Who can make a silk purse out of a muskrat?

The Gulf News (Port aux Basques) - - Editorial -

So, the new po­lit­i­cal buzz-word is “mit­i­gate.”

Premier Dwight Ball and his ad­min­is­tra­tion, and also Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive Leader Ches Crosbie and his col­leagues, are all work­ing hard to find ways to suit­ably mit­i­gate the eco­nomic hor­ror of the Muskrat boon­dog­gle. And so they must; as the prayer books say, “it is meet and right so to do.”

An elec­tion looms, and the N.L. elec­torate is wait­ing im­pa­tiently to see who may be able to make a silk purse out of a muskrat. Or at least the 300,000 house­hold­ers, ten­ants, in­sti­tu­tions, in­dus­tries and busi­nesses who have to pay their power bills are on edge; the rest of the pop­u­la­tion will only feel the pinch when said busi­ness firms or in­sti­tu­tions raise their own prices to pay for the ex­tra power costs.

But let us not be dis­tracted by the po­lit­i­cal com­pe­ti­tion to mit­i­gate. “Mit­i­gate” is a nice word; it means to “make (wrath, harsh­ness, sever­ity, etc.) less in force or de­gree” (Thorndyke Barn­hart), or to “make some­thing bad less se­vere or se­ri­ous” (Ox­ford). If a vil­lage is swept away by a rag­ing flood and the gov­ern­ment helps the cit­i­zens to re­build, that would be a wel­come mit­i­ga­tion.

But Muskrat Falls is no act of God. So in our grat­i­tude for be­ing re­lieved of the threat (and leg­is­lated obli­ga­tion!) of hav­ing our power bills dou­bled, let us not for­get that the cur­rent calamity shouldn’t have oc­curred in the first place. To steal (and cor­rupt) a phrase from Lewis Car­roll’s “Jab­ber­wocky”: Be­ware the Mit­i­gate, my son! The jaws that bite, the claws that catch!’

Of course we hear that there’s no sense fo­cus­ing on blame and re­venge and all that re­ac­tionary stuff. The thing is built, the lines are up and we’re stuck with it. Hitler is dead, so no sense re­mem­ber­ing the Holo­caust. (Ex­cept, of course, to strive un­ceas­ingly to en­sure that we never re­live tragic his­tory.) And the work of the Com­mis­sion of In­quiry will deal with all the Muskrat rights and wrongs. (Ditto.)

Mean­while, apart from le­gal ar­gu­ments and ques­tions about the dra­co­nian leg­is­la­tion rammed through the House of As­sem­bly (with­out a ref­er­en­dum) by a hand­ful of non- ex­perts in mega-project build­ing which pre­vented the Pub­lic Util­i­ties Board from car­ry­ing out its own watch­dog obli­ga­tions, and as­sured prospec­tive lenders that a por­tion of the N.L. pop­u­la­tion — only those who pay light bills — would guar­an­tee pay­ing off the debt over a period of some 50 years ( which econ­o­mist David Vardy es­ti­mates at $78 bil­lion prin­ci­pal and in­ter­est), the moral ques­tion re­mains. Is it fair?

No­body likes in­creases in liv­ing costs, es­pe­cially those on fixed in­comes. But if the hy­dro-power struc­ture of New­found­land needs new lines or poles or gen­er­at­ing equip­ment af­ter decades of use, then we know that we have to pay a lit­tle more in our power bills to stave off con­tin­u­ing #Dark NLs. But the awe­some tow­ers march­ing down over the Long Range Moun­tains to Sol­diers Pond and thence across the is­land to the gulf are not go­ing to re­place the ad­e­quate power grid that we have. The bulk of the power will be go­ing to Nova Sco­tia for their use, or to be sold as they see fit, with no rev­enue to N.L. for 35 years.

I am a sim­ple man, with a sim­ple mind. But it seems to me that those who will use the power should pay for it. If the Muskrat Falls power is to be in­te­grated into the main­land Cana­dian power pool, then let the users pay for it. And if the gov­ern­ment of Canada wanted to see that power in­te­gra­tion so badly that they guar­an­teed the orig­i­nal loan ( iron­i­cally, with­out which the boon­dog­gle wouldn’t have oc­curred!), then let the fed­eral gov­ern­ment con­trib­ute might­ily in repa­ra­tions for their sins. The only ones who should not be pay­ing the piper are the ones who didn’t call the tune — the be­lea­guered ratepay­ers of N.L. who didn’t need it in the first place, and don’t want it now. It is such a bizarre plight, that I can only turn to poet Car­roll again: “All mimsy were the borogroves, and the mome raths out­grabe”!

Per­haps Ball or Crosbie will un­der­take to cre­ate leg­is­la­tion to “mit­i­gate” such mis­use of po­lit­i­cal power so that we never again have to re­live tragic eco­nomic his­tory.

Or per­haps not. Ed­sel Bon­nell Mount Pearl

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.