Friday, June 18, 2010

'The real villain'

How do we finally get on with the Churchill?


“I submit that no one in Canada could seriously suggest that we accept as a country and exist as a country in a system under which each province could practically have a right of veto through its province, or even become the sole buyer of that form of energy and resell the surplus to another province at a profit.”

— Marc Lalonde, federal Liberal Minister of Energy, 1980-82.


“This is exactly what the federal government that he (Lalonde) served for many years accepted and forced on Newfoundland.”

— John Crosbie, January 2003.


Not only have I witnessed first hand Québec’s obstruction of the Lower Churchill, I have personally seen that province thwart the noble and sound economic goal of a national energy grid.”

— Premier Danny Williams, June 2010.

•••

Danny Williams or Brian Peckford: who would rank higher on the pissed-off-with-Canada scale?


Danny warred against the PM and his federal Conservative cousins, whom he disowned over the offshore, but then kissed and made up so he could march on Quebec over the Churchill.


That’s pretty ticked off.


But was Brian even more so?


Thirty years ago his Tory administration argued Newfoundland had a constitutional right to transmit electricity through Quebec, the same way oil can be piped between provinces.


Ottawa was asked to intercede, but didn’t.


Which was seen — not for the first time — as political favouritism.


Peckford tried to regain control of the upper Churchill by attempting to take back the water rights, but eventually lost his case in the Supreme Court of Canada.


Now Danny is back to the courts over the Upper Churchill.


Tory times are turbulent times.


As for who would rank higher on the pissed-off-with-Canada scale, the question should be who’s getting us further ahead with the attitude?


Brian fired bullets, as Danny does today, only through the same hole.

•••

Brian was definitely more radical than Danny.


Brian considered flicking the switch on the Upper Churchill.


Shuttin’ ’er down completely.


In a paper prepared for the Peckford cabinet in the early ’80s, entitled Quebec’s Vulnerability to a Total Loss of Power and Energy from Churchill Falls, the “pull-the-plug” option was explored.


The concluding paragraphs:


“The customers of the New York/New England area (the heart of the U.S. financial community) as well as Ontario (the heart of Canada’s financial community) will probably bear the brunt of the electrical shortages.


While they will undoubtedly be annoyed at Quebec for cutting their electrical supplies, they will identify the real villain as the Province of Newfoundland.


From their perspective, the issue then becomes one of attempting to allocate relative blame between Newfoundland and Quebec; and from our perspective the question becomes — which province will suffer the greater wrath of the financial communities and what is their relative ability to withstand this added burden?”


Good question.

•••

It’s a waste, in a way, that John Crosbie is lieutenant governor.


He’s no longer free to say what he thinks.


Which can be quite entertaining.


And educational.


In a January 2003 speech to the Newfoundland and Labrador Construction Association, entitled Churchill Falls Power, The Past, The Present and Future Development, Crosbie went after the feds.


“Newfoundland was prevented by Canada’s policy and by Quebec’s from transmitting its power to export customers since Quebec insisted that it would not permit the wheeling of electricity across the province for sale to other provinces or to the northeastern United States or whomever. Quebec insisted that any such energy had to be purchased by Quebec which would then control the terms of the long-term sale of Churchill Falls power to customers in other provinces or in the U.S.


This situation arose from one of the major weaknesses of the Canadian federal system and the greatest failure of the Confederation between Newfoundland and Canada. That tragic failure will continue to exist so long as Quebec’s stranglehold over the ability of Newfoundland to export its hydro energy resources is not changed which must occur if future projects on the Churchill River System are to go ahead with positive economic benefits for the Newfoundland-owned resource.”


So how do we break that stranglehold?


How about a National Energy policy?


That battle would be epic.


Another way would be for Quebec and NL to team up and go at the Lower Churchill as a joint project.


Which Smallwood, if he had half a clue, should have done with the Upper Churchill.


The only other way is for NL to forget about Quebec, bite the bullet and aim for a new hole.

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