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

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Bags of wind

The following "press release" to hand:

DannyCorp. (formerly the Government of Newfoundland & Labrador) and Byrne’s Energy Inc. (wholly owned subsidiary of DannyCorp. and formerly the Department of Natural Resources) have announced that they are now sole owners of the winds that blow across the Big Land. Consequently DannyCorp. and Byrne’s Energy Inc. have instructed their former government officials to measure lung capacity of every man woman, child and household pet in Labrador. Residents of Labrador and their pets will be billed according to the amount of air they use on a monthly basis. Bills will be retroactive to a person's/pet's date of birth.

When asked how collection will be enforced, Danny stated that “Well if they don’t pay we won’t be doing any more development in Labrador, except to dam off and drown the remainder of the Churchill River of course. We’ll just keep all revenues from the project and export the power to outside markets.” When reminded that this has always been the stance taken by the power brokers in St. John’s, Danny cancelled the remainder of the news conference and left in a huff.

Donald F. Blake Sr.
P.O. Box 414
North West River

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Who will be Labrador's old age pension?

Labrador may become another Alaska, because it has the largest iron ore deposits in the world waiting to be exploited, and they will be a terrific thing. Whoever runs them, Labrador will be an old age pension for Newfoundland for a very long time….

— Sir A.P. Herbert, Independent member, Oxford University, House of Commons (UK) debates (Hansard), 2 March 1949

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

United right?

In the 2004 federal general election, the Conservative Party, now progressive-free, saw its vote decline, compared to the combined total of the former Canadian Alliance and Progressive Conservative Parties, in 274 of 308 ridings.

In the 2006 federal general election, the Conservative Party increased its vote, compared to the 2004 election, in 280 out of 308 ridings.

But here's the kicker: in 2006, the Conservatives under Stephen Harper still have less support than the combined CA-PC support in 2000, in 188 out of the 308 ridings in Canada.

Harper, in 2006, was not able to secure as big a vote share as Day-Clark did in 2000 in 25 ridings in Atlantic Canada, 77 in Ontario, 17 in Saskitoba, all but two in Alberta, and everywhere in BC.

Why hasn't "the Right" "united", at least outside Quebec?

Sunday, January 22, 2006

The road to heck is paved with non-committal "commitments"

It’s a good thing Danny Williams planned to stay out of the federal election campaign.

After the Premier received his weasel-worded letter from Stephen Harper, in response to his own, Danny said:

On the Trans-Labrador Highway, there is a commitment for a 50-50 cost share of support for the Trans-Labrador Highway, which is a major undertaking which our government is committed to do…
The only problems with this masterless piece of Conservative spin, by a person who had said he wouldn’t get involved in the federal election?

As noted earlier, Danny Williams never asked for 50-50. And Stephen Harper never offered it.

In his letter, Danny asks all three party leaders:

Does your party support a Federal-Provincial cost-shared agreement to complete the TLH?
He does not ask for any specific dollar-share figure. “Cost-share”, in and of itself, means simply that: the two orders of government would share the costs. It does not mean, in and of itself, that they share the costs equally. There were federal-provincial cost-sharing agreements on earlier phases of the TLH, in the late 1970s and early 1980s, which were cost-shared 70-30, 60-40, and according to other formulae.

Harper’s response?

Yes, a Conservative government would support a cost-shared agreement to complete the Trans-Labrador Highway.
There’s a first time for everything: the last time the Conservatives were in power federally, their idea of a cost-shared agreement for the TLH was a paltry $8-million out of the over $800-million Roads for Rails agreement. There were more Conservative re-elections to be bought in more ridings on the island in the 1988 federal election, and the 1989 provincial election, than in Labrador. Pure coincidence, of course. (And it didn’t work, anyway.)

The 50-50 figure that Harper supposedly promised is entirely a figment of Danny’s imagination. (It's also a 10% discount from the 60-40 that Harper was touting during the Labrador by-election in 2005!)

Similarly, Jack Layton writes Danny:

The NDP supports the timely completion of the Trans-Labrador Highway to an acceptable national standard. The addition of the TLH to the National Highway System requires the commitment to a cost-shared federal-provincial agreement to complete the highway, which we support. We note the commitment of the Province if [sic] Newfoundland and Labrador to contribute $50 Million to the project, indicative of the priority that the province has placed on the issue.
The last sentence is a bit bizarre. Layton seems to be spinning on the Premier’s behalf, playing up the province’s supposed commitment to the TLH.

The province has no such thing: if your financial commitment is entirely contingent on federal matching funding, you have not committed to anything. Why do the province’s so-called commitments to Labrador – whether the TLH, an auditorium, the recognition of the LMN – always come with (federal) strings attached? Can the province not spend its own, no-strings money on the TLH, while keeping $50-million in reserve for an eventual cost-shared program?

The answer to both questions, of course, is that it makes it so much easier for the province to play Blame Ottawa, rather than tackle any of the major Labrador issues within its own jurisdiction.

