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Bob Wakeham: Muskrat Falls madness persists, even now

Construction of the spillway at the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric generating site, June 2015.
Construction of the spillway at the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric generating site, June 2015.

Newfoundland dogs have a reputation of being decidedly friendly, depositing gallons of affectionate drool (indiscriminately), and always anxious to uncover favourable traits in even the most despicable of two-legged companions they might encounter.

Bob Wakeham column

If it were human, the Newfoundland dog’s metaphorical spectacles would certainly be of the rose-coloured variety; it would be a glass-half-full, not a glass-half-empty observer of events; its name could be Pollyanna.

But this human version of the Newfoundland dog would also run the danger of being foolishly naive, wide open to abuse and exploitation, and, at the risk of being unkind here, just downright stunned, a regular cement head.

And this brings me to Muskrat Falls, that multi-billion-dollar white elephant already squatting the Newfoundland economy with its big, fat, boondoggle arse, and destined to do so for decades, wreaking financial havoc on future generations, long after you and I of a certain age are oblivious to its repercussions, having been laid out and cremated at our favourite, least expensive funeral home.

Just this past week or so, CBC’s “On the Go” program aired an interview with a business prof from Carleton University (an item host Ted Blades said prompted a deluge of reaction) who predicted Muskrat Falls will eventually force the federal government into a bailout of Newfoundland, a move to counteract what he said would be “destructive” economic harm inflicted on the people of the province by the hydro project.

And, a few days ago, an energy analyst on one of VOCM’s open-line shows echoed those words of gloom, and also suggested that a bailout would eventually have to take place.

Just a delightful scenario, wouldn’t you say? Commission of Government revisited (and we all know how well that surrender of our independence worked out). Newfoundland, once again unable to handle its financial affairs, heading off, cap in hand, not to Britain this time around, but to Ottawa.  

Here’s your money, might come the response, but keep that saucy mouth of yours shut forever.             

Just rest your weary and docile head, dear little Newfoundland, in Mother Ottawa’s bosom.

It’s enough to make a man overdose on Gravol.

But you have to wonder just how many Newfoundlanders will pay attention to these two, most recent forecasts that Muskrat Falls could ruin whatever economic stability and political autonomy we have left. You have to wonder whether an inexplicably sizable chunk of the population will, instead, blissfully whistle past the graveyard, and continue to adopt the lovable, but gullible and childlike characteristics of that famous dog that carries the Newfoundland name.

Because the latest Corporate Research Associates poll indicates that a shocking percentage of Newfoundlanders still have faith in Muskrat Falls.

Many of the headlines emanating from the poll emphasized that support for Muskrat Falls is diminishing.

But from where I sit, the headline should have been reversed: that an incredible share of people here — 48 per cent, in fact — still actually believe in the project, a figure that just boggles the mind, one that flies in the face of all the information that led Nalcor boss Stan Marshall to agree that Muskrat has been a “boondoggle” from day one.

Could it be that nearly half of the population still praying at the Muskrat Falls altar is largely comprised of those robots who believed that Danny Williams walked on water — the Churchill River even — that he always spoke and acted infallibly, that if he told us Muskrat would help us enter Shangri-La, he was right, and he’s still right?

Just when are they going to realize that their saviour was flawed, that their emperor was wearing no clothes, that his word around the cabinet table, and in caucus, was gospel (in the view of his subservient disciples, including, we should never forget, the likes of Paul Davis and Steve Kent), that he wasn’t to be challenged, even while putting Muskrat Falls on the fast track to the Williams Legacy Station.

Muskrat Falls is Danny Williams’ Upper Churchill contract, his Sprung Greenhouse (at least Sprung mostly haunts Brian Peckford’s reputation, and not our financial stability).

But perhaps these tens of thousands of Newfoundlanders still in support of Muskrat Falls actually believe Stan Marshall can perform a Miracle on the Churchill.

Or that Dwight Ball can find a way to pull us out of this bottomless pit.

Dream on.

Here, b’ys, here b’ys. Have a treat. Roll over. Bow-wow. Lick, lick.


Bob Wakeham has spent more than 40 years as a journalist in Newfoundland and Labrador. He can be reached by email at

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