This is a dangerous time for Newfoundland and Labrador.
On the eve of an expected federal election, the Harper Conservatives can’t see past Quebec (75 seats).
From a political perspective, NL (7 seats) doesn’t exist.
The Globe and Mail reports today that the Harper Conservatives have inked a deal with Quebec for the development of Old Harry, a Gulf of St. Lawrence prospect that could contain billions of barrels of oil and trillions of cubic feet of natural gas.
Quebec and Ottawa have apparently agreed to a joint management and revenue-sharing agreement, similar to the Atlantic Accords that the federal government struck separately with NL and Nova Scotia in the 1980s.
Details of the agreement — to be unveiled today — will apparently “open the door” to oil exploration by providing Quebec with 100 per cent of the royalties from offshore resources.
But there’s another major impediment to the development of Old Harry that has been outstanding for more than 30 years, an obstacle that I reported on last fall for Atlantic Business magazine.
Quebec and NL have yet to agree on an offshore boundary.
Located in the Laurentian Channel, Old Harry is about 29 kilometres long and straddles the Quebec-Newfoundland boundary, agreed to by Quebec in 1964, but still disputed by Newfoundland and Labrador.
Considering the chilly relationship between NL and Quebec over development of the Lower Churchill hydro project in Labrador and the transmission of power through Quebec — not to mention a continued bid for redress on the Upper Churchill contract — the chances of reaching an agreement on the Gulf boundary have been a challenge, to say the least.
But then VOCM Open Line host Randy Simms speculated today that the Kathy Dunderdale administration may have traded off the province's claim to Old Harry in exchange for a loan guarantee from the federal government on the Lower Churchill.
The Montreal Gazette reports that the 1964 boundary has been recognized.
Dangerous times indeed.