Premier Kathy Dunderdale jubilantly took the podium in the lobby of Confederation Building on Tuesday, with “Lest we Forget” as her backdrop, a sculpted angel to either side of her.
The superlatives were flying fast and furious Tuesday when Premier Kathy Dunderdale gave a speech to announce the finalization of the federal loan guarantee for Muskrat Falls. — Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram
Now, using a war memorial as a political backdrop is not particularly tasteful unless you are honouring soldiers. But no, Dunderdale was celebrating her government’s laser-sharp vision in developing the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.
It was a “second coming” of sorts, as Dunderdale noted.
“A year ago, on the 17th of December, we gathered in this very place to announce that we were ready to sanction Muskrat Falls,” she said.
On Tuesday she was there to announce that the federal government’s loan guarantee was secured — something that surprised absolutely no one.
And yet the media dutifully congregated, at an event scheduled just in time for the top of the supper-hour news, to document the occasion — using recording equipment that must have been barely able to function under the steady drip of hyperbole and the gale-force gusts of bombast.
Dunderdale expressed astonishment at the “amazing turnout” — not hard to achieve, really, when all civil servants were invited to attend and there were more politicians in seats than frothing spittle-bugs in long grass.
Apparently, they were making history.
The astounding achievement? Ottawa has backed a $5-billion loan for us to be paid back over 40 years.
What a happy, red-letter day.
Premier Dunderdale stressed the great significance of the occasion.
“It is very symbolic for me to stand here again today, shoulder to shoulder with our partners, and proudly announce that all of the conditions of the federal loan guarantee have been met,” she said. (No word yet on what was actually being symbolized, but we’ll keep you posted).
Now, I love the theatre, and the circus, and this was a political spectacle to rival Cirque du Soleil. The superlatives in the speech just kept on coming, with Dunderdale simultaneously keeping all the balls in the air necessary to maintain provincial/federal relations while spinning her message like a ribbon twirler — Muskrat Falls is wonderful, it’s marvellous, it’s paradise, it’s awfully nice.
I think we get it. Muskrat Falls is bigger than Colossus, mightier than Thor, stronger than Titan. Enough already.
The thing is, whether or not you agree that Muskrat Falls will save the world, surely the government can stop selling it now. It’s a fait accompli.
You know what would’ve been a lot more credible? If the government had come out and said, “Look, legitimate concerns have been raised about this project; it’s a massive undertaking and there’s a lot at stake. But we have considered all the options, looked at this from all the angles, examined the concerns and alternatives that were raised, and we still feel this is the best deal for the province.”
Now that would have been refreshing.
But no, instead we were subjected to the same old message track set on a seemingly permanent loop: Muskrat Falls will save us; we will harness its awesome power — thanks to the government’s tremendous brilliance — for the good of all mankind.
For the benefit of Mr. Kite There will be a show tonight on trampoline The Hendersons will all be there Late of Pablo Fanque’s Fair, what a scene Over men and horses hoops and garters Lastly through a hogshead of real fire! In this way Mr. K. will challenge the world! — From “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite,” by the Beatles
According to the premier, the underground cable being built to “trail-blaze a brand new energy conduit” for the project is “a link of nation-building significance no less important for us than ‘the Last Spike’ when it was nailed.”
Someone might want to remind this government that the construction of the Canadian Pacific Railway was controversial, involving the death of hundreds of underpaid and maltreated Chinese labourers and created a patronage scandal so big it brought down the Conservative government of Sir John A. Macdonald.
In concluding her oratorical tour de force, Premier Dunderdale truly saved the best for last, in a display of breathtaking sycophancy worthy of her most practised and loyal footmen.
“I want to thank an individual who is not a Newfoundlander and Labradorian, but without whom, this event would not be possible,” she said.
“When the greatest moments of our history are recollected long generations from now, Newfoundland and Labrador’s historians will remember the choice that Prime Minister Stephen Harper made — the choice to stand beside our people in advancing the Muskrat Falls development.”
Let’s face it — all Harper is doing is shoring up a loan with taxpayers’ money, not his own.
I’ll give the premier one thing, though — long generations from now people will be talking about Harper and the choices he made.
But endorsing Muskrat Falls won’t be one of them.
Instead, my children and their children, and so on and so on, will no doubt learn about one of the most draconian prime ministers this country has ever seen — one who has stifled freedom of the press and freedom of expression; one who has put profits and political alliances ahead of human rights and workers’ rights; one who has been found in contempt of Parliament and who oversees a party that has tried to stymie people’s legitimate attempts to cast ballots; one who has tried to keep the repatriated caskets of soldiers killed in Afghanistan from public view; one who has been aware of the inappropriate use of taxpayers’ money and blamed transgressions on his underlings.
Thank you, Premier Dunderdale, for such a historic day in the life of our province.
We may not be talking about it “long generations from now,” but come 2015, Tuesday’s display of puffery is something we’ll be sure to remember.
Pam Frampton is a columnist and The Telegram’s associate managing editor. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.