For a lot of the presentation, Liberal Opposition Leader Dwight Ball spoke to the Springdale and Area Chamber of Commerce at a luncheon on Friday about the specifics surrounding Muskrat Falls and the proposed multi-billion dollar project the Dunderdale Government and their energy partner, Nalcor, have been pushing for the past months.
However, at the root, though, it seems like Ball was trying to deliver a message on the state of Newfoundland and Labrador as a whole – and where he sees the future of the province with or without what he calls the biggest undertaking we’ve ever had in our long history.
“Whoever thinks Muskrat falls is going to replace oil, is wrong,” he told the group gathered. “Muskrat Falls could never be a replacement for what we’re getting from oil revenues right now.”
Charts and graphs on slides behind Ball seemed to back up what he said, as he showed how the economy of the province is stacked up, based on the offshore revenues its currently raking in.
“We reached our peak in 2008, and most people agree that time is now gone, and we won’t see numbers like that again,” he explained. Since the Provincial budget, markets have shown that the price of oil is performing lower than the province forecasted, which, Ball says, is an indication the days of wealth from oil are almost numbered.
“The day the Provincial budget came down, oil was less than $100 dollars a barrel,” he said. That very budget is based on predications that the price would be at least $120 dollars a barrel for most of this fiscal year.
Also explained was the current rate the debt is being paid down – which took a steep dip a couple years ago, but has evened out in the past couple of years.
Ball says with proof like this that the province isn’t out of the woods yet when it comes to its current $8 billion dollar debt, now is not the time to be taking on such a huge project as Muskrat falls.
The leader feels Muskrat falls is a good project, but it lacks in some key areas.
Using a diagram of where the transmission line will run, Ball says the province’s agreement with Emera, Nova Scotia’s energy company is flawed.
“We will own 75% of the power flowing through that line,” he explained, “and Emera will own 25%. What I have a problem with, and I will always have a problem with this, is that we take on the responsibility of all overruns of the cost of building that line – but, we still only own 75 per cent.”
Ball says it’s nearly impossible to determine how much the Muskrat Falls project could potentially be over budget, but whatever it is, Newfoundland and Labrador will foot the bill – potentially making it even longer before the province sees a return on its investment.
“I think one of the biggest problems is that this stuff is often times presented in a way much too complicated for the average Newfoundlander to understand,” he said after the presentation was complete. “What we’re trying to do is get the facts out there in a clear way, so people can know what we’re getting ourselves into.”
Ball says the Government needs to really evaluate the future stability of the province and ensure what they enter into isn’t going to hurt future generations.
“If I were Premier today, I would make sure the projects and things we do as a Government are sound, solid, and sustainable,” he said. “Newfoundland has an amazing future in our young people, and we need to make sure that the province they live in isn’t one they can’t handle.”
Ball concluded that his biggest issue with how Government is handling the Muskrat issue, though, is that he feels all other options should be looked at before committing to the project.
When asked if, in his opinion, that has been done, his answer was simple: