Messing with Muskrat

Brian Jones
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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).

Embarrassing ‘embassy’

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.

Erroneous explanation

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.

The gall.

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

Organizations: House of Assembly.On, Public Utilities Board, The Telegram

Geographic location: Ottawa, Grand Falls, Newfoundland

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Recent comments

  • fraser
    January 16, 2012 - 08:21

    Brian...from bad to worse to hit the nail on the head. and speaking of farcical I am reading the book just out called Ray Guy-The Revoltionary Years. I will quote from an article written by Ray Guy on August 4, 1973 and titled " We were going to be stogged to the gills with cheap electricity" and ask if history is repeating itself? " The former premier advised us some time back that we would sonn have electricity " running out of our ears". But last time you got the light and power bill, did you notice anything trickling down your chops? We were, as you may recall, going to be stogged to the gills with the cheapest electricity this side of the sun. There'd be people going about the public streets with sparks flying out of them and it would be dangerous to shake hands with anyone on a dampish day. THROUGH, UNDER, DOWN, ACROSS, AND UP....Under the new system, the squeezings of the Mighty Churchill were going to be shuttled eastward across Labrador, pumped across the Straits of Belle Isle in pipes suspended from 987 dirigible, shot down the west coast like a dose of salts, and the zipped under the Cabot Strait to NS from cetera. To make a long story short , we ended up peddling Mighty Chruchill produce to Hydro-Quebec by the wholesale. There has been little or no light on dark corners since that until the electrifying reports of a few days ago the Premier F. Duff Moores( to make this current change name to Premier Danny) was about to deliver the greatest deliverance he had ever delivered since sweeping into office. Great news indeed. Thousands more juice on the way. In lamenting the demise of the Mighty Churchill Proper some of little faith completely forgot about the Might Lower Churchill. That's going to be brought across and under and down and over for sure. This glad tidings came as no surprise to me for one. I had every faith that poor Mr. Smallwood( to make this current change name to Premier Danny) would pull through with the cheap juice once more. Only question is, which end will it run out of this time?" The above is only part of the article by Ray but it still is very pun intended.... Further suggested reading from Ray Guy written in 1971 " Joseph (current Premier) pauseth by the waterss of Churchill" Chapter II verse 5: So it came to pass that on the day appointed Joseph and all the scribes and high priests and they that were exceeding brown of nose together with the chiefs of the tribe of Brinco( Emera) went forth even unto the waters of Churchill.

  • Doug
    January 13, 2012 - 10:43

    Who the hell does this premier and her cronies think they are? It is really P'ing me off that these people who are working for us think that they have all the correct answers and anything that professionals and "Mr. John Public" thinks is not important. We are an aging population with high heat bills, high taxes, high food costs, high transportation costs and high everything cost. Now this PC government is speeding through to add to all of our debt and heating bills - without full consideration as to if we need to take on such a mega project. Madness! Have we not learned anything from the Upper Churchill, Come By Chance, Sprung Greenhouse, etc? I am so sick of Newfoundland "Mega" projects and I have been paying them off since I started working 42 years ago. Now I will continue to pay for mega projects through my retirement! I should have moved away so many years ago to remove myself from the Newfoundland "king" thinking and corruption.

  • John Smith
    January 13, 2012 - 09:41

    Mr. Jones, as usual, is wrong on just about every issue he brought up. There are seven provinces in Canada that have, or have had offices in Ottawa. It is by no means out of the ordinary. It is even more important with a tiny population, and only a few politicians in Ottawa. It helped bring us the 2 billion, mission accomplished. There was no need to open the house, no pending legislation to deal with. Those provinces that did open after their elections did so for one or two days just to do some clerical work. Navigant, Wade Locke, the provincial and federal governments, and the expert staff at Nalcor, and Emera have all come out in favor of Muskrat falls. So I guess all those people are wrong, and Mr. Jones is right? LOL I guess you have to sell papers somehow Mr. Jones, it's just so very, very sad that you, like the liberal party of NL would use it as a sacrificial lamb to furhter your own aganda. However I would expect nothing less from the staff at the Telegram.

    • Eli
      January 13, 2012 - 11:57

      Another day, another dose of medication missed.

  • Eli
    January 13, 2012 - 08:01

    Come to think of it, the "Ottawa Embassy" , Nalcor, no more e-mails, and the Muskrat Falls project are the brain children of none other than our one-time saviour; Danny Williams! How many more will eventually come out of the woodwork? Ok, so Jerome Kennedy, Steve Kent, and Kathy Dunderdale have already surfaced. There will be more.

  • Michael
    January 13, 2012 - 07:38

    Could not agree more, it is shameful that the elected do not want to govern, they want to surf the wave. As far as I am concerned, the house should be open at least 50% of the year. Having said this Muskrat falls is indeed complex we not only need the pub to review (adequately) this report, we need to get a committee of politicians, John and Jane Q public and professionals to review the project. This committee should have equal representation from the politicians, the public and the professionals.

  • Townie
    January 13, 2012 - 07:17

    I still my maintain my belief that "it is always the least qualified person who is elected" in our system.