Muskrat Falls has been, and is, the result of shallow thinking.
Looked on as an accomplishment, not as a benefit to the people of the province, the plan was always to get the Newfoundland and Labrador ratepayer to pay full costs and be fobbed off with fabricated needs.
Let’s look at the facts.
First thought — No one could do the Lower Churchill up to now, so let’s show them, who’s who!
Second thought — Problem: what’s to be done with the power? Newfoundland and Labrador can never use it all, if any.
Answer — First, let’s cut back, drop Gull Island (220 MW and the feds’ half-cost with it) and settle on Muskrat Falls (824 MW) even if it doesn’t make sense — Muskrat Falls is much more expensive per megawatt and we’ll be on our own too!
Second, let’s try selling Nova Scotia most of the Muskrat Falls power. (A snag — no takers, even at half-price) OK, let’s see if we can cover up the cost.
Two choices — one, let’s spill most Churchill River water and just generate less than half the possible power.
Snag — the people will still murder us for the massive cost.
OK, second choice — let’s drag baulky Nova Scotia on-board.
How? They just won’t bite.
Here’s how. We’ll pretend they are “paying through the nose” all on their own, for a dicey, over-priced sub-sea cable or two across to Cape Breton isle, and after that, we will only be kindly helping out by donating a small amount of power out of the goodness of our hearts as really good Canadians.
Newfies are “softies” — they’ll buy that! OK, let’s go.
Snag — Them herring chokers are no fools and are saying, “No way, you give us free and clear enough power so we’re really paying nothing for the cables.”
You want “nouveau riche” Newfoundlanders to pay totally to cure of all our energy needs?
You got it.
OK, OK, a full 20 per cent of Muskrat for nothing.
(Herring-chokers, to themselves, They’ve bought it! Now, let’s arrange it so we get 60 per cent of that power! How? Easy — we’ll get them in so far they’ll be afraid to back out, and then we have our regulator come down hard and say, “No go, no link without 60 per cent”— what can they do then?)
They’ll never buy it!
Don’t be too sure — they bought Upper Churchill, didn’t they, and it’s really the same deal!
How about the present goofy bunch are still not with it and won’t drop a busted deal? Happy Valley is really happy.
Not all, and anyway Muskrat jobs are just a “flash in the pan.” Things will get worse than before, come 2017. Muskrat is wasting money that could be used for stuff that really lasts!
J.F. Collins was Newfoundland and Labrador’s minister of finance from 1979 to 1987.
He writes from St. John’s.