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Brian Jones: Go ahead, bring in commission of government

Construction of towers for the power line connecting the power plants at Muskrat Falls and Churchill Falls, circa 2014.
Muskrat Falls project construction site. — Telegram file photo

The province is headed toward insolvency and bankruptcy, which — contrary to what you may have heard — won’t entirely be a bad thing if it can help rid us of the people who caused it.

Brian Jones
Brian Jones

 

Newfoundland, the perennial basket case of Confederation, will inevitably need to be bailed out by the federal government, some commentators opine, entailing once again a loathsome surrender of the Smiling Land’s independence.

Bring in commission of government, I say, and the sooner the better. Let’s hope it happens before 2019, when Newfoundlanders are scheduled to once again go to the polls to decide who will take office and create new methods of ruination.

Speaking of ruination, Newfoundlanders eagerly await the St. John’s Board of Trade’s announcement about how many of its members, and which ones, received contracts or did work or sold supplies, etc., for the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.

The BoT has spent the last few weeks wailing about public servants’ salaries contributing to the province’s annual deficit, and lambasting the Liberals for agreeing to a no-cut, no-trade clause in its new contract with the Newfoundland and Labrador Association of Public and Private Employees (NAPE).

Yet the BoT’s howls of dread over debt continually ignore the white elephant in the room, namely, Muskrat Falls and the hundreds of millions of dollars of public money it burns every year, and will continue to burn until our grandchildren go grey.

Surely such silence can’t be due to some BoT members benefiting financially from Muskrat Falls.

Surely the BoT is opposed to all waste of public dollars, even if some of its members might stand to gain from such wastage. Surely government largesse toward business is equally deplorable as government largesse toward unions.

But I digress. Back to commission of government, which we must hope won’t include a BoT representative.

Commission of government, of course, calls to mind a reviled era in Newfoundland history. But that was the 1930s, when Newfoundland was destitute, poorly governed and ruled by an incompetent, self-interested elite. This is 2018, when Newfoundland is … never mind.

An important difference is that the 21st-century commissioners will be appointed by Canada rather than by Britain. Following precedent, a few token Newfoundlanders must sit on the commission. A handful of the Merb’ys would be an infinitely better choice than any current or former Newfoundland politicians.

Commission of government is needed because Newfoundlanders must be saved from themselves.

Newfoundlanders have an unparalleled capacity for inflicting misery upon themselves.

The next election is a toss-up. Two political parties have an equal chance of winning in 2019: one is the party that caused the province’s bankruptcy; the other is the party that did nothing to stop the province’s bankruptcy.

Newfoundlanders have an unparalleled capacity for inflicting misery upon themselves.

In 2019, observe with fascination as Newfoundlanders elect the Progressive Conservatives, the party that invented the bankrupting Muskrat Falls.

Or, in 2019, watch mesmerized as Newfoundlanders re-elect the Liberals, whose incompetence, when faced with the bankrupting Muskrat Falls, made them opt for inertia.

A rational people, who did not enjoy self-inflicted suffering, would send both the PCs and the Liberals for a hike into the political wilderness until the Muskrat Falls debt is paid off or the last Newfoundlander leaves, whichever comes first.

A rational electorate would reject them both in 2019, angrily and forcefully.

Unfortunately, the third alternative, the NDP, is about as electable in Newfoundland as is a Spanish trawler captain.

The NDP’s electoral support remains miniscule because its inexperienced and neophyte candidates in election after election don’t inspire confidence that they can contribute to the province’s crash. The PCs and Liberals are professionals, after all.

So, bring in commission of government. Voters won’t get rid of the PCs and Liberals, but bankruptcy will. In that regard, the prediction will prove true: Muskrat Falls is good for the province.

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

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