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Canada Jackson Doughart: Why is the rest of Canada bailing out Newfoundland?

16:15  18 february  2020
16:15  18 february  2020 Source:   nationalpost.com

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Share this story. Jackson Doughart : Why Maritimers mistrust outsiders. Unlike other regions of Canada , the Maritimes have not had an economic boom since Confederation. Instead, advances in living standards have occurred through subsidies and transfers from the rest of the country.

Share this story. Jackson Doughart : Official bilingualism is absurd, but not because French is too hard to learn. As McCullough rightly notes, it’s pretty rich for those who are “born bilingual” to insinuate that the rest of the country could achieve fluency with a bit more self-discipline, when this quality has

a pile of snow next to a building: The construction site of the hydroelectric facility at Muskrat Falls, N.L., is seen in 2015.© Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press The construction site of the hydroelectric facility at Muskrat Falls, N.L., is seen in 2015.

Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not necessarily represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

The federal government is coming to the rescue of Newfoundland and Labrador’s hydroelectric megaproject at Muskrat Falls, a decade after it was started and later endorsed, through a pair of loan guarantees, by Ottawa itself. It’s been an appalling case of politicized economic development that deserves protest from Canadian taxpayers, who are being asked to save an ill-conceived venture.

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Jackson Doughart , a researcher with the Atlantic Institute of Market Studies, says the right-leaning think-tank is opposed to eliminating tuition across the board -- but targeting assistance for those in need is a good idea. "Generally, those at the lower end of socio-economic status are the ones who do

Even now, when the rest of Canada celebrates the founding of the country on July 1, many Newfoundlanders take part in solemn ceremonies Joseph Smallwood signing the document bringing Newfoundland into Confederation. Newfoundland and Labrador is the youngest province in Canada .

The exact details of the bailout haven’t yet been released. But Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan, the MP for St. John’s South—Mount Pearl, is pledging more federal help for a project that’s been plagued by delays and will cost more than double the original estimate.

The current price tag is about $13 billion for the dam, transmission lines and interest charges, in a province of only half a million people. Muskrat Falls hasn’t produced a watt of power 10 years on, has been badly managed and may never be profitable.

For years, it’s been conventionally accepted that the only way out of this mess is federal financial aid. And so, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government, having already extended access to more cheap debt to keep the project alive, is stepping up once again.

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Here's an overview of why French is spoken throughout Canada , and predominantly in Quebec. He reached the shores of Newfoundland and what are now Canada ’s Maritime Provinces, and mapped Importantly, Cartier was the first to use the name “ Canada ” to refer to the lands that he had explored

English Canada , sometimes known as the Rest of Canada (excluding Quebec) when considering topics of language. Saskatchewan and Alberta were created out of land that had been part of Northwest Territories. Prior to its entry, Newfoundland was a Dominion within the British

But why now? The timing certainly seems influenced by the provincial government’s urgent hunt for “rate mitigation,” in light of news that power costs will soar next year to 23 cents a kilowatt hour, from 13.5 cents today. Rate mitigation is lingo for finding a way to pay for Muskrat Falls that bypasses customers.

There is a dark irony here. It was domestic and export markets for hydropower that supposedly made Muskrat Falls a worthy investment in the first place. Having consumers pay for this project could end up tanking the Newfoundland economy, which is perhaps the biggest judgment of all on the politicians who advocated it.

So is Ottawa right to step in and, with our tax money and AAA national credit rating, send more good money after bad? Not if it doesn’t force Newfoundland to first reckon with its mistake of taking on Muskrat Falls and its excessive public-sector spending.

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Canada is a country in the northern part of North America. Its ten provinces and three territories extend from the Atlantic to the Pacific and northward into the Arctic Ocean

The Banks of Newfoundland photographed on the Avalon Peninsula the summer of 2003.

A bailout without heavy strings attached would reward a province that ignored credible warnings about the project’s bad economics. That the feds share part of the blame for lending their imprimatur to Muskrat Falls isn’t reason to keep digging a deeper hole.

Seamus O'Regan wearing a suit and tie standing in front of a crowd:  Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan speaks in the House of Commons on Dec. 10, 2019.© Adrian Wyld/The Canadian press Natural Resources Minister Seamus O’Regan speaks in the House of Commons on Dec. 10, 2019.

But it’s not just about giving away federal money for irresponsible provincial policy — we must also question who benefits. Sudden steep rate hikes would be a shock, but Newfoundlanders aren’t the only Canadians contending with rising electricity prices. Why should they receive federal subsidies (likely to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars each year) to offset their rates? And why should Nova Scotia, the chief export client for Muskrat Falls, benefit from subsidies at the expense of the national taxpayer?

Bailing out Newfoundland sets a worrying precedent. That’s because this story isn’t only about Muskrat Falls, but also its impact on an over-leveraged government that’s careening toward a fiscal cliff. The province has the highest per capita public debt in the country and its small population provides the sole prospect for rescuing it. But if Newfoundland can be bailed out, why not New Brunswick? And if New Brunswick, why not Manitoba? These are serious questions.

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Canadians living in Ontario and Quebec, which have their own debt problems, would be right to ask why their federal taxes should prop up small provinces merely because it’s mathematically possible. There won’t be anyone to bail out Ontario, the world’s largest sub-national borrower, so why should Ontarians bail out others?

More important is the Newfoundland government’s unwillingness to take ownership for its fiscal irresponsibility — not only on Muskrat Falls, but also a decade and a half of massive government spending.

The province’s windfall of oil revenues between the mid-2000s and the oil price collapse in 2014 should have been put toward long-term fiscal sustainability. Instead, royalties financed public outlays that became unsustainable the moment the boom was over. Even after accounting for inflation, from 2005 to 2014, per capita government spending grew to $14,912 from $11,536, a 29 per cent increase. It was during this abundant period that the bright idea of Muskrat Falls was put to the people with resounding support.

Expenditures kept rising after 2014, despite collapsing revenues. The province has spent nearly $6 billion more than it’s taken in over the past five years and doesn’t plan to balance the budget until 2022-23. Real net debt since 2014 has swelled by more than $8,000 per person. If this is austerity, it would be interesting to know what turning on the taps looks like.

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The province’s public utilities board has calculated that the government would have to spend about $620 million every year to avoid rate hikes through subsidies. Can Newfoundland afford it without federal help? Well, consider that if the government had chosen to spend at the national average relative to population over the past five years, it would have by now saved $12 billion and accumulated more than $6 billion in budget surpluses. And in case you think that would be a wild reduction, the national average of per-person provincial spending today is about what Newfoundland was spending 10 years ago in the middle of the boom. It’s not unrealistic.

And yet here we sit, with Newfoundland having run a money’s-no-object government for years, only to now be running out of money and objects. Muskrat Falls is of a piece with what’s gone horribly wrong on the Rock. Unless Newfoundlanders are willing to rein in government spending, the rest of Canada should not rush to help them fix it.

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