Re­claim­ing ‘our’ re­sources

The Compass - - OPINION -

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.

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