The news about Muskrat Falls goes from bad to worse to farcical. You’re tempted to laugh, but are prevented from doing so by sad knowledge of the heinous Upper Churchill deal, and the suspicion that several decades hence your grandchildren will equally curse the heinous Lower Churchill deal.
Politicos — scientists, theorists, experts — have yet to explain an inherent but contradictory trait of democracy: elected governments seldom listen to their people.
“We know best,” seems to be the motto of too many elected representatives.
When their presumed superior wisdom and arrogance backfires, it is the people who pay (see: Grand Falls pulp and paper mill, expropriation of).
When governments make good decisions, it is often by accident, for the wrong reasons or years too late.
Consider the closure this week of Newfoundland’s (and Labrador’s) Ottawa office of federal-provincial relations.
It was an awful idea from the start. A provincial “embassy” in Ottawa? What, are you trying to give mainlanders easy one-liners about N-----s?
Almost eight years later, the provincial government finally closed the office, and will save about $360,000 annually — .009 per cent of what they’re intent on blowing on Muskrat Falls.
As with wisdom, so with logical consistency — it is a challenge for most governors.
Ponder Premier Kathy Dunderdale’s approach to the House of Assembly.
On the very night she was elected, Dunderdale displayed appalling arrogance and condescension (see “we know best” above) by declaring to the people who had just elected her that the House of Assembly would not open.
There was no need for the House to sit so soon, the new Great Leader opined, because there was no legislation ready to be debated.
This explanation couldn’t make sense to anyone who worked more than 100 metres away from the Confederation Building.
It was indeed shocking to learn the one and only function of the people’s legislature is to pass legislation. We have to wonder which textbook Dunderdale read that in. A term paper making that argument would get an F.
A legislature is where the people exercise their right to hold their government to account. It is where questions are asked, information is requested, issues are debated, explanations are demanded, petitions are presented, actions are condemned. Occasionally, laws get passed.
A mere three months later, Dunderdale has revised her thesis. She now takes an opposite stance. (See “logical consistency” above.) A sitting of the House of Assembly is no longer unnecessary — it is suddenly absolutely essential.
According to Dunderdale, the Public Utilities Board can’t have the extra three months it requested to fully complete its review of the Muskrat Falls deal, because the House of Assembly has to sit in the spring and make a decision.
What’s the hurry, you might wonder.
“You’ve heard all the discussion that has come from opposition parties about opening of the House and having an opportunity to discuss issues,” Dunderdale told reporters this week.
To recap: in October, Dunderdale — premier-elect for barely more than an hour — declares the House of Assembly will remain locked and dark. In the spring, she’ll rush through Muskrat Falls approval without all the facts because, well, you know, the opposition wanted to gab in the House. It is a farce, and an insult to the public.
The various statistics and arguments for and against the Muskrat Falls deal are complicated enough — now people are faced with a highly questionable process.
When the chairman of the Public Utilities Board says more time is needed for a full and proper review, the premier should listen.
Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org