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Monday 31 July 2017


If you were disturbed by the Telegram Brian Jones’ “apocalyptic” editorial last week (finally, it seems, ‘mainstream’ meets blogger) which forecasts the inevitable shutdown of Muskrat Falls because it will prove to be too expensive to operate – you will be equally frightened by the fact that the Premier’s assertions around rate mitigation are grounded in ideas that are just as fraudulent as those that brought us this project.  

Of course, JONES IS RIGHT.  But that’s another story.
The province has limited wiggle room to escape the apocalyptic; so it's time to listen up. The smart money should anyway.
As if to prove he doesn’t get it, the Premier promises rate mitigation engaging a Committee which will include Nalcor letting the fakers, possibly fraudsters, extend the deceit that pervades the Muskrat Falls project.

Ball wants us to believe that rates “can’t go above 17%”; that ‘robbing Peter to pay Paul’ has financial merit.

Even the incarceration of Jim Learning, Marjorie Flowers and Eldred Davis three stellar people from Labrador whose concern is for health and safety issues and for the need to get to the bottom of the alleged corruption doesn’t motivate him to do his duty.

When a Premier is so inured to possible malfeasance at a high level that no act of public demonstration will motivate him to change, what is the public to do?

Are they to tolerate his flat-footedness, Ball having calculated that not pissing off Cathy Bennett or Danny Williams is more important than any other consideration?

Muskrat was not the brainchild of this Premier. But he has enabled the debacle.  
Anthony Rockel photo
Ball could have shut down the project when that option made sense two years ago, -when the power house was barely under way. He refused, AND in failing to authorize a Forensic Audit, he has closed the door to the ONLY real option available for rate mitigation. 

That option is to refute the debt on Muskrat Falls altogether and to cancel the reckless deals which Nalcor entered into with Emera.

Any person whether Premier, Finance Minister, Consumer Advocate or construction worker is delusional if they believe that there is another plausible course.

Ball wants us to join with him in a miasma of BS, an entirely rhetorical conversation as if unbridled optimism alone, however unsupported or inane, is enough to find the $400 million suggested to be the number to keep rates below 17 cents per kWh.

And remember, this is not about finding a subsidy for just one year. It will be required every year for decades. (Of course, the $400 million figure is contrived from a false starting point. The project cost will exceed $12.7 billion. And the operating costs will be far higher than even Nalcor's latest ‘stab’ at a number. So, even though $400 million annually is a massive figure, when the final numbers come in, the amount of subsidy needed will be even greater.)

Ball assumes Nalcor possesses secret sources of cash!

Hasn’t the crown corporation already let Emera inject hundreds of millions of dollars into the Labrador Island Link allowing them to earn 8.8% on their money when the Federal Loan Guarantee funding costs only around 2.4%?

Hasn’t the PAYDAY LOAN store already been visited?

Seriously, folks. It is time to stop listening to this Premier.

Ball is engaging in the kind of deceit for which the Tories and Nalcor are infamous. Rate mitigation will require direct funding from taxpayers or from reduced public services. There is simply no magic bullet.

The real truth considering current tax levels, the size of the public debt and the deficit is that the option Ball is really talking about is to grab the money saved from closing segments of rural Newfoundland and from shutting down schools and hospitals throughout the province.

Ball told the Western Star recently:

“The cost of this project will be reflected in the [electricity] rates to Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. My job right now is to manage those rates so we do not put our province in an uncompetitive environment in three to four years out.” 

Ball seems unaware that the damage is done.

The funding necessary to service $12.7 billion, pay back the capital, and operate the project, post-commissioning, is simply too large to mitigate.

Even if the rates are subsidized by $400 million per year, the money is not generated by any wealth creation process. It is, as the Anonymous Engineer has described, “just a transfer of accounts, further increasing the budget shortfall or deficit.”

Put more bluntly, this conversation is not about making electricity rates bearable; it is solely about increasing the dim prospect that the Liberals will survive the next election!

What else should the reader conclude?

I suggest the public should know that a Forensic Audit is needed now, not just to expose the culprits but to establish the legal basis on which the province will inform the bondholders in New York and Canada including the Federal Government that Muskrat Falls is a huge fraud to which they have been (possibly) witting parties.

We need to tell them that we are not paying that they are not getting their money back!

We need to cancel the reckless contracts which Nalcor signed with Emera including the one covering the Nova Scotia Block: the free power. No one should think that Emera is an unwitting party to this mess.

As Cabot Martin wrote on this Blog in June:

Indeed, Cabot Martin’s entire post Deceit, Emera and Muskrat Madness, dealing with the implications of civil fraud in the context of the Muskrat needs to be read by every Newfoundlander and Labradorian.


Yes, the lawsuits that will ensue will constitute the biggest litigation in Canadian history.

But, for our very economic survival, we have to take that approach first, because it is the right one; second, because it is the only one!

We should not pay for an eternity for someone else’s unethical and quite possibly illegal behaviour.

If we let Premier Ball dither on the timing of a Forensic Audit, if we listen to his blather on the mitigation of rates and on making Nalcor pay a morally bankrupt crown corporation, reliant on the taxpayer for its continued survival we will consign ourselves to penury for the next fifty years.

Admittedly, it is a difficult approach. It will be hard for many people to contemplate just as putting Muskrat “on ice” seemed incomprehensible two years ago.

But the public needs to know that repudiating illegally-obtained debt is a sensible concept, because of the overwhelming evidence that fraud underpinned Muskrat sanction.

I suggest that it is time to stop thinking of how hard the idea is to grasp, and start putting your mind around the need to survive the need to be able to afford to ‘live’ here.

That is only one of the reasons a Forensic Audit is essential, but it is an important one. It is the first step to getting this elephant off our collective backs.