How the Muskrat may save the world


Is it just me, or are there oth­ers of you out there start­ing to ex­pe­ri­ence some doubts about the de­vel­op­ment of the Muskrat Falls hy­dro pro­ject?

I ad­mit openly that I have never taken a course in eco­nom­ics. That said, I have ob­served with in­ter­est the his­tor­i­cal back­ground that led the Wil­liams’ gov­ern­ment to em­bark on this en­ter­prise.

First, it was a two-part Lower Churchill pro­ject cor­ner­stoned by the larger Gull Is­land de­vel­op­ment. Then it was pared back to con­sist of just Muskrat Fal ls. Tax­pay­ers were as­sured that Muskrat alone would be prof­itable, a change from the hype that ac­com­pa­nied the orig­i­nal pitch. If you say so.

But we have to go still far­ther back to truly un­der­stand the rea­son­ing be­hind the key sup­posed to un­lock our en­ergy in­de­pen­dence, our fu­ture pros­per­ity and stick it to Que­bec, all at the same time.

Rea­son No. 1 was to en­able the for­mer premier to right the wrong of the Up­per Churchill, widely per­ceived as the most fa­mous in­sult to the pride of New­found­land and Labrador, un­til Stephen Harper came along. The Churchill deal was wrong, but what if the Muskrat deal turns out to be wrong too?

Ev­ery­body knows what two wrongs don’t make.

As I say, my knowl­edge of eco­nom­ics is less than ex­ten­sive, but I suspect that when the peo­ple of this prov­ince un­der­stand that we will be pay­ing nearly twice the price for Muskrat power that Nova Sco­tians are, they may con­clude that his­tory is re­peat­ing it­self.

A hy­dro pro­ject named af­ter a small furry ro­dent best known as a provider of stylish women’s win­ter coats could get us into trou­ble with an­i­mal rights ac­tivists, but let’s not worry about that now. If we go back far enough, we may find ev­i­dence that this lit­tle crit­ter can in­deed fur­nish just the inspiration we need to find our sal­va­tion.

Many na­tive peo­ple in North Amer­ica have le­gends de­scrib­ing the re­cre­ation of Earth af­ter flood­wa­ters sub­merged the en­tire globe, dur­ing that un­for­tu­nate damp pe­riod that made Noah so fa­mous as the first zookeeper afloat.

In the Ojib­way ver­sion, all the an­i­mals in turn try to dive down to the bot­tom of the sea to bring up some earth from the bot­tom to the sur­face. From this, other an­i­mals, cling­ing to a float­ing log, hope to fash­ion a small is­land and ex­pand upon it un­til there is enough dry land for the world to start over again.

Mahng, the loon, Zhing-gi-biss, the hell-diver, Zhon-gwayzh, the mink and Mi-zhee-kay the turtle, all try. In their turn, each an­i­mal re­mains un­der­wa­ter longer than the pre­vi­ous one, then each re­gains the sur­face empty-handed, more ex­hausted than the one be­fore.

When lit­tle Wa-zhushk, the muskrat, whispers that he will try; the other an­i­mals laugh. We are big­ger and stronger than you, they jeer. We know you can fur­nish win­ter coats to stylish women, but how can you hope to bring up mud from the bot­tom when all the oth­ers have failed.

I will try my best, says the lit­tle ro­dent, slid­ing from the log and dis­ap­pear­ing into the depths. The other an­i­mals wait and wait. Af­ter a long while, they agree that the Muskrat must have died. But sud­denly some­one spots him float­ing to­ward the sur­face. Sure enough, it is true, he has ex­pired, but a sharp-eyed crow spots some­thing in his tightly-clenched paw.

Gen­tly, the an­i­mals pull open the lit­tle claws and find a small ball of earth in­side. They be­gin to knead it and roll it out. It grows big­ger, longer and wider, and even­tu­ally be­comes the shape and then the size of the con­ti­nent of North Amer­ica.

Per­haps the Muskrat has a role to play in our mod­ern-day le­gend. Maybe he can save this place, by lift­ing our heads above have-not sta­tus af­ter the dev­as­tat­ing years of drown­ing in want, pushed un­der again and again by ex­ploita­tion.

What the Muskrat has to of­fer is wanted by oth­ers. If he can send it south to the ter­ri­tory fa­mous for the chok­ing of her­ring and from there still fur­ther south to the realm of the ea­gle, the puffins here on this is­land may not no­tice that the muskrat is treat­ing his neigh­bours less well than other an­i­mals who live away.

Ac­cord­ing to le­gend, it is said this has hap­pened be­fore.

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