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Brian Jones: Inquiry emboldens political scam artists

['Muskrat Falls on the Churchill River in Labrador.']
Muskrat Falls before construction of Nalcor’s hydroelectric project began.

Voters can only hope the RNC’s fraud squad is prepared for a busy period preceding the 2019 provincial election.

Brian Jones
Brian Jones

 

The police occasionally issue warnings to the public about scammers using phones or going door-to-door pretending to be from this or that charitable organization, when in fact they have criminal intentions to illicitly pocket other people’s generosity.

The cops could provide a tremendous service by alerting the electorate to similar scammers during next year’s campaign.

“The public should beware of candidates claiming to have had nothing to do with the Muskrat Falls debacle,” one such memo might proclaim. “Police have become aware of candidates impersonating innocence. Suspect candidates have been reported in every district in Newfoundland and Labrador, and usually go by the name ‘Liberal’ or ‘Progressive Conservative.’ Suspects are not believed to be dangerous, but should be approached with caution.”

The scammers are already practising their lines. Mostly, they’re in the news. It will be another year and a half, during the election campaign, before voters wise enough not to be fooled will get the satisfaction of slamming down the phone or shutting the door.

“The public should beware of candidates claiming to have had nothing to do with the Muskrat Falls debacle,” one such memo might proclaim.

Recently, former PC premier Danny Williams said he hopes the impending Muskrat Falls Inquiry will highlight some of the positive aspects of the Labrador hydroelectric development.

Former Tory premier Paul Davis recently said he remains confident Muskrat Falls will prove to be beneficial for the people of the province.

Scores of Telegram readers undoubtedly had to apply ice after slapping themselves hard in the forehead.

Williams and Davis apparently need reminding that the Muskrat Falls project, originally forecast to cost $6.2 billion, has more than doubled in price, to $12.7 billion in the latest estimate.

The two former PC premiers overlook the fact that ratepayers’ electricity bills will soon double, and will eventually triple.

They ignore the horrifying truth that the next two generations of Newfoundlanders — if the breed survives that long — will be burdened with paying for this misbegotten megaproject.

A forensic audit will be done, Muskrat Falls Inquiry commissioner Richard LeBlanc announced this week. He did not mention whether the first two copies of the report would be hand-delivered to Williams and Davis.

Meanwhile, PC MHA Keith Hutchings said the Tories are glad to hear about the forensic audit, as it will enable the inquiry and the public “to examine that information and have discussions on what took place.”

Actually, an audit — forensic or otherwise — is wholly unnecessary for a discussion and a conclusion about “what took place.”

What took place was that Williams’ Tory administration went ahead with the Muskrat Falls project even though no private investors were willing to put a cent into it.

What took place was that the PCs prevented the Public Utilities Board from verifying whether or not the Muskrat Falls project would be beneficial for ratepayers.

What took place was that the Tories told twisted tales as truth — such as the riches to be gained by selling power to the U.S., even though in all the years since not a single signed contract has been produced.

What took place was that Williams, Dunderdale, Davis, et al. plowed ahead with their plan and ignored reasoned critiques about its risk and outright foolhardiness.

The Liberals, faced with the monumental Muskrat misadventure, merely stamp their feet like a spoiled brat and insist, “I didn’t do it!”

The Liberals, in fact, haven’t done anything, which is exactly why they, too, are culpable. By November 2015, it was long past obvious that the Muskrat Falls project should be cancelled. But the newly elected Liberals quickly proved their unworthiness by opting to do nothing, except point accusing fingers at the Tories.

The Muskrat Falls Inquiry is a multimillion-dollar political ploy. It hasn’t yet held hearings, but the scamming has started. Enjoy the show. You’re paying for it.

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at bjones@thetelegram.com.

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