Former premier Danny Williams had a dream of electrical power independence for Newfoundland and Labrador. He passed his dream along to Premier Kathy Dunderdale, who appears to be implementing the dream as in a dream, apparently without due consideration to whether or not we can afford it.
The Muskrat Falls project will cost $8 billion to $12 billion, not including financing costs, and will increase our provincial debt to some $13 billion to $17 billion. We have been given no idea where the money will come from to amortize this debt. What sources of funds are available other than increased income tax rates, sales tax rates, the number and size of fees and the price of unregulated electricity (read tax)? What reductions to health, education, welfare and, indeed, all government programs will be necessary? When we have a budget deficit or the project requires money in excess of that guaranteed, where will we possibly find anyone to fund it? The turmoil of layoffs, reduced programs and increased fees this year may be just an insignificant example of what will happen as we start repaying our massive debt.
Who is at risk? Certainly not the federal government. It stands to collect hundreds of millions in additional revenue because of the project, without contributing a dime. Certainly not the financial community with the federal government guarantee of payment. Certainly not the business people involved, who will get first crack at the borrowed money and can invest their profits elsewhere. Certainly not Quebec, which can underprice us in any power market in which they choose to compete. Certainly not the highly qualified, six-figure salaried employees of the government and Nalcor who can take their money and investments and move on. No, as usual it is every man, woman and child of the province, now and in the future, the 98 per cent, who can least afford the consequences.
If the government has made an analysis of the risk this project poses to the provincial economy, it’s about time it was made public. If it has not been done, it should be. The tipping point has not been reached and there is still time for a determination if this project should proceed. There is a need for a well-prepared, transparent, non-political and inclusive study of the risks in its undertaking. It is not a question of us versus them but concerns the economic future of this province. I hope the premier’s decision will be an informed one and not one that will live in infamy.