Feel­ing of be­trayal

Northern Pen - - Editorial -

Hav­ing been fol­low­ing the mat­ter for some time now, hav­ing spo­ken with mem­bers of sev­eral com­mu­ni­ties, and hav­ing read the re­cent ar­ti­cle in The North­ern Pen con­cern­ing the site se­lected for the pel­let plant, I — like many — feel be­trayed.

Ra­tio­nally, I ac­cept that cor­po­ra­tions, as stand-alone en­ti­ties, are ma­lig­nant mon­sters the likes of which Pan­dora couldn’t dream. These en­ti­ties, left to their de­vices, would de­stroy, de­flect or ab­sorb all com­pe­ti­tion in or­der to sat­isfy their bot­tom line.

De­spite the logic of sup­port­ing marginal­ized com­mu­ni­ties as good busi­ness from a po­lit­i­cal and phil­an­thropic per­spec­tive, the goal of a for-profit busi­ness is just that — profit. De­cep­tion and se­crecy go hand in hand as well-worn tools of big busi­ness. Clear com­mu­ni­ca­tion and com­plete trans­parency, while hold­ing the moral high ground, of­ten bank­rupt.

All this said, I have no choice but to ac­cept the logic out­lined in the Dec. 5, 2018 ar­ti­cle as be­ing sound busi­ness, but it was de­spi­ca­ble. I still have that sense of be­trayal. I don’t be­lieve any per­son alive has fought for this plant as hard as Mayor Sheila Fitzger­ald. Rod­dick­ton had an ex­ist­ing fa­cil­ity, we fought for years for this chance, and our re­ward is more vague prom­ises about the pos­si­bil­ity to har­vest wood in our area.

Again, I ac­cept Hawke’s Bay may have made a bet­ter site, but ev­ery­thing about this feels wrong. They were not in­volved in the process but they are get­ting re­warded with a fa­cil­ity and the eco­nomic stim­u­lus it af­fords.

The truck­ing costs to the fa­cil­ity and ship­ping costs also feels wrong.

Fur­ther­more, the pri­mary mar­ket be­ing Poland rather than a more lo­cal one feels like the oil deal in the At­lantic Ac­cord, or Ot­tawa’s sale of New­found­land’s re­sources to other na­tions. The pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment re­served any judg­ment or in­flu­ence in the de­ci­sion, and Hawke’s Bay wasn’t even con­sulted un­til the last minute and it is a town with­out suf­fi­cient hu­man re­sources to even sup­port the fa­cil­ity.

The fact that Mayor Fitzger­ald and the Town of Rod­dick­tonBide Arm can work so hard for so many years only to have the fruits of their labour handed to a com­mu­nity that wasn’t in­volved, and only then of­fered the crumbs from the de­ci­sion-maker’s ta­ble, feels wrong. The cal­cu­lus is sound, but the moral foun­da­tion of the de­ci­sion is shaky.

So where does this leave us? Res­i­dents from En­glee to St. An­thony are left with empty cups ex­tended as an­other op­por­tu­nity is de­nied us. In­flu­en­tial mem­bers, com­plicit in this be­trayal, will not be found ac­count­able. Fear of eco­nomic ret­ri­bu­tion will tie the hands of con­sci­en­tious ob­jec­tors who also have to ask how to feed their fam­i­lies in light of this choice. Yes, op­por­tu­ni­ties ex­ist to con­struct the new fa­cil­i­ties in Hawke’s Bay, yes there will be on­go­ing log­ging in zone 17 and zone 18, but more im­por­tant than the fi­nan­cial gut­shot this brings my home, Rod­dick­ton-Bide Arm, is the cru­elty of the de­ci­sion.

We were led on. We could have been told prior to this eco­nomic bomb­shell; the equa­tion is not a se­cret, but the prod­uct was. I, per­son­ally, feel not only was the se­cret kept for cor­po­rate back door op­er­a­tions, but to en­cour­age those fight­ing for this project to keep fight­ing.

To keep the in­ter­views and the ar­ti­cles go­ing is free pub­lic­ity. By rights, the rel­a­tive trav­esty of this de­ci­sion will have peo­ple talk­ing about the plant for months. This acts as more free ad­ver­tis­ing for an en­tity that al­ready stated they will sim­ply har­vest our re­sources and ship them away, like so many sim­i­lar be­tray­als in the past.

In all, we as New­found­lan­ders and Labrado­ri­ans shouldn’t be sur­prised. The whole event fits the pat­tern we’ve all been taught to ex­pect from our over­seers. Dump­ster fire that is Muskrat Falls, the pro­vin­cial bud­getary deficit left by the for­mer PC gov­ern­ment and the out­ports ex­pe­ri­enc­ing in­fra­struc­ture de­te­ri­o­ra­tion some­times feel like a more un­der­handed ver­sion of Small­wood-era re­set­tle­ment. In my mind, I know there will be pos­i­tive im­pacts to this project, but the shady and un­der­handed way it hap­pened be­hind closed doors leaves an ashen taste in my mouth.

We are a re­silient peo­ple. If we were not born of brine and ice we couldn’t sur­vive 500 North At­lantic win­ters. I know that we will sur­vive this re­cent trav­esty. It is my sin­cere hope, how­ever, that this does not cause ten­sion be­tween mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties, es­pe­cially since Hawke’s Bay didn’t steal any­thing. They were just the best lo­ca­tion for the great eco­nomic equa­tion that left no room in it for ef­fort in­vested by may­ors, the prom­ises made and agree­ments im­plied by busi­ness own­ers, and the tens of thou­sands of voices cry­ing ha­vok at how very much they wish they could have been in­volved, for once, in their own fu­tures — just this once.

Robin Gosse Rod­dick­ton-Bide Arm, N.L.

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