Air­ing of the griev­ances

The Compass - - Editorial -

No one should be sur­prised that former premier Danny Wil­liams came to the Muskrat Falls in­quiry last Mon­day, Oct. 1, ready and will­ing to de­fend the project his govern­ment launched.

But what may be a sur­prise is to hear just how much of a role Hy­dro-Québec and Que­bec govern­ment in­sti­tu­tions seem to have played with Wil­liams, his govern­ment and the time­frame lead­ing up to the sanc­tion of the hy­dro­elec­tric project.

Just a few hours into his tes­ti­mony at the in­quiry, it be­came clear that Wil­liams deeply dis­liked and dis­trusted Que­bec politi­cians and their meth­ods.

Even years after leav­ing of­fice, his re­ac­tion to Nal­cor be­ing able to move Up­per Churchill re­call power through Que­bec? A pleased “We got ‘em.”

On a de­ci­sion by a Que­bec reg­u­la­tory agency not to al­low Lower Churchill power to move through the Que­bec grid? “I was re­ally an­gry over this. This was the worst le­gal de­ci­sion I had ever wit­nessed in law . ... I was re­ally an­gry and dis­ap­pointed,” Wil­liams said Mon­day.

And, he said, “That was the last straw” in terms of work­ing with Que­bec.

Wil­liams said he was tired of “what they were up to.”

He told the in­quiry his an­gry words in pro­vin­cial news re­leases weren’t en­tirely ac­cu­rate - that, in fact, he was far an­grier than the re­leases showed, and that, in pri­vate, he was even more out­spo­ken. Wil­liams still al­most spits the words out. About Que­bec be­ing el­i­gi­ble for sub­si­dies, bil­lions in equal­iza­tion, and still try­ing to stop in­fra­struc­ture fund­ing for the At­lantic prov­inces? “Enough is enough”

“The at­ti­tude... is shock­ing,” Wil­liams tes­ti­fied. “They al­ready had their mas­sive pound of flesh, and they couldn’t give us a break.”

Wil­liams bluntly de­nied that the Muskrat Falls project went ahead be­cause he sought a legacy, say­ing that, with things like a 93 per cent ap­proval rat­ing at one point dur­ing his ad­min­is­tra­tion, he al­ready had all the legacy he needed. But most of the morn­ing, at least, was spent blam­ing Que­bec for not play­ing fair.

Now, it’s prob­a­bly a tru­ism that no premier of this prov­ince has ever lost points by bash­ing Que­bec - long-run­ning, con­stantly sim­mer­ing dis­con­tent over the Up­per Churchill con­tract makes at­tack­ing our neigh­bour a safe op­tion. Wil­liams dredged up old griev­ances, like the way Labrador is rep­re­sented on Que­bec maps, and re­ferred all the way back to the Que­bec ad­min­is­tra­tion of Jean Lesage in the 1960s.

But that sort of po­lit­i­cal bash­ing and rhetoric has also taken a toll, some­times in court de­ci­sions that have ruled against this prov­ince.

And it may mean that in­quiry Com­mis­sioner Richard LeBlanc will have to weigh an­other fac­tor in track­ing back over the trou­bled steps that led to Muskrat Falls.

How much did that clear dis­like of Que­bec colour the de­ci­sions made by Wil­liams and the Tory gov­ern­ments that fol­lowed him?

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