“The facts,” one ex-politician said recently to a board of merchants, “should be enough.”
Quite right. But enough for what? And which facts? One might ask, but perhaps one shouldn’t. After all, “It is quite simply a no-brainer.”
When a former premier risks his own disdain towards former premiers who stick their noses into current affairs after retiring from office, one might expect the former premier to do more than merely dismiss using one’s brain when considering facts about the proposed Lower Churchill project. But this former premier was Danny Williams.
He implied, for example, that no more facts are needed before the government launches its titanic hydro project. It’s been studied, consulted and analyzed “to death,” he said. The corpse is good to go!
He said Muskrat Falls power will stay in Labrador, even though he also once said that Muskrat Falls power will not stay in Labrador. One must be satisfied with the latest facts and forget all the previous ones. If one doesn’t, one might wonder whether Williams is also able to change other facts, and then the whole fact of all the studies, consultations and analyses will be in jeopardy.
At what point do all the conflicting facts overwhelm the logical basis of maintaining that Nalcor was created to generate revenue and eliminate public debt, even while the company is already wasting $435,000 per day on unsanctioned work and is planning to sink the province’s taxpayers into a hole that’s at least $10-billion deep? But one takes a breath and then remembers not to use one’s brain and so all the doubt fades away.
So, where were we? Right: Williams, in an immediate turn-about, wanted to assure the people of the province that they are still allowed to make up their own minds. He assured his former constituents (that is, all his fellow citizens, or at least those belonging to the St. John’s Board of Trade) that they didn’t have to take his word for anything, not even for what he says about Muskrat Falls.
“Debate is good,” he reminded the traders. “Asking questions is important.”
However, one mustn’t get carried away: “Responsible critics play a critical role in keeping government in check, but opposition just for the sake of opposition is wrong.”
Hearing that, one might perhaps take a contrary stance, but not only to be contrary:
“Responsible developers play a critical role in economic growth, but development just for development is wrong. Developers who knowingly put misinformation in the public realm are just as irresponsible and do greater disservice to the people of this province.”
One might say we have no need to proceed with construction at Muskrat Falls because we don’t have to and it makes better sense not to. Here are the 10 reasons:
1. Any accurately predicted future need for power can be met through conservation, increased efficiency and the development of localized and individual generation.
2. Even from a millionaire’s perspective $10 billion is a lot of money and no alternative comes anywhere close to being that expensive.
3. The debt is so huge the banks will own the asset forever.
4. The project will release poisons into the river and greenhouse gasses into the air. It will drown hundreds of kilometres of lush valley habitat. The altered currents could further harm the ecology of the Hamilton Inlet, possibly accelerating the unnatural salinification of Grand Lake.
5. The currently low interest rates will probably be much higher by the time our grandchildren inherit the humongous debt.
6. Mega-dam technology is proving to be unwieldy and outmoded. Their builders frequently misunderstand and underestimate their risks.
7. The brief spurt of money injected into central Labrador during the short construction phase will leave behind an abandoned economy and a burst housing bubble. Also, if the control functions are transferred to a new centre planned for St. John’s, the town of Churchill Falls could face depopulation.
8. Surplus power suggests a shortage of markets.
9. There will be no assured access to the Maritimes or the United States if Nova Scotians don’t agree to build the necessary transmission line.
10. After an initial increase of power rates, the rates will thereafter be higher.
Michael Johansen is a writer
living in Labrador.