I always enjoy a good debate with the knowledgable and gregarious host of the VOCM Backtalk radio show - Paddy Daly. Paddy admits to reading this blog on a fairly regular basis, and I certainly listen to his show daily. Today the big debate was a referendum on the proposed Muskrat Falls project.
His first question to me via twitter today: " Was the last general election a referendum on MF (Muskrat Falls)?"
My answer to that was, quite frankly, no. You may recall during the election that the only dollar figures available on the Muskrat Falls project were the DG2 (decision gate 2 ) numbers provided by Nalcor. Unfortunately, DG2 numbers were based on a project definition of 5-10%. In other words, the $6.2 billion projected at the time was one hell of a ballpark figure. The public were confused, and the opposition, official and unofficial, ridiculed the numbers to the point the government was on the permanent defensive. As a result, the public chose not to make Muskrat Falls a re-election criteria, and instead it focused on the economy and a sudden influx of new fire trucks to small, rural communities. The media also chose to dismiss Muskrat Falls as a serious election issue, and instead focused primarily on the fall of the provincial Liberal Party in the polls and the race for second place. Under those circumstances, there was no chance to have the provincial election act as a referendum on Muskrat Falls.
Of course, the fact that the PC Party gained a majority, albeit reduced, certainly gives it the legal right to act unilaterally and force the project through - as it did with Bill 29. The problem is, as they found out with the political fallout from Bill 29, these things eat your political capital faster than a starved man feasting on a steak. The all important high ground, or moral high ground as some refer to it, falls just as quickly. Without the high ground the government loses the ability to legislate and certainly dooms its re-election. Normally given such a scenario the many backbenchers, and some ambitious cabinet ministers, would apply enough internal pressure to halt such a proposal. However, this is Muskrat Falls. Logic is not a word that one could apply to this government's approach. For instance, there is Natural Resource Minister Kennedy's comments on buying power from Hydro Quebec as an alternative to Muskrat Falls:
"So we could be buying power from Quebec that is generated in Labrador. There is something immoral about that, but unfortunately, as the current power contract currently exists, it is not illegal."
Minister Kennedy has a perverse definition of "immoral" considering most people would consider not purchasing power at say five cents a KW from Hydro Quebec in favour of power that will cost 20-30 a KW from Muskrat Falls as immoral if there is a cheaper alternative. The source of that power is really quite irrelevant to most people. This is just one of many examples of the lack of logic that is rampant in this government's approach.
Paddy then has this to say:
" I would be surprised if the majority of NLers wanted a referendum on MF."
Tough one to argue. On the one hand Paddy has no proof to back up his assertion, and on the other hand I have no evidence they do. That being said, what logical person could be upset at the prospect of being able to exercise their democratic right, on a clear question, regarding a serious financial matter that will single handedly shape the financial future for generations?
If elections were enough to give a government the right to do as it pleased we would have never witnessed a referendum in this country. We have had separatist governments in Quebec elected with the known sole goal of splitting the country up. Was their election a referendum on separatism, and their victory an instant endorsement of that goal? No. They held a referendum, and lost. The government of PEI held a referendum on the fixed link. The BC government held a referendum on the HST. The New Dawn Agreement had to be appoved by a majority of the aboriginal community in the one and only referendum on Muskrat Falls to date.
So Paddy ol b'y, an election is an election, but a referendum is the way we must go on Muskrat Falls.
Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)