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Editorial: Selling snake oil

The Liberals are claiming that no one is going to pay more for electricity or higher taxes because of Muskrat Falls.
The Liberals are claiming that no one is going to pay more for electricity or higher taxes because of Muskrat Falls. —123RF Stock Photo

“No money down, no payments forever.”

If that’s what the mattress salesman was telling you in a television ad, you’d know that there was a hook somewhere, because no business could afford to just give away the products they would have had to have paid for just to stock.

You’d certainly want to see the fine print on any contract before you signed up and started picking up your mattresses.

Well, given the outrageous claims being made in the current provincial byelection in the district of Windsor Lake, we’d better see some fine print.

Here’s a partial transcript of a short advertisement being circulated on Facebook by Liberal candidate Paul Antle.

The facts are simple: if the Liberals are going to campaign, both in the byelection — and, most likely, in the next provincial election — on the platform that no one is going to pay for Muskrat Falls, they have to explain how that is going to work.

“People are relieved to hear that their electricity rates and their taxes are not going up because of Muskrat Falls,” Antle says as he derides Tory candidate Ches Crosbie for even raising the issue. Antle continues: “I can assure you, this is government policy. Electricity rates and your taxes will not increase to pay for Muskrat Falls. Now, I don’t buy into the politics of fear and anxiety. I buy into the politics of hope and optimism.”

Sorry to be flip about it, but hope and optimism and two bucks will get you a cup of coffee.

And no matter how much hope and optimism you stuff into the envelope, your power bill still needs to be paid.

Premier Dwight Ball made a similar announcement about Muskrat Falls at Antle’s campaign launch. Since then, there have been an interesting lack of developments: one of the province’s debt rating agencies says it asked about the pledge that electrical ratepayers would not be paying for the project, and was told nothing had changed. The federal government says it isn’t talking to the provincial government about any change in loan guarantees that keep electrical ratepayers on the hook for the costs of Muskrat Falls.

The facts are simple: if the Liberals are going to campaign, both in the byelection — and, most likely, in the next provincial election — on the platform that no one is going to pay for Muskrat Falls, they have to explain how that is going to work.

Not “trust us, it’s government policy.”

“Trust us,” if you remember, brought us the Muskrat Falls boondoggle in the first place. It was “trust our numbers,” “trust our world-class experts,” “trust our forecasts” — all of which, by the way, were wrong.

If people are as relieved as Antle claims they are, they are hopelessly credulous.

The fact that not paying for Muskrat Falls is “government policy” doesn’t change a single thing: there are still power lines and towers and dams and generators and spillways to pay for.

Show us.

Show us how we get $12.7 billion of work and equipment for free.

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