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Brian Jones: Ratepayers given more kicks to teeth

The Muskrat Falls hydroelectric generating site, circa June 2015.
The Muskrat Falls hydroelectric generating site, circa June 2015.

 

Not to brag or anything, but I’ve got an appointment for a double root canal.

Dude with the drill said it’s best to get them both done at once. Easy for him to say.

This will create jealousy, certainly. Some readers will wish they, too, could get a double root canal. I won’t boast. There’s no need to trumpet my good fortune to the envious.

Why am I happy about getting a double root canal? Because it will put an end to the pain. For three months, one side of my face has felt like it’s been pummelled by Danny Williams while he shouts, “This is for all those anti-Muskrat Falls columns you’ve written!”

The double root canal won’t be pleasant, but it is preferable to the alternative.

Which, of course, is a fitting allegory for Newfoundland ratepayers and the aforementioned Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project. The Newfoundland body politic needs a root canal — or two — or it must accept living with plenty of pain.

Where are the province’s dentists when they are needed? Ratepayers get kicked in the teeth every time some powerful personage declares it is “too late” to stop the Muskrat Falls project.

Premier Dwight Ball should have halted the thing immediately upon being elected in November 2015, but two years later, still hasn’t got a clue.

Nalcor Energy CEO Stan Marshall came out of retirement with all the fanfare of a saviour riding a donkey down a palm-strewn path, but quickly disappointed the faithful by declaring it was “too late,” etc.

This week, soon-to-retire auditor general Terry Paddon issued warnings about the province’s deficits and impending record debt of $14.6 billion. The provincial government spends too much, he said.

The double root canal won’t be pleasant, but it is preferable to the alternative. Which, of course, is a fitting allegory for Newfoundland ratepayers and the aforementioned Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.

Please, somebody shoot the elephant in the room.

Then, injecting black humour into this economic tragedy, Memorial University economist Wade Locke declared the province’s economic outlook is “terrible.”

Anyone who was eating when they read Locke’s comments might have needed the Heimlich manoeuvre. Locke was an avid cheerleader for the Progressive Conservatives’ Lower Churchill project. He now blames Nalcor’s inaccurate power-demand projections for his previous folly. It’s too bad one of his Economics 101 students didn’t raise a hand some years ago and ask, “But professor, what about market forces?”

Meanwhile, the captains of industry at the St. John’s Board of Trade have had their jaws wired shut. The BoT was a big booster of Danny’s dam, but now that the northern project’s projections have gone south, all we hear is… silence.

Hands up, everyone in favour of closing the Holyrood generating station. You in the back, Danny, your vote doesn’t count.

Without exception, every argument that was presented in favour of the Muskrat Falls project has proven to be false. Close Holyrood? Hope you enjoy your two weeks without power some winter.

But whenever it is suggested the Muskrat Falls project should be stopped, the reply is, “It’s too late.”

Collective insanity seems to have taken root. Reasonable, intelligent behaviour is to take action to prevent a bad situation from becoming worse. This is so even when the action required will initially be unpleasant (see: root canal).

But to blunder on toward disaster because you are too stubborn to take action or to change course is … what?

The best answer I’ve seen was by Memorial University seabird expert Bill Montevecchi, in one of his columns for The Northeast Avalon Times. In July 2016, Montevecchi compared Muskrat Falls to the supersonic Concorde jet, a doomed venture that provided the lesson that “any decision to continue should not be based on what has already been spent.”

Montevecchi wrote: “Biologists coined the term Concorde Fallacy to refer to situations in which animals (both human and nonhuman) defend an investment beyond the cost of abandonment and alternative solutions.”

 

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

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