10 October 2016

Politics as masturbation #nlpoli

"I am warning you.  Don't make me wear my pikachu costume."
Demonstrations at Memorial University and at Nalcor headquarters on Friday show the extent to which Newfoundland politics has become little more than irrelevant stunts staged chiefly for the personal amusement of the folks with the expensive cellphones.

The protesters do not want to stop the project. A few people who turned up *think* that was the goal. But the university students' union representative quoted by the Telegram about aboriginal rights made it plain in her CBC interview she wasn't interested in stopping the multi-billion dollar blunder cum boondoggle. 

Just as well.  The project is basically unstoppable and has been for years. That is also the position of all three political parties in Newfoundland and Labrador:  we cannot afford to let this project stop.

What the "Make Muskrat Right" folks want Nalcor to do, apparently, is clear away organic material before the company floods the small reservoir.  Scientific evidence suggests that wouldn't make a material difference in the potential for creating a methylmercury pollution problem. 

This is as Dwight Ball's staggeringly naive belief that he can somehow manage the utterly insane Muskrat Falls project into making sense. Before anyone snorts in derision at Ball, understand that the provincial NDP took exactly the same position in 2012.  Lorraine Michael told the House of Assembly that she and her colleagues were merely concerned that the government and Nalcor might make some sort of mistake in their haste, as they did with the Fortis expropriation in 2008.   Fundamentally, the NDP, like the Liberals, and the Conservatives stood solidly behind the Muskrat Falls project.

Only the NDP have lately taken to pretending they are opposed to the project, now that there is no way to stop it and - more importantly - because they think there is some political advantage to be had by pretending to oppose Muskrat Falls or to support aboriginal people in something or other.  It's like Earle McCurdy suddenly loving proportional representation when his party said absolutely nothing at all about democratic reform in its 2015 party manifesto. Sanctimonious, self-righteous hypocrites? Maybe. Cynical bastards?  Without a doubt.

The thing about Muskrat Falls is that every single thing people now find problematic about it has been plainly evident from before Danny Williams announced the project to enthusiastic applause in 2010. The joint federal-provincial environmental review found in January 2010 there was no justification of the project based on domestic need. 

Danny Williams and the folks at Nalcor said the project would break Hydro-Quebec's stranglehold on Labrador power. That was a lie. American regulation changed that in the late 1990s. And as for who pays,  Nalcor said from the outset that local taxpayers would cover all the cost plus profit to outside investors. Emera got 35 years of free electricity,  dibs on discounted electricity after that,  and a share of the province's now-privatised transmission grid until close to the end of the century. 

Mining companies and export customers would all get massive discounts on Muskrat Falls power and, in 2012, the provincial government gave Nalcor a monopoly on electricity generation so no one could find the cheaper-than-Muskrat electricity that the folks at Nalcor know exists.  Oh yeah.  That was another lie.  Nalcor insists Muskrat Falls is the lowest cost option for meeting domestic needs.  Not true.  And for good measure, they never examined any alternatives.

The joint environmental review also raised concerns about methylmercury, which is a well-known problem with large hydro projects.  It's one of the reasons why American states never included large hydro in their list of green energy projects when they set rules a decade and more ago for their state energy purchases.  All of this was widely known and publicly reported, just not very much in Newfoundland and Labrador.   The single consistent voice of concern about methylmercury came from the Inuit people of Nunatsiavut but their voices were drowned out by the noise from Muskrat proponents - including all three political parties -  and the weaseling from most everyone else.

So yeah,  folks who were genuinely concerned about Muskrat Falls started opposing the crazy scheme back when they stood a chance of stopping it.  That was the only way to make the project better:  stop it altogether.  

Everything else  - including these recent protests -  is, was, and will always be, some type of masturbation.