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Brian Jones: Don’t blame the media for Muskrat Falls mess

Construction at the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric dam site, 2014.
Muskrat Falls construction site.

WARNING: Contains ‘colourful’ language

Some trolls have trotted out the astounding accusation that the media are partially to blame for the Muskrat Falls disaster.

Brian Jones
Brian Jones

In June 2016, when newly installed Nalcor Energy president Stan Marshall announced ratepayers’ electricity bills will double when Muskrat Falls power comes online, there were howls of outrage. Not all of it was directed at the suitable culprits: Nalcor, the Progressive Conservatives and the Liberals.

Since then, there has been regular indignation that the media hasn’t done its job.

“Why weren’t we told about this?” has been a common thread of complaints.

In the past year and a half, I have had discussions with people — on the phone, via email, on Facebook — about the media’s alleged failure to inform the public about the impending financial/environmental ruination that Muskrat Falls will bring.

I always point out a basic fact: the Newfoundland media, not just The Telegram, have covered every aspect of Muskrat Falls since at least 2010.

Legendary blogger and part-time troll Ed Hollett snidely commented on my Facebook page, “You must be thinking about some other Telegram.”

Nope. This very one has been at the forefront of news coverage and critical analysis of Muskrat Falls, despite the efforts of various Liberal sycophants and Tory toadies to assign blame to others.

I always point out a basic fact: the Newfoundland media, not just The Telegram, have covered every aspect of Muskrat Falls since at least 2010.

I wrote my first anti-Muskrat Falls column in September 2011. That year’s provincial election was approaching, and the headline was, “Voting for another Upper Churchill.”

My colleagues Pam Frampton and Russell Wangersky have each penned dozens — “Hundreds!” they might object — of columns about Muskrat Falls.

The Telegram’s letters pages have included numerous commentaries about the project from such informed critics as David Vardy, Ron Penney and Cabot Martin, among many others.

The paper’s news pages have carried all angles of the story, including debt financing, other power options, methylmercury, native rights, the North Spur, ratepayers’ vulnerability and more. A recent story featured Des Sullivan, whose Uncle Gnarley blog is a veritable 24-hour news site for all things Muskrat.

I received an email last week from Nova Scotia environmentalist Bruno Marcocchio, formerly of the Sierra Club. His message is noteworthy for its uninformed belligerence.

Referring to my column about the upcoming Muskrat Falls inquiry, Marcocchio wrote:

“I see you have been roused into cynicism about the genesis, review and execution of the Muskrat Falls disaster. Congratulations!

“Was it the refusal to ask the stop/go question that aroused you from your deep compliant supplication to Danny’s Dream? Was it a delayed awakening of what 22 cents kWh power will do to the old or poor? Were you lazy and gullible enough to buy the least-cost claim?

“Your self-serving conclusion, ‘It happened because the Newfoundland public is gullible and malleable” ignores one important fact. The de facto Fourth Estate became an unquestioning propaganda arm of the feudal entitled class in NL. What responsibility, learned scribe, do you and yours bear for allowing your province to be ransacked…?”

“No, the people of NL are not gullible, they have been let down by a non-existent Opposition and a complicit Fourth Estate. Congratulations, asshole, you have joined the ranks of despicable victim shamers.”

Admittedly, most of my correspondence isn’t this colourful. I replied thus:

“Mr. Marcocchio,

“You apparently haven’t been paying attention. I wrote my first anti-Muskrat Falls column in 2011, long before the project was even officially sanctioned. In the past six years, I have written dozens of columns criticizing numerous aspects of the project, and what the Tory and Liberal politicians, and Nalcor executives, were doing and saying. I have presented counter-arguments to their ‘facts’ time and time again. So also have many other columnists and reporters at The Telegram, as well as at other media outlets. I may indeed be an ‘asshole,’ but certainly not for the reasons you cite.”

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

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