18 October 2016

The War of the Flea Circus #nlpoli

Muskrat Falls has become a three-ring flea circus.

In the first ring, we have the political ambulance chasers, a.k.a. Maudie Barlow and the Council of Xenophobes. The Safari Saviours rolled into town last week, issued a fill-in-the-blanks news release, and then frigged off having successfully tutted a few tuts and gained the media coverage they wanted,.

They, at least, want to end the project, which is more than you can say for the folks staging all sorts of protests here and there.  The folks in the third ring are likely the majority of folks in the province. They want Muskrat Falls finished,  no matter what the cost.  The only difference between Gil Bennett and Bill Gauthier is that Gil actually wants to spend less public money on a project that never made any sense at all.

In the centre ring of the circus we have the province's New Democrats and the self-described "progressive" white folks in the south.  The Dippers sent a letter to the Premier on Monday demanding that he open the House of Assembly "forthwith" in order to give the circus a bigger stage.  Make no mistake,  the Dippers don;t want to stop the project either.  They just want to slow things down a bit.  The NDP, like the Liberals and Conservatives and the overwhelming majority of people in the province want Muskrat Falls at any cost.

The Dippers, like some others, just want you to think they are against the project.  That is the flea in our flea circus.

And that, of course, is the flea in our circus.  It is the thing people insist is there  even when it obviously is not.

Anyone paying attention to what is happening in the province knows that these protests are *about* Muskrat Falls, not *against* the multi-billion dollar boondoggle. You can tell they don't really want to end the project because they use such extreme words to describe their largely imaginary plight. They talk of poisoning people, of ruining ways of life, or perpetrating a cultural genocide, or  of the way they have to protest because democracy has failed.  This is a perfect example of the Rule of Opposites. People say one thing but the truth is exactly the opposite.

Democracy has not failed at all.  Muskrat Falls is a perfect example of how democracy works in this province.  The vast majority of the people in the province support this project,  including the majority of the current crop of protesters.   Therefore, all three political parties support Muskrat Falls.  it is that simple. Most just want modest adjustments made in it.  The parties reflect their view.  That is why the Liberals and New Democrats, for example,  merely want to have more “oversight” of the project but will not dare even mention shutting the whole thing down, permanently except to say it is not possible. 

Make no mistake. Methylmercury is one of the environmental hazards the project will bring.  But it is not a new issue, not by a long shot.  And every single major group that is manning the barricades today has previous accepted to one degree or another Nalcor's plans to deal with methylemercury. Environmental reviews of the project identified methylmercury as an issue from the outset. The original joint environmental review recommended - at best - a pilot project on vegetation but put the bulk of its faith in monitoring methylmercury levels.  

Stripping away all the vegetation won't halt production of methylmercury once the Muskrat reservoir is built.  Make a dam.  Get methylmercury.  That's the simple two-step process. The only way to eliminate the risk from methylmercury on the Lower Churchill completely is not to build Muskrat Falls in the first place. That's where the environmental logic would lead you if you believe - deeply, in your heart - that this dam project will kill thousands of people and destroy their way of life.  If protecting aboriginal people is really your goal, then halting Muskrat Falls would be your only logical option.  There simply is no reason to reach some agreement among four or five groups, as the NDP would have it.  If Muskrat Falls is that big an environmental issue, then the only answer is to shut it down.  Period.

No one is interested in that because there's too much money to be made by keeping the boondoggle going.  Clearing vegetation extends the make-work for another few years and brings the prospect of even more "compensation."  In fact, when it comes for reasons to halt Muskrat Falls, there are many that are far bigger and easier to see than methylmercury. The most obvious one is that - using Nalcor's own information - the project just won't work to produce electricity when we need it because Nalcor doesn't control water flows on the river. Hydro-Quebec does.  Thing doesn't work.  Don't build it. Boom.  That simple.  We can't afford it or, as the variation on the theme goes,  the thing isn't the lowest cost option for supplying electricity?  Yep.  Another really simple and obvious reason to halt Muskrat Falls.

And for the one the Dippers won't even hear:  the only folks paying for this mess are the folks in Newfoundland and Labrador.  This is a province where half the people make less than $30,000 a year in salary before taxes.  They are the folks expected to pay for a project that doesn't work.  If the NDP wanted to have a real speech in the House of Assembly, someone should ask the Dippers why they want the people on Flower Hill and in Flower's Cove to pay through the nose so that multinational companies can get a break on electricity prices.

None of that matters because the majority of people in the province support finishing Muskrat Falls. The fact that the majority believe things that aren't even true is also irrelevant.  The majority of people support it.  All three parties support it. No coincidence. The three political parties support Muskrat Falls not because it is right, but because it is popular. That is the iron law of politics in Newfoundland and Labrador. If something or someone is popular, the politicians back it.   No questions asked.

The delicious irony of this war of the flea circus is that victory is as fictional as everything else. The only way to win was not to play in the first place.  And since no one is interested in stopping the boondoggle, you can only vary when the fish down river from the project will be contaminated not if they will be.  You can only vary how many billions the project would cost when we are already 100% over budget with every chance it will go to 200% before it is done.