We occasionally do print anonymous letters in this newspaper, but very rarely. Primarily, we withhold names to protect the identity of minors or to respect court restrictions on identifying victims or witnesses. When we do, we publish the letters with a clear knowledge of who the authors are and why they can’t be identified.
Friday, a letter came in where the writer said “I would like to publish the attached as a letter to the editor but can't do it under my name.”
Asked for the reasons for requesting anonymity, the writer mentioned concerns about government retribution against family members.
I’m including the whole letter, primarily to show that there’s nothing in it that should cause anyone pause: it’s a personal view of a public issue — the Muskrat Falls development — and one that would normally be published, provided someone put their name to it.
Here it is in its entirety:
Our provincial government has set themselves up as proponent, developer and regulator, or judge, jury and executioner, for this project, and any time that happens, it’s worth looking at what’s behind the rush they seem to be in to get it done.
I don’t have any concerns about the viability of the project. After all, they (our provincial government) will raise the money on our backs and, because they also are the regulator, will determine how much it will cost us each month to pay off the loans and provide the rate of return (determined by them) to Nalcor. So, you see, no matter how much it costs to do the project or what the operating costs are, we (you and I) will foot the initial bill and we will then pay it off each month when we pay our hydro bill.
I also don’t have any issue with the technical feasibility of the project. I have every confidence in the engineers at Nalcor when they say we can do this.
“Here’s the rub; because they (our provincial government) have set themselves up in advance to make this project happen, they have taken great pains to make sure any issues or roadblocks are minimized or eliminated before they come up. For example, they have limited the options being considered to provide for our future energy needs to those that will reflect favourably on the one they have chosen. Why?
I will confess that, even after all of the debate and dialogue in the media, I am not convinced Muskrat Falls is the right solution for our future energy needs, but I am not convinced that it is not either.
I support former premier Brian Peckford’s view that our PUB simply does not have the expertise or mandate necessary to do a proper review of this project and we do need to refer this whole ball of wax to an independent panel of experts in the field to get a thorough and objective analysis done of all of the options for providing our future energy needs.
In the meantime, I’m not drinking the Kool-Aid we are being fed up to this point … it just doesn’t smell right.
In the great scheme of things, that’s a measured, relatively non-offensive letter on a major public issue, one that speaks to the need to have more analysis.
The perception the letter-writer has, though, is clearly that reasoned debate is not without clearly perceived consequences in this province. Would there be retribution? I honestly don’t know. But there clearly should be a discussion about the fact that such a fear exists, if nothing else.
The provincial government admittedly has a long reach here: many are employed by it or have family members employed by it. Many businesses depend on the provincial government for some or even most of their business.
The fear of retribution is not new: whether it’s a reality or not is hard to know for sure. I know businessmen I’ve talked to in the province — and I’ve said this before — who are willing to talk a lot about Muskrat Falls in private, but who will never speak publicly.
And there have been cases where the province has removed people from positions for making comments the government didn’t approve of.
Federally, it’s pretty clear that the atmosphere exists for witch hunts. Just last week, the Toronto Star reported that National Defence Minister Peter MacKay showed no compunction about using the full powers of his department to hunt down dirt on his political opponents.
You would hope that, if people feel they’ve been singled out for their political beliefs or their legitimate views on public issues, they’d make their treatment public, so that we could decide whether that behaviour is politically acceptable.
We should not have to live in fear of our own governments.
Russell Wangersky is The Telegram’s editorial page editor. Email: email@example.com.