Never mind cam­paign prom­ises — show us the plan

The Labradorian - - Editorial - Paul Lane, In­de­pen­dent MHA District of Mount Pearl —South­lands

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.

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