at the expense of others less advantaged. The only way this can happen with policies of current gov, like a see-saw, because the rest of the population - their dire concerns are not being addressed. Remember that these politicians are servants of the public and only manage the money or purse strings. So Muskrat Falls, Health care, Housing and food are very important. All looking like they're mismanaged currently to benefit those at the top.

  • DON II
    October 07, 2011 - 11:01

    As usual, the Newfoundland voters are apathetic. What does that mean? Never mind, I don't know and I don't care to know what the Government is up to! All a politician has to do to get a vote in Newfoundland is tell everybody that there will be a chicken in every pot, a job for the whole family and a new Cadillac waiting for them in the driveway of the new house the Government is going to build for them! Who will pay for it all? Don't know and don't care.

  • randy
    October 07, 2011 - 10:31

    If Health care is such a concern to us,why didn't Dunderdale fix it over the last 8 years.The money was there. or were they too busy building hockey rinks and provideing paint for some old building .The muskrat falls thing is on a par with the sprung greenhouse..Are we all stunned or what?? Why vote for a party intent on doubleing your light bill..Dunderdale will be sitting on the board of Emera when this is done and we will be paying her 6 figure a yr the stock she will be given duhhhhhh

  • John Smith
    October 07, 2011 - 08:45

    Most people realize that there will be a need for power in the future. How can you grow your economy without access to unlimited power supply. It is an advantage the mainland has enjoyed for too long. We will see a hit at first, but then will have stable rates here forever. It's a good deal, and gets us away from Quebec.

    • W McLean
      October 07, 2011 - 12:31

      Will there be an INCREASED need for power?

    • Wally
      October 07, 2011 - 12:32

      John Smith is right, except when industry comes looking for power, Nova Scotia will have the cheapest to provide

  • Chris
    October 07, 2011 - 08:09

    Are all us people in NL stupid! Any progress is good progress. yes "Maybe" electricity bills will go up, but Duh!, they are going to do that anyway! what do you think the increase will be for our kids in 30 years when the oil starts to run out, and we need it for Holyrood! At that time they'll be saying, Why didn't we develop Muskrat falls 30 years ago....WAH WAH WAH!! It will creat jobs TODAY, It will take care of our childrens future, TODAY, and it will cement the future of NL in the future when the oil runs out. It is a huge investment in the future and if it doesn't go ahead then i'll be the first one to say I told you so in 2042

  • Cyril Rogers
    October 07, 2011 - 08:01

    The support for Muskrat Falls is baffling to me, given the uncertainties surrounding the project. When the government's own Environmental Review Panel rejects the reasoning put forward by both NALCOR and the government, something is seroiusly wrong for them to ignore and dismiss those concerns. WE DO NOT NEED, NOR WILL WE EVER NEED, THIS COSTLY OPTION. If health care is the top priority, I do understand that concern, but.....when Muskrat Falls sinks us financially, we will not have the financial resources to deal with these health needs.

  • Ed Samson
    October 07, 2011 - 07:18

    Polls, I never tell them the truth when they call. Most of the people that I know tell me they do the same thing. If I have time when they call I have a bit of fun!! So much for poles.

  • aubrey smith
    October 07, 2011 - 06:49

    I guess this says it all re Muskrat Falls : The strongest support for the deal lies with those in higher income brackets, particularly those who earn more than $75,000. They may be looking at the economic spinoffs of the project and may not be as concerned about rising power rates. Support for the deal is also strong among respondents with higher education levels, CRA president and CEO Don Mills said. Older people are less likely to support the deal, possibly because they are out of the working world and so won’t see the economic benefits, and they don’t want to see their light bills go up.