How the Muskrat may save the world
Is it just me, or are there others of you out there starting to experience some doubts about the development of the Muskrat Falls hydro project?
I admit openly that I have never taken a course in economics. That said, I have observed with interest the historical background that led the provincial government under Danny Williams to embark on this enterprise.
First, it was a two-part Lower Churchill project cornerstoned by the larger Gull Island development. Then it was pared back to consist of just Muskrat Falls. Taxpayers were assured that Muskrat alone would be profitable, a change from the hype that accompanied the original pitch. If you say so.
But we have to go still farther back to truly understand the reasoning behind the key supposed to unlock our energy independence, our future prosperity, and stick it to Quebec, all at the same time.
The first reason was to enable the former premier to right the wrong of the Upper Churchill, widely perceived as the most famous insult to the pride of Newfoundland and Labrador until Stephen Harper came along. The Churchill deal was wrong, but what if the Muskrat deal turns out to be wrong too?
Everybody knows what two wrongs don’t make.
As I say, my knowledge of economics is less than extensive, but I suspect that when the people of this province understand that we will be paying nearly twice the price for Muskrat power that Nova Scotians are, they make conclude that this is a case of déjà-vu all over again.
A hydro project named after a small, furry rodent best known as a provider of stylish women’s winter coats could get us into trouble with animal rights activists, but let’s not worry about that now. If we go back far enough, we may find evidence that this little critter can indeed furnish just the inspiration we need to find our salvation.
Many native people in North America have legends describing the re-creation of Earth, after floodwaters submerged the entire globe, during that unfortunate damp period that made Noah so famous as the first zookeeper afloat.
In the Ojibway version, all the animals in turn try to dive down to the bottom of the sea to bring up some earth from the bottom to the surface. From this, other animals, clinging to a floating log, hope to fashion a small island and expand upon it until there is enough dry land for the world to start over again.
Mahng, the loon, Zhing-gi-biss, the helldiver, Zhon-gwayzh, the mink, and Mi-zhee-kay, the turtle, all try. In their turn, each animal remains underwater longer than the previous one. Then each regains the surface empty-handed, more exhausted than the one before.
When little Wa-zhushk, the muskrat, whispers that he will try, the other animals laugh and jeer.
“We are bigger and stronger than you. We know you can furnish winter coats to stylish women, but how can you hope to bring up mud from the bottom when all the others have failed?”
Sliding from the log and disappearing into the depths, the little rodent says he will try his best.
The other animals wait and wait. After a long while, they agree that the muskrat must have died, but suddenly someone spots him floating toward the surface. Sure enough it is true, he has expired, but a sharp-eyed crow spots something in his tightly-clenched paw.
Gently, the animals pull open the little claws and find a small ball of earth inside. They begin to knead it and roll it out. It grows bigger, longer and wider, eventually becoming the shape and then the size of the continent of North America.
Perhaps the Muskrat has a role to play in our modern-day legend. Maybe he can save this place by lifting our heads above have-not status, after the devastating years of drowning in want, pushed under again and again by exploitation.
What the Muskrat has to offer is wanted by others. If he can send it south to the territory famous for the choking of herring and from there still further south to the realm of the eagle, the puffins here on this island may not notice that the Muskrat is treating his neighbours less well than other animals who live away.
According to legend, it is said this has happened before.