Remember, you asked for it

Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

H. L. Mencken

Some columnists start their columns with a learned or flowery quote, so this week I thought I’d give it a try. Mencken, a 20th century American writer, philosopher, journalist, and humourist may not have realized it, but when he wrote this, he was describing what’s happened to the people of our province regarding Muskrat Falls.

Yes, yes, I know, Muskrat Falls again. I reread what I have already said about the project in these pages and thought I would add a little.

Since government’s announcement on rate mitigation (how I hate that bureaucratic term – maybe readers can come up with something better. Email at the bottom) at lunchtime right before the Victoria Day weekend (not an accident) lots of “experts” have chimed in over the long weekend while sensible people were enjoying that time with family, paying no attention.  Again, not an accident.

The experts tweeted, Facebooked and TikToked their facts and figures. I too could fill this paper on the facts and figures of this boondoggle, but your eyes would, quite rightly, just glaze over. As opposed to your eyes bugging out of your head later when you see your monthly power bill skyrocket. The key word there – as a government strategy – is later. (Rate mitigation meaning kick the can down the road?)

Government says it won’t be as bad as it could have been. But it is bad all the same.

I sat down to write this angry, but truth be told this whole thing makes me sad. Reading the coverage of this I realized despite everything, despite a $16 million-dollar judicial inquiry, despite political promises, you and I are going to have to pay. Big time.

I worked in the House of Assembly during the Muskrat Falls “implementation” and remember it well. The truth is at the time government geared up its communications game, soaked the media with puff pieces on how great a project it was, demonized anyone brave enough to challenge the project, and mocked anyone who questioned them. I know. I was mocked.

The person I worked for was skeptical about the project, and openly said so. Let alone the grief she took from the government benches, her own party pressured her to shut up. The fact of the matter is while it is fashionable now to moan about the ruinous project, when Dunderdale and her cohorts were pushing it through most people thought it was marvellous. Journalists, politicians, union leaders, pundits. Most were onside. Yay Muskrat Falls!

We wanted it, and we got it, good and hard.

Part of government’s plan is to have NL Hydro, which belongs to you and I, cough up all its dividends to pay for this turkey: $740 million a year. That’s our money we won’t get to spend on anything useful. 

Government says our rates will go up 2.25 percent per year. Others, including NL Power, warn it will be way more than that.

Aside from the ruinous cost, the project doesn’t work.

Hydro will have to beef up electricity supply on the Island to ensure we get power if Muskrat Falls fails for any number of reasons. You and I will pay for that as well.

Meanwhile Nova Scotia will be getting Muskrat Falls power for “next to nothing” according to Stan Marshall, a former Nalcor CEO and all-around power wiz. Sound familiar?

I could go on and on, but I won’t, and you probably wouldn’t want me to.

The marketing of Muskrat Falls kind of reminds me of the old Bugs Bunny cartoons. The scene, repeated in many episodes, involves the mark – usually Yosemite Sam, or Elmer Fudd – begging Bugs for what he has behind his back. You and I can see it’s a pie, or a bomb or something nasty. Bugs won’t give it to him. Which drives the mark crazy. He jumps up and down begging him for it. “Give it to me! Come on, I want it! Please?!”

Bugs looks at the audience with a knowing smile and says, “Okay. But remember: you asked for it.”

Ivan Morgan can be reached at ivan.morgan@gmail.com

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