"We can't allow things that are inaccurate to stand." — The Word of Our Dan, February 19, 2008.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Lower(ing) Churchill (expectations)

Danny Williams seems to be discovering that governing is a very different kettle of fish from oppositioning. The Lower Churchill Expectations campaign is a case in point.

In his inaugural speech as leader, in April 2001, Danny said:

“It’s high time that Labradorians, instead of feeling like someone else’s treasure trove, started feeling like an integral part of our province. We cannot expect fair treatment from Ottawa if we don’t practise what we preach.”
(This speech has been expunged from the PC Party website, but copies still exist...)

More specifically, during the 2003 election campaign, the future Premier was quoted in the October 6 issue of The Labradorian:

“We will not develop the Lower Churchill unless the primary beneficiaries are Labradorians. You have my assurance on that.”
But last week, the tune changed dramatically. He told The Telegram, in advance of his pending courtesy visit to the place where the Lower Churchill is actually located:

“[The go-it-alone development option] depends on when we get down to brass tacks and exactly what the components are. It also depends on what the ask is from the aboriginal peoples. It depends on what the ask is from Labrador. It’s very nice for people in Labrador to say, ‘We want to block out all this power, we want all of this power to come to Labrador.’ Well, if that’s the case, you can’t build it, because you’ve got to be able to sell it. You’ve got to be able to get enough money to pay for it.”
So Danny’s setting out to lower the Lower Churchill expectations in Labrador. But interestingly, he’s doing the same in Newfoundland.

Here’s the old Danny:

My questions this afternoon are for the Premier. Mr. Speaker, a number of individuals have raised concern over the Lower Churchill agreement and, in particular, the fact that there will not be any hydroelectricity available for domestic use, neither in Labrador nor on the Island.
That was Question Period, November 20, 2002. Another day — one day later, actually — another QP:

Would the Premier please confirm the following basic components of the deal which have been disclosed during the last three days: First, that it is, in fact, a forty-five year agreement that will expire no earlier than 2055; that there will be no form of redress for the Upper Churchill; that there is no transmission line for power to the Island

The 2003 Tory program promised:

Consistent with our energy policy objectives, a Progressive Conservative government will make use of the hydroelectric potential of the Lower Churchill and any electricity that can be recalled or reclaimed from the Upper Churchill to accomplish the following priorities:

  • Promote industrial development and meet domestic energy demand in Labrador and then on the Island of Newfoundland.

The provincial Conservatives that Danny inherited, even in the pre-Danny era, liked to beat the “infeed” drum. As the Telegram editorialized, on May 10, 2000:

The Progressive Conservatives, on the other hand, have pinned their hopes to the infeed, saying that there should be no Lower Churchill project without it. It is a policy initiative that seems to have been confirmed at their last convention when former premier Brian Peckford called the infeed a winning policy.

As late as this summer, Danny’s crew were holding out the same “infeed” carrot. The Western Star reported, on August 9:

[Hydro CEO Ed] Martin said “Hydro has been instructed to fully evaluate the submarine and land transmission options. This includes a potential high voltage direct current line to the island.”

But now?

Now, Danny Williams — through the intermediary of Ed Martin of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro — is pouring cold, if realistic, water over the infeed dream. As this week’s Labradorian reports:

Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro Chief Executive Officer Ed Martin believes transmitting power from the proposed Lower Churchill development through Quebec and not to the island is the best available option.

“If we can do a deal across Quebec and into Ontario that would probably be our best deal, if we can get the right structure for that deal… We’ll [Hydro] decide on what power is being sold, what power will be retained for recall in Labrador, will there be an infeed or not…all those decisions on the configurations will have to happen in the next three to four months.”
Funny how Danny can’t bear to do the cold-water pouring himself, much as he couldn’t do it with the study that kiboshed his Strait of Belle Isle tunnel fixation.

That same Telegram editorial from 2000 said:
Opposition Leader Ed Byrne argues that much, if not most of this information [concerning the infeed, released under Access to Information legislation] was known to the government as far back as March of 1998 and that, by holding out the hope of an electrical infeed from Labrador, the Tobin government deceived the province when it went to the polls a year ago.
So it’s Funny, too, how the closer and closer Danny gets to some kind of ‘announceable’ on the so-called Lower Churchill project… the more and more it starts to look and sound like the same kind of deals that he reviled, denigrated, and condemned, when they were the brainchildren of Brian Tobin and Roger Grimes.

Governing is very different from oppositioning.

Two years in, the Danny Williams who spoke and wrote so many pretty, Newfoundland-nationalist, things, in his now-deleted opposition and campaign website, seems to finally understand that principle oh so well...


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