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It is the season for lists. In addition to the annual Christmas gift list and wish list, and — in a few weeks’ time — the perennially hopeful list of New Year’s resolutions, Newfoundlanders should make a fourth list: “What Muskrat Falls stole from me.”
Mind you, don’t bother if you are among the gullible crowd who believe Premier Dwight Ball’s declaration that “rate mitigation” will magically prevent Newfoundlanders from having to pay for the dam they built.
Apparently, the premier plans to shimmy down your chimney with Santa.
No matter how you unwrap it, there are only two sources of money to pay for the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project: power bills and taxes.
Ball won’t admit this. He has a workshop full of Liberal elves creating propaganda and obfuscation to convince Newfoundlanders they won’t have to pay.
The elf who invented the fantastical “$200 million from the federal government every year” reportedly received a reward — half a day off and lunch with Rudolf.
Despite Ball’s assurances Newfoundlanders won’t be burdened with bills for Muskrat Falls, his Liberal pal in Ottawa has been hesitant to promise federal dollars in support of the premier’s plan.
There has not been, nor will there be, a $200-million-per-year gift from Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.
This doesn’t necessarily make Trudeau a Grinch. It makes him aware that other Canadians won’t be happy about paying for a mistake freely made by Newfoundlanders.
Just because you really, really, really don’t want to pay a doubled power bill doesn’t mean you can’t pay it.
But I digress.
About your list — it need not be long, just a few major things Muskrat Falls stole from you, and perhaps a handful of secondary items, stocking stuffers.
Money is the obvious and easy answer. To put it into perspective, translate that money — $4,000 or $6,000 or $8,000 per year, as the case may be when power rates double — into what you would have spent it on.
I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago. Some readers misinterpreted the economic concept of “opportunity cost,” and accused me of being “elitist” if I could afford to take a holiday in Italy every couple of years.
I can’t afford to take a holiday in Italy every couple of years. That is precisely the point. It is No. 1 on my list of what Muskrat Falls stole from me.
Our household income is pretty much the Newfoundland average. (Sorry, Boss, but columnizing demands honesty.) When Muskrat Falls juice begins to flow, and power bills double, we will be able to pay it. We won’t like it, not one itty bit, even less than the Grinch liked Christmas, but pay it we will.
This is an aspect of the Muskrat Falls disaster that most people won’t admit, and which Ball and his Liberals take advantage of.
Anyone with an average income should be able to pay their Muskrat Falls power bill. Even people with slightly less than an average income should be able to pay it.
Don’t let Ball’s propaganda confuse your thinking. Just because you really, really, really don’t want to pay a doubled power bill doesn’t mean you can’t pay it.
Which brings us back to the list.
Your kids want to go to Dalhousie, or McGill? They’ll have to go to Memorial instead. Put that down as something big that Muskrat Falls stole from you.
That new car you get every four years? Stolen.
An annual winter holiday in Cuba or Mexico or the Dominican? Stolen.
That new house you dreamed of? Stolen.
House almost paid off? Too bad. Renegotiate your mortgage and extend the amortization. Stolen: years of mortgage-free living.
Can’t afford your rent anymore? Find a smaller place.
Aiming to be debt-free before you retire? Stolen.
As you move down your list, the stolen items will get smaller. Expenditures on groceries and entertainment will have to be cut.
Heaven forbid, you might have to give up your cellphone or big-screen TV or — gasp! — cable or Netflix.
Any funds the government puts into “rate mitigation” will have to be recouped in higher taxes — in which case Muskrat Falls will still have stolen from you — or in cutbacks to public services.
The latter won’t bother people who don’t mind sitting in emergency for six hours before seeing a doctor, or sending their children to schools that have crumbling walls.
It’s such a wonderful time of year. If you can’t bear to face the facts of Muskrat Falls, go ahead and wish Santa would bring you the gift of a bailout.
Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at email@example.com.