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BRIAN JONES: Muskrat Falls supporters: cry me a river

The Muskrat Falls Inquiry heard testimony Friday about the federal loan guarantee for the project. — Telegram file photo
Telegram file photo - Ashley Fitzpatrick

The world continues to amaze and astound. The perennially No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide get slaughtered in the NCAA football championship game. Frenchmen set up barricades in downtown Paris, in 2019 as in 1789. And some people still support, defend and justify the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.

News flash: the Newfoundland and Labrador government is spending $33.7 million to hold the Commission of Inquiry Respecting the Muskrat Falls Project. Granted, it is a Liberal political ploy to gain re-election later this year, but such a machination wouldn’t have been possible were Muskrat Falls not such an obvious financial blunder.

Or “boondoggle,” the favoured description.

Anyone who still thinks there is anything good about the Muskrat Falls project should immediately be asked, “If that is true, why is there a public inquiry?”

Former premiers Danny Williams and Kathy Dunderdale, and former Nalcor Energy president and CEO Ed Martin, testified at the inquiry, and all three still say, despite massive evidence to the contrary, the Muskrat Falls project will benefit the province and ratepayers.

Such claims are based on fantasy, possibly on self-affirming delusion, but not on facts. People’s power bills will double in the next couple of years. You don’t need to be an economics major or a student of Wade Locke’s to recognize the damage this will do to Newfoundland’s economy.

Not to worry, Martin testified at the inquiry, those doubled power bills will bring billions in revenue to the provincial government. The sheer stupidity of such a statement brings to mind the saying, “laughing through your tears.”

Martin, Williams and Dunderdale were oblivious to the fact — among others — that if the Muskrat Falls project is indeed projected to have such positive results, spending $33.7 million to hold a public inquiry about it amounts to a N----- (and Labrador) joke.

But never mind those three. They will keep thundering until the economy crumbles. What is even more astounding is that some citizens still agree with them.

Opponents of the Muskrat Falls project have been subjected to scorn and derision for a decade. You would think that in 2019, with most criticisms of the project proven to be accurate, Muskrat Falls supporters would be too embarrassed to chide those who knew better. But no.

People’s power bills will double in the next couple of years. You don’t need to be an economics major or a student of Wade Locke’s to recognize the damage this will do to Newfoundland’s economy.

“Your anti-Muskrat bleating is getting old,” begins an email I received regarding last week’s column (“A New Year’s resolution for Newfoundland and Labrador”).

He is right, in one sense. It is old. It began in 2011, more than a year before the project was approved — “sanctioned,” in the jargon of the day.

The “bleating” accusation is less accurate. If by that he means discussion and debate, he better get used to it, because Newfoundlanders are going to argue about Muskrat Falls for the next 20 years.

Why not the next 50 years? Because long before the unneeded monstrosity is paid off, economic realities will make it apparent to even the dullest Newfoundlander that it is more advantageous to shut the thing down, eat the debt and start using more affordable power sources.

Speaking of which, “You offer no credible solution to the Holyrood plant and N.L.’s power requirements.”

Busted. I didn’t. But that was because last week’s column was specifically about the reasons voters should give both the Liberals and Tories a one-way ticket to the political wilderness in this year’s provincial election.

As for alternative power sources that could have been considered instead of approving Muskrat Falls, but weren’t, there are plenty that have been suggested by observers who have more credibility than Martin, Williams, Dunderdale, et al.

Among them: conservation; purchasing electricity from Hydro-Québec; natural gas; wind power; tidal power; thermal power; and yes, modifying the Holyrood generating station.

But never mind the facts. They’ve been ignored since at least 2009, so all you Muskrat Falls supporters, more power to you, so to speak.

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


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