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Brian Jones: Newfoundland walks plank, demands solution

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Newfoundlanders are going to pay for the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project. Don’t let anyone, especially a premier or a candidate for premier, tell you different.

Newfoundlanders are going to pay financially, and they’re “going to pay” in the sense that people will endure varying levels of hardship, distress and inconvenience.

Campaigning for the 2019 provincial election has already begun, and it’s a race between Premier Dwight Ball and newly minted Windsor Lake MHA and Progressive Conservative Leader Ches Crosbie to see who can best gauge how gullible the Newfoundland electorate can be.

Ball believes voters are 100 per cent gullible, and will rejoice at his pronouncement that neither ratepayers nor taxpayers will have to pay for Muskrat Falls.

Crosbie deems voters at least 50 per cent gullible. A year away from balloting, he is already promising lower taxes.

Believe either at your peril. Voters need to look in a mirror and inquire of the citizen they see, “Are you still as gullible as you were in 2012?”

Related columns:

Brian Jones: Stop moaning and pay up, Muskrateers

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

It’s a long shot, but voters could prove their lack of gullibility by rewarding any politician who has the courage to say, “The $12.7-billion Muskrat Falls debt must be paid, and we must pay it. Our task is to determine how best to pay it.”

People want a solution to the Muskrat Falls disaster. A few readers have accused me of not offering a solution. Here is my reply: there is no solution.

There is no “solution” that will solve the problem, or make the dilemma go away.

There are only choices. The problem is the $12.7-billion debt. There is no “solution” that will remove Newfoundlanders’ obligation to pay it. There are only choices about how Newfoundlanders will pay it.

To repeat — and it’s worth repeating, because you certainly won’t hear this from Ball or Crosbie — there are only three sources of money to pay the Muskrat Falls debt. The funds can come from electrical bills, taxes or other government revenue, i.e., offshore oil royalties.

All three choices ultimately have the same source — you. The choice facing Newfoundlanders is how much, and in what proportion, should come from each source.

If a doubling of electrical bills is deemed unacceptable, other funds will have to come from either taxes or the public accounts, or both.

Bear in mind that money taken from the public accounts will have repercussions for government funding of schools, hospitals, roads, MHAs’ perks and so on.

Crosbie says the province spends too much on health care. When he is premier and you find yourself on a one-year wait list to see a specialist, tell yourself, “Well, at least we’re paying off the Muskrat Falls debt.”

Some people apparently have difficulty delineating a solution from a choice. An analogy might be of some assistance to clear the confusion.

Imagine you’re enjoying a fine day of fishing, and you’ve almost caught your quota when along comes nefarious pirate Peter Easton. He steals your catch and forces you aboard his ship. Because he’s a pirate, and this is what pirates do, he makes you walk the plank.

Naturally, you don’t want to, but he pokes you with his sword, hard enough to draw blood. His crew laughs and cheers as you slowly move along the plank.

You realize you have a big problem. Because you are a rational human being, your mind searches for a solution. But there is no solution. There is no way to escape, and no way to solve the dilemma. As much as you wish there was a “solution,” there isn’t one.

There are only choices, and they are limited to two: you can die by sea, or you can die by sword.

Don’t believe any proposed “solution” to the Muskrat Falls debt. The $12.7-billion must be paid. The real issue is the method Newfoundlanders will collectively choose in order to pay it.

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at

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