Power play scores
Premier Danny Williams appears to finally have his own legacy project in place.
Former Saskatchewan premier Tommy Douglas introduced universal health care in Canada. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau had The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Both moves, one could argue, defined their political careers.
So, too, may have Premier Williams with an agreement between Newfoundland and Labrador and Nova Scotia on a $6.2 billion Lower Churchill hydroelectric project.
It has been seven years since the premier took office, and in that time he has become one of the most popular leaders this province has ever seen. That may hold true for all provinces, in fact.
But public adulation has never seemed to be enough for Premier Williams, who has aggressively pushed for the development of the Lower Churchill project. He has faced roadblocks from the province of Quebec, through which electricity could flow at a lower cost.
Say what you will about his perpetual bashing of Quebec, which has continued with the announcement of this new deal, but the premier has not let his ill-feelings prevent him from finding an alternative solution to developing the Lower Churchill.
Early indicators point to a lot of positive repercussions. Initial estimates claim there will be 2,700 jobs created by the project at its peak and 120 permanent ones. This will be of particular benefit to the Innu Nation. Aside from collecting five per cent of all royalties, the Labrador Innu will also have the first crack at jobs.
If power is sold to other markets in North America in need of new suppliers, there’s a strong likelihood Newfoundland and Labrador will profit. Those dollars in turn can be used here to bolster other matters in need of financial attention.
The project still has some yet-to-be-determined elements. Foremost among them is whether the federal government will support a $375-million infrastructure support request or a loan guarantee. Other details of the arrangement between Newfoundland and Labrador’s crown corporation, Nalcor, and Emera are still being negotiated, and there will be public reviews taking place in Nova Scotia. It’s also expected the price of electricity will rise in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Otherwise, it’s hard trying to pick holes in the deal at this stage.
The 824-megawatt power plant to be built at Muskrat Falls in central Labrador would still leave over 2,200 megawatts of undeveloped power in the Lower Churchill, so there is more work to be done.
Provincial New Democratic Party leader Lorraine Michael told CBC News she will support the deal, but that the deal is comparable to getting a toaster for Christmas while anticipating a car.
A better summation may go as follows: instead of getting a hybrid RV with solar panels and everything you could imagine on the inside, the province has received a very nice car. That’s nothing to frown upon.
- Andrew Robinson, The Compass