Power play scores

The Compass - - OPINION -

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

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