Note, too, that Layton also does not give a cost-sharing formula. Is that 50-50, 90-10, 70-30? If Danny sees 50-50 in Harper’s letter, surely he must also see it in Layton’s. Yet Danny says he only got commitments from Harper?

But Danny, of course, is above politics, and is not playing favourites in this election. He says so, so it must be true.

That brings us to the PM’s response.

It should, of course, be noted that the progress to date on the still-incomplete Trans-Labrador Highway is despite the level of federal involvement over the years, not because of it. Of the $500-million or so, in constant dollars, which has been spent on the project since the early 1970s, about $450-million, or 90%, has come from the federal government’s coffers. Only 10% has been provincial-source funding. It is the province, not the federal government, that has failed to pay its fair share of highways in Labrador, an area of provincial responsibility.

The two biggest chunks of federal money – the 1983 DRIE contribution o roughly $60-million, which built the Wabush-Churchill Falls road and bridges over the next decade, and the 1997 Labrador Transportation Initiative, $340-million in federal funding which upgraded the old Brinco tote-road from Churchill Falls to Happy Valley-Goose Bay, built the South Coast highway and access roads, and is still being used on the early stages of Phase III – both came during federal Liberal governments. This level of federal support for the construction of a highway, other than one on federal lands, is unprecedented outside the territories.

That’s a fact which has not gone unnoticed in other provinces, by the way.

The 1997 LTI was signed off on by the incumbent PM, in his former capacity as Finance minister.

In 2006, as PM and as party leader, Paul Martin wrote Danny, committing $5-billion towards the Canada Strategic Infrastructure Fund, far more than Harper’s laissez-faire infrastructure plan. And the PM properly notes that the province has to put the TLH forward as a candidate project, something, for some obscure reason, it has never bothered to do.

Some provincial commitment, Premier.

So it’s a good thing Danny Williams wasn’t going to get involved in the federal election. If he had, he might have had to consider the party leader’s promises with a critical eye, with a lawyer’s acumen, and with the intelligence of a Rhodes Scholar. And he might have then had to reconsider his support for Norm Doyle and the party that gave the Trans-Labrador Highway the 20-year hoist back in 1988.

If only Norm Doyle had made a real commitment to the Trans-Labrador Highway while he was in cabinet, as provincial transportation minister, then Danny Williams wouldn’t still be having to shift the blame to Ottawa, for his own government’s limpid “commitments” to Labrador and its highway system, in 2005.

The road would have been built by now.

Yet Danny Williams is voting for the guy who helped stall, not build, the TLH.

Thanks to the vision, and commitments, by Rompkey, O’Brien, and Martin – not one of them a Conservative – the TLH is two-thirds done, with 90-cent federal dollars.

Where’s the provincial commitment?Where’s the Conservative one?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

We'll do it ourselves with big grants from Ottawa

Provincial government policy keeps Labrador from receiving the full benefit of its iron ore mines.

Provincial government policy keeps Labrador from receiving the full benefit of its nickel mines.

Provincial government policy keeps Labrador from receiving the full benefit of its fisheries.

Provincial government policy keeps Labrador from receiving the full benefit of its sports fishing camps.

Provincial government policy keeps Labrador from receiving the full benefit of its forestry.

Provincial government policy keeps Labrador from receiving the full benefit of its hydro-electric potential.

And Ed Byrne will be ratbuggered before he'll let Labrador receive full benefit of its wind, either. From a CP wire story today:

A private company and the business wing of the Labrador Inuit-Metis people have proposed an ambitious $2.5-billion plan to build the largest wind-driven power generation project in Canada.

Ventus Energy Ltd.of Toronto and Metis Energy Corp., a subsidiary of Metis Development Corp., announced yesterday they have formed Labrador Ventus Limited Partnership for the project, planned for the Labrador interior near Churchill Falls.


The Metis corporation, formed in 2004 by the Labrador Metis Nation to develop business opportunities, says it will provide up to $500,000 over the next year to develop the proposal.


However, Ed Byrne, the province's minister of natural resources, said it's premature to suggest the government or the Crown-owned utility will support the project.

Mr. Byrne said the Tory government is still contemplating whether it will have the Crown-owned power utility operate its own wind farms in Labrador.

"This is not a project we're supporting," he said. "Hydro met with them as a matter of courtesy and I met with them as matter of courtesy.

"We haven't ruled out doing projects like this ourselves."

Heaven forbid a Labrador resource should benefit Labrador first, instead of Ed Byrne's own district, but dang it, if Kilbride doesn't get a cut, why should Labrador?

If Ed Byrne can't have Labrador's wind power industry, nobody can?

Is there a wind shortage in Labrador? Is it nearly mined out?

This is starting to sound suspiciously like the provincial government's Labrador agriculture policy: if it hasn't gotten off the ground, don't let it; if it has, shut it down.

Promises, promises

CBC reports that the Prime Minister’s response to Danny Williams’ election wish-list “falls flat”.

There is nothing in the story to justify the headline, no quote from Danny Williams to that effect.

But letting that bit of torque slide, it’s curious to hear the Ceeb parroting Danny Williams’ line that “The Conservative