Let’s turn down the heart with Que­bec

The Compass - - CLASSIFIED -

With the re­cent pub­li­ciz­ing of the dis­cov­ery of off­shore oil on the mar­itime border be­tween Que­bec and New­found­land and Labrador, off the south-west coast of the is­land in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence, ru­mours of the next great bat­tle be­tween the two prov­inces are stew­ing.

On one side the leader of the op­po­si­tion party in Que­bec, the Parti Que­beçois ( PQ), Pauline Marois, is pres­sur­ing Que­bec Premier Jean Charest to go on the at­tack. Marois says that New­found­land and Labrador will steal the oil from Que­bec by pump­ing all the oil and nat­u­ral gas from the oil­field if Charest does not be­gin the at­tack. To date, Charest has re­sisted this and acted in a re­spectable man­ner.

On the other side, it is great to see that deputy premier and Min­is­ter of Nat­u­ral Re­sources Kathy Dun­derdale and our govern­ment have been civil about this and are call­ing for a tri­bunal to be set up to end the dis­pute. Set­tling things at the board­room ta­ble, or even the kitchen ta­ble, is much more pro­duc­tive then throw­ing fuel on a burn­ing fire cre­ated by pre­vi­ous and on­go­ing dis­agree­ments.

With re­gards to where the oil­field, named Old Harry, is lo­cated, Que­bec is stand­ing be­hind the 1964 agree­ment be­tween four At­lantic prov­inces signed by our premier at the time, Joey Small­wood. That agree­ment puts most of the oil­field within Que­bec ju­ris­dic­tion. This prov­ince is ar­gu­ing that the 1964 agree­ment was negated by a fed­eral-pro­vin­cial tri­bunal in 2002 and that we should have a new tri­bunal de­ter­mine which ju­ris­dic­tion the oil­field lies.

The stakes are high in this de­bate, since Old Harry is said to pos­si­bly hold dou­ble the oil and nat­u­ral gas of the Hiber­nia oil field. Old Harry could hold as much as two bil­lion bar­rels of oil and five tril­lion cu­bic feet of nat­u­ral gas. With the prospects of Old Harry fill­ing govern­ment cof­fers from roy­al­ties and fu­elling the pro­vin­cial economies, as the Hiber­nia field does, the dreams are big and the am­bi­tions are high to have con­trol of this re­source.

Pol­i­tics in Canada and re­source dis­tri­bu­tion around the world is of­ten laden with these heated bat­tles that pit the peo­ple of one prov­ince or re­gion off against an­other. That method of de­bate and dis­cus­sion is ridicu­lous and un­pro­duc­tive.

There needs to be mu­tual re­spect be­tween the peo­ple of Que­bec and New­found­land and Labrador. We have had many bat­tles in the past, but that does not mean we have to bear arms — fig­u­ra­tively — again over the off­shore oil dis­pute. We are both a part of the nation of Canada, and pit­ting one part of the coun­try against an­other just leads to fur­ther lack of progress that dis­tracts us from spend­ing our time on things that will make the coun­try and each prov­ince greater.

New­found­land and Labrador should aim to be the ‘ big per­son’ in all of this. Let’s bring to­gether good in­for­ma­tion and good ar­gu­ments to make our case. Let’s not, whether at the govern­ment level, within the me­dia, or as cit­i­zens, re­sort to throw­ing in­sults at Que­bec.

One has to ask, though; be­cause of the pres­sure that Charest is get­ting from the op­po­si­tion Parti Que­beçois in Que­bec, and the fact that he is sit­ting at a very low level of pop­u­lar­ity in his home prov­ince, will Charest buckle to the pres­sure and start a dis­pute to score po­lit­i­cal points? I hope not. Please, Premier Wil­liams and Premier Charest, in co-op­er­a­tion with the Govern­ment of Canada, with­out back­room deals, with­out mud-sling­ing, let’s fig­ure this out.

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