"Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things."
- Winston Churchill
I've previously resisted the temptation to write about Muskrat Falls, primarily because so many other people have been enlivening the debate.
That being said, I've followed the discussion. I've read all of The Telegram's coverage and have proofread my way through nearly all of our letters to the editor, columns and editorials on the topic. I have also sat in on a briefing with Nalcor.
I've decided to finally broach the topic of Muskrat Falls, because as a citizen of this province who is lucky enough to have a regular forum, I feel obliged to share my view.
I will not delve into kilowatt hours, ratepayer formulas, decision gate figures or arguments about alternatives and least-cost options.
Let's keep this simple.
The government insists Muskrat Falls is the best energy choice for the future of the province, for many reasons - fiscal, environmental, logistical, practical.
Other members of the community - former politicians and civil servants and other concerned citizens - insist it is not the best option, or at least they are not convinced that it is.
Silencing the critics
Premier Kathy Dunderdale dismisses any criticism of the project out of hand.
A letter from former premier Brian Peckford suggesting there has not been appropriate impartial assessment of the project was quickly brushed aside, with Dunderdale implying Peckford is simply out of the loop.
"... A message from afar, about a debate that you haven't been engaged in, or public information sessions that you haven't participated in, then you know it's difficult for me to deal with," she said in February.
When the Public Utilities Board (PUB) released a report saying it could not determine that Muskrat Falls was the least-cost option because it did not have up-to-date information to work with, the premier was quick to shoot the messenger once again.
She said her confidence in the province's independent utilities regulator had been "undermined."
Former premier Danny Williams also jumped in to cast doubt on the PUB's assessment.
"I have a serious concern that the PUB quotes extensively the personal opinions of former bureaucrats and academia, while ignoring the world-class experts at Nalcor," he said.
When some people publicly criticized the province's refusal to grant the PUB more time to carry out its work, Natural Resources Minister Jerome Kennedy dismissed their concerns as so much "white noise."
Now, I don't doubt that the professionals at Nalcor believe Muskrat Falls is the best and cheapest option to meet this province's energy needs.
I don't imagine CEO Ed Martin sits in his office, rubbing his hands together and cackling maniacally about how Muskrat Falls is going to make average Newfoundlanders and Labradorians pay through the nose for electricity, to the point that poorer citizens of St. John's have to huddle in the malls for warmth and ration their hard tack and tea.
I don't think that at all.
What I do think is that where there's smoke, there could be fire.
Sure, it could be fog or mist or steam, but there could be honest-to-goodness flames there as well.
And when I see concerned citizens in this province - some extremely articulate and well-informed and others not so sure of their position but still with nagging questions - writing letters and website comments, and speaking out on radio and TV about a public policy position they're not sure is the right one, then I get concerned.
Writing letters and voicing opinions take time, thought and energy, and none of those ordinary citizens are getting paid to raise red flags.
And while you suspect that some people will oppose a government venture just for the sake of opposing the government, criticism and questions about Muskrat Falls have crossed all party lines.
And so my question is, why is the government rushing this through when so many people feel unsettled and anxious about it and have raised legitimate questions?
If Muskrat Falls is indeed the best answer, that will become clear with the passage of time and careful scrutiny.
Speaking in the House of Assembly on June 11, Dunderdale - referring to the looming unveiling of new access to information rules - had this to say about Muskrat Falls:
"As far as Muskrat Falls is concerned, Mr. Speaker, there is no project in the history of this province that has more information released on it or more public discussion."
Well, when it comes to information, I tend to go for quality over quantity.
True, the government has released all kinds of information about Muskrat Falls, carefully crafted to bolster its own plan of action.
And we all know the government's plan, despite the window-dressing of debate in the House, environmental assessments and consultants' reports.
They're going ahead with Muskrat Falls, come hell or high water - and in this case that might be one and the same.
So there's not much merit in pointing to how much public discussion there's been if it's clear you haven't heeded any of it, except, of course, those bits that suit your cause.
Pam Frampton is a columnist and The Telegram's associate managing editor. She can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: pam_frampton