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Brian Jones: Who will pay for Muskrat Falls? You will

Members of the local media along with various Nalcor officials and employees were given a tour of the Muskrat Falls energy facility at Soldier’s Pond located just east of Butterpot Park on the Trans Canada Highway (TCH) just outside St. John’s Wednesday.
Nalcor Energy's facility at Soldier’s Pond located just east of Butterpot Park on the Trans Canada Highway (TCH) just outside St. John’s - Joe Gibbons

 

It sure would be great if someone came along and offered to make your mortgage payments for you. Ditto your car payments. All the cash you could keep would be a terrific boost to your household economy.

While they’re at it, they may as well chip in more and offer to pay your monthly electricity bill. Looking long-term, it would feel like you’d hit the jackpot.

But like a big lottery win, it is mere fantasy.

There isn’t a fairy who will slip you a few gold coins every month to pay your bills and debts.

Premier Dwight Ball and Liberal candidate Paul Antle say otherwise. You won’t have to pay for Muskrat Falls, they say.

Too many people believe them. It’s as if the Newfoundland body politic has reverted to childhood, and once again believes in Santa Claus.

People are eager to see the Liberals’ plan. They want to know exactly how Dwight and Paul will shimmy down the chimney to place their present under the tree.

Not surprisingly, Ball and Antle have offered no details.

Related story:

Ratepayers won’t pay for Muskrat Falls, somehow: premier

The gullible among the electorate assume this is because they are still working out the complexities, figuring out sophisticated formulas with the province’s finances that will enable Muskrat Falls to be paid for without the doubling, and then tripling, of power bills or an increase in taxes.

Stop believing it. There is only one source from which to get the money to pay for Muskrat Falls: you.

The Muskrat Falls project was structured so it would be paid for by ratepayers.

That was the plan, remains the plan and must be the plan. There is no way around it, despite the fairy tales told by Ball and Antle.

(Someone in the back has their hand up. Yes, yes, good point, that does make you think of ball and chain.)

For the next year, leading up to the provincial election in the fall of 2019, the Liberals and the Progressive Conservatives will twist the facts and try to make you believe that you won’t have to pay the full cost of their idiocy.

If you believe them, you should also set out milk and cookies for Santa Claus, because it is fabrication. “Rate mitigation” is about as real as Rudolph.

You will pay.

You will pay as either a ratepayer, or as a taxpayer, or as a member of the public who, like everyone, is a co-owner of the government’s assets.

It is a rare concept: “co-owner of the government’s assets.” But keep that phrase in mind whenever you hear someone spouting the now-popular prediction that the government will use offshore oil revenue, i.e. royalties, to pay for Muskrat Falls. Problem solved!

Well, no. It’s still your money.

It’s still money that won’t go toward schools, hospitals, roads, etc. because it’s going toward the Muskrat Falls debt. If you still want schools, hospitals, roads, etc., money for them will just have to come from a different pocket of the public purse.

Social media is overflowing with suggestions that the solution is to sell Muskrat Falls. Sell it, even for $1, and the problem goes away, and ratepayers and taxpayers can start celebrating.

Such economic naiveté is stunning to behold. Look at it from the buyer’s point of view. They would acquire lots of concrete and miles of wire — and a debt of $12.7 billion.

“For sale: 2012 lemon. Needs work. Can’t afford payments. Amount still owing: $12.7 billion.”

Don’t wait by the phone.

A federal bailout has also become a popular proposal. It’s the old Newfoundland standby of blaming someone else. Newfoundlanders wanted and demanded the federal government’s loan guarantee. The feds gave it. But now they’re somehow partially to blame for the Muskrat Falls disaster and must help pay for it.

“On Dasher, on Dancer, on Prancer and Vixen…”

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

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