Never mind campaign promises — show us the plan
During the recent campaign launch for the Liberal candidate in the district of Windsor Lake, Premier Dwight Ball caught us all off guard with his revelation that neither ratepayers nor taxpayers will be burdened with the costs of the Muskrat Falls project.
Now as a ratepayer, a taxpayer and someone who regrettably voted for this mess, albeit at a cost of $6.2 billion (plus financing) versus the current $12.7-billion price tag, I, like all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, am thrilled to hear this.
Here’s the problem though. When asked by media in attendance at the event, the premier was either unable or unwilling to provide an explanation as to how exactly he plans on pulling off this miracle. He simply spouted some vague political talking points about engaging with the federal government, “finding” new revenues, exploring all options, blah, blah, blah.
Common sense tells us that if the costs will not be borne by ratepayers and taxes will not be raised, then unless the premier has found some magic beans and is growing money trees at the back of the Confederation Building, the money will have to come from an alternate source.
So what is in the works behind the scenes that we are not being told about? Could there be negotiations ongoing with Quebec? Could our government be contemplating privatization of Nalcor? I mean it wasn’t that long ago that a representative of Fortis indicated that they may be open to obtaining additional transmission assets. Could that be the real reason why the government is removing the oil and gas division from Nalcor? Could Emera be involved in this somehow?
Of course, the other possibility is that the announcement was nothing more than a feeble attempt to take the pressure off government as it relates to the impending power rate hikes. I mean, public protests outside the Public Utilities Board, and the ongoing media coverage associated to same, is certainly not what government wants happening during a byelection, is it?
We must also bear in mind that there have been many political promises made and subsequently broken by successive governments of all stripes over the years. Look no further than the 2015 provincial and federal elections which promised a cancellation of the two per cent HST increase and proportional representation, respectively. We all know what happened there. So what makes this announcement, devoid of any concrete details, any different?
As I’ve indicated in previous opinion pieces, if you were to ask the average person in this province what keeps them up at night, most would say the cost of living in a high tax environment and figuring out how they will afford to keep the lights on. So while on face value this announcement is a great relief, until such time as a detailed plan is presented to the public for consideration, this revelation should be treated as nothing more than political rhetoric.
I therefore encourage those who have taken up the cause of fighting rate increases on our behalf to remain vigilant and continue to demand that government provide the people of Newfoundland and Labrador with a plan. Anything short of that simply doesn’t pass the smell test.