Tem­pers ris­ing on the tur­bine trail

The Western Star - - Editorial - Rus­sell Wanger­sky Rus­sell Wanger­sky’s col­umn ap­pears in 30 SaltWire news­pa­pers and web­sites in At­lantic Canada. He can be reached at [email protected]­gram.com — Twit­ter: @wanger­sky.

It’s about 380 kilo­me­tres, and most of it is on a pub­lic high­way.

It’s a blue and wind­ing route on Nal­cor’s own maps, a trip through Cartwright and then onto Route 516 and Route 510 in Labrador, and that’s an aw­ful lot of dis­tance to cover.

Es­pe­cially when you’re forced to move at a crawl.

I don’t want to cre­ate a self­ful­fill­ing prophecy by writ­ing about it, but you can see the stars align­ing: as Nal­cor’s in­junc­tion con­tin­ues to jail pro­test­ers at the project gates, tem­pers are clearly ris­ing.

You can ar­gue that Nal­cor En­ergy is now fac­ing the most se­vere pinch-point in the con­tin­u­ing stand­off be­tween indige­nous pro­test­ers and the de­vel­op­ment of the Muskrat Falls, and it’s go­ing to hap­pen on a pub­lic road.

Nal­cor has been pretty up­front about the broad strokes of the trip: four con­voys of huge 200-tonne trans­form­ers are set to make their way from Cartwright to the Muskrat Falls site at ex­tremely slow speeds, each one-kilo­me­tre-long con­voy tak­ing about eight days to make the trip, fol­lowed by the equip­ment’s re­turn trip to Cartwright.

If early trans­ports from Wit­less Bay to the Sol­dier’s Pond site have been any ex­am­ple, up­dates on the trans­port of the trans­form­ers will be pub­lic and de­tailed. That means every­one will know, at least in broad terms, where the con­voy is go­ing to be.

The first con­voy set out on Thurs­day, and you can imag­ine that, by then, Nal­cor’s le­gal team had al­ready planned the strat­egy for seek­ing a new in­junc­tion if there was any in­ter­fer­ence with the ve­hi­cles and their mas­sive loads.

There are ex­tra po­lice in Labrador right now, though no one is say­ing just how many; an RCMP state­ment sim­ply says, “The RCMP’s job is also to up­hold and pro­tect the right of Cana­di­ans to peace­fully and law­fully ex­press their opin­ions and views while en­sur­ing pub­lic or­der, so that busi­nesses and their em­ploy­ees can safely carry out their law­ful work.”

And the pro­test­ers are not in a par­tic­u­larly good mood, es­pe­cially af­ter three of them re­fused to agree to obey the court in­junc­tion that’s al­ready in place, and were quickly jailed and sent to St. John’s.

That means a con­flu­ence of events.

This trans­port is a key part of keep­ing the project even close to the de­layed and re­vised sched­ule that Nal­cor is try­ing to meet: there’s only so much time to get the trans­form­ers to the site, and there’s a lot of spots where things could get dif­fi­cult.

In fact, the trans­port has al­ready been stopped once — the trans­form­ers were sup­posed to travel to Muskrat Falls last Novem­ber, but the trans­port was stopped when res­i­dents of Cartwright voted not to al­low the con­voy through their town.

There have been small protests in Cartwright with the ar­rival of the first trans­form­ers last week, and the protest and the project’s gates ear­lier this month were sup­pos­edly trig­gered by the an­nounce­ment that Nal­cor would be­gin the trans­former trans­port again.

You don’t have to be a bet­ting per­son to imag­ine where this is go­ing: the main ques­tion is where along the route the slow­mov­ing con­voy is likely to face op­po­si­tion.

I’d be bet­ting that the odds of a protest in­crease with ev­ery kilo­me­tre closer the trans­form­ers get to the gates.

Keep this in mind: the last time there were protests about the trans­form­ers, it de­layed their de­liv­ery by eight full months. This is the most sig­nif­i­cant de­liv­ery that’s likely to be made this con­struc­tion sea­son, and block­ing it would be the sin­gle-most ef­fec­tive op­tion to de­lay con­struc­tion even fur­ther.

If you wanted to make a point, this would be the place to make it.

And if you’re won­der­ing whether Happy Val­ley-Goose Bay Mayor Jamie Snook was ex­ag­ger­at­ing when he told CBC News that his un­der­stand­ing was that there were “a cou­ple hun­dred or more ex­tra RCMP re­sources in the re­gion,” you can see why he might ac­tu­ally be right on.

Some sum­mer days are hot­ter than oth­ers.

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