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Brian Jones: Premier’s PUB announcement assails logic

Premier Dwight Ball and Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady at a news conference Wednesday at the Confederation Building.
Premier Dwight Ball and Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady at a news conference Wednesday at Confederation Building, announcing a new role for the Public Utilities Board in Muskrat Falls oversight. — Telegram file photo

If confusion is causing your brain to ache, you’re not alone.

Even Newfoundlanders who pay only slight attention must be baffled by Premier Dwight Ball’s announcement Wednesday that the Public Utilities Board (PUB) has been assigned the task of seeking solutions to the expensive electrical power soon to flow from Manipulation Falls.

 

The ache in your brain is a signal that something is amiss. Synapses start firing, and your mind flips through its files and finds Ball’s voice from mere days ago, declaring that neither ratepayers nor taxpayers will be stuck with paying the full bill for Manipulation Falls.

Images pop up of Windsor Lake Liberal candidate Paul Antle describing the relief and gratitude of district voters in hearing the welcome news.

Without even needing the click of a mouse, your memory flicks further back, to a junior high school teacher whose lesson one day centred on how to present an argument, and the importance of being consistent and avoiding contradicting yourself.

If anyone was ever unsure about what the political cliché “passing the buck” means, Ball and Coady’s PUB announcement this week is a splendid example.

How is it, your aching brain wonders, that a few days ago ratepayers and taxpayers were freed from the burden of paying for Manipulation Falls, but on Wednesday Ball declares the PUB will look into ways to pay for Manipulation Falls? The inconsistency and contradiction pound at your temples.

The pain in your forehead that feels like your skull is being assailed by a jackhammer is your stubborn mind returning again and again to the figure of 12.7 billion, as in $12.7 billion, as in a number that must be paid, whether by ratepayers, by taxpayers, by oil revenue, bam, bam, bam.

Don’t even bother taking painkillers. They won’t work. The $12.7 billion is there, and your brain knows it. Ball and Coady’s preposterous pronouncement won’t make your brain forget it — thus the throbbing.

• • •

For sheer gall in unapologetic manipulation, the Liberals have matched anything the Progressive Conservatives said or did in pushing through their disastrous hydro project.

The PUB’s final report and recommendations regarding power rates won’t be submitted to the government until — surprise! — after the 2019 provincial election.

Ball and Coady are attempting to take the most important issue facing the province — the inescapable $12.7-billion Muskrat Falls debt — and remove it from the 2019 campaign, which has already begun and will continue for another year.

Ask any Liberal candidate what the $12.7-billion debt will mean for Newfoundlanders’ electricity and tax rates, and they will likely obediently respond with a rote answer: “The Public Utilities Board is looking into that, and it would be inappropriate for me to comment while their work is continuing.”

If anyone was ever unsure about what the political cliché “passing the buck” means, Ball and Coady’s PUB announcement this week is a splendid example.

Liberal cowardice and selfishness has been on display for almost three years, but don’t let that stop you from electing them in Windsor Lake or in 2019. Goodness knows, they’re absolutely right that the PCs caused this dam debacle.

As was immediately apparent Wednesday, the Liberals’ “action” comes three years too late. Ball should have acted immediately after being elected in November 2015. His first move as premier should have been to cancel the Muskrat Falls project.

Why didn’t he? The answer is the only transparent thing about this government. Liberal strategy was, and still is, to blame the Tories. It will likely get the Liberals re-elected in 2019.

If the Liberals had taken the rational and reasonable step of cancelling Muskrat Falls, public anger over the still-billions of debt would have been directed at the Liberals rather than at the PCs.

Hmm. Which is more important: the province’s well-being or the Liberal party’s well-being? Ball chose the latter, and allowed the PCs’ immense mistake to continue. Newfoundland will suffer and its citizens will suffer, but so what — at least the blame can be put on someone else.

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

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