If your calculator’s batteries ran low while adding up the clichés and banalities churned out by Premier Kathy Dunderdale during Monday’s Muskrat Falls sanctioning speech, take comfort in the fact that soon — once that river of gold is harnessed — you’ll be able to put batteries in a recharger until they veritably burst with overabundant energy.
About those banalities: you’d think that for $7.7 billion the long-suffering and self-flagellating voters of Newfoundland (and Labrador) would deserve serious explanation worthy of adults, rather than political puffery.
To whit: “Today represents a significant change in our relationship with the federal government. We are now a full partner in the federation of Canada.”
Eh? We weren’t before? Apparently, all those Canadian passport-toting Newfoundlanders flying to Florida and the Dominican have been fraudulent imposters. Now that Muskrat Falls has the official go-ahead, they must be truly Canadian.
Inconsistencies in logic abound. It must be doubly confusing for Greg Malone and the tricolour-
carrying crowd — conspiracies against Newfoundland are supposed to be plotted by odious outsiders and conniving Come From Aways, and yet here are our own leaders taking us to financial doom while sycophantic MHAs dutifully applaud.
About those inconsistencies: the Progressive Conservatives have argued all along that the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project is economically viable. They have commissioned reports to prove it.
But the government instantly contradicts this assertion by introducing legislation that will prevent the Public Utilities Board (PUB) from analyzing and regulating prices charged for Muskrat Falls power.
Instead, Nalcor will be entitled to set power prices for ratepayers at any level needed to pay for the project.
So, the new dam and its transmission lines will be financially beneficial for those paying monthly power bills, but no, the PUB will not be allowed to do its job and ensure those bills are reasonable and fair.
If this makes sense to you, then by all means, pay your Muskrat Falls bills without complaint when they start arriving. And boy, are they ever going to arrive.
It gets worse. Natural Resources Minister Jerome Kennedy, explaining why the PUB won’t be allowed input into setting Muskrat Falls power rates, said the new law is necessary so lenders are reassured they will be repaid.
In other words, the loans will be paid back, whether or not ratepayers’ bills are fair and reasonable.
In 25 words or less, explain how this utterly contradicts “economically viable.”
Hint: if an endeavour really is economically viable, it shouldn’t force consumers to pay artificially set and legally enforced prices. That’s 19 words. Feel free to add six more. Curse words are acceptable.
It gets even worse. The same legislation that will fire the PUB gives Nalcor a 50-year monopoly over the production of electricity for sale in the province.
Over in Nova Scotia, they’ve been experimenting for a number of years with tidal power in the Bay of Fundy. If anyone ever figures out a way to harness those waves, consumers and environmentalists alike will rejoice over blue energy.
But not in Newfoundland (or Labrador), where people will be locked into a half-century commitment to buy power from Muskrat Falls.
Ditto for wind power.
If there’s a technological breakthrough, consumers in this province won’t benefit, because we’ll pay for power from Muskrat Falls until, oh, about 2062.
So much for the hype about green energy. According to the government, energy is only green if it’s hydro.
Our best hope now is that outsiders will save us from ourselves. Pray to whichever god you worship that the government can’t find a lender. Perhaps someday Malone will write a book about it: “Don’t Lend to the Newfoundlanders.”
Brian Jones is a desk editor at
The Telegram. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org