Reclaiming ‘our’ resources
There might have been some redemption in last week’s announcement. After more than four decades since the development of the Upper Churchill, and the humiliation of being forced to sell power to La Belle Province (Quebec) at a ridiculously low rates – and another 50 years yet to come before the 99 year contract is done – the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador is finally generating some reasonable financial returns from the Churchill investment.
Former Liberal premier Joey Smallwood, who oversaw the development of the Upper Churchill, was forced into a deal not of his liking or choosing but brokered by his bureaucrats. He received most the ‘ blame’ though, since the deal came under his watch.
Successive premiers since – Frank Moores, Brian Peckford, Brian Tobin and Roger Grimes – have all tried to achieve a better deal for this province but with little or no success.
It’s been a sore spot for Newfoundlanders and Labradorians for generations.
Thursday, though, Premier Danny Williams announced his government, through Nalcor, had brokered a deal with Hydro Quebec and Nova Scotia’s Emera Energy Inc. to market excess Churchill generated power to the United States. He estimated between $40 and $80 million extra revenue would be realized each year at the outset.
As demand increased, and with possible development of the Lower Churchill, this could grow considerably.
Nalcor CEO Ed Martin agreed the province stands to realize 40-45 per cent more revenue through the new agreements. The province has been selling excess power to Hydro Quebec since 1998 – this was one agreement renegotiated with an escalator clause – something missing in the original Smallwood deal.
Liberals – like leader Yvonne Jones and former party president Danny Dumaresque – are deriding the new deal and asking for details to be put on the table. Ms. Jones even suggested it was another example of the PC government ‘ tweaking’ a previous Liberal initiative.
However it came about or whoever initiated it, what this deal to transmit Churchill power to the eastern United States does is open up a market, which is desperate for clean, environmentally generated power.
The province has a tremendous potential for hydroelectric power from Labrador rivers, including the Lower Churchill, and now it has brought about a way to marry the two – resource transmitted to markets.
Finally, after over 40 years of bemoaning one of the worst deals in Newfoundland’s history an opportunity has arisen to right that wrong.
It doesn’t make any difference who brokered the deal – numerous government representatives, both PC and Liberal – have worked hard to right a horrific situation with regards to this province’s resources.
The old story of businesses arriving to rape our resource wealth can now be turned around. It gives Newfoundlanders and Labradorians an opportunity to have some pride in the development of our resources on land, for this province’s own benefit.
Perhaps next year, Newfoundland’s ‘ have province’ status can be regained for good, after a glimpse of the pride it offered residents last year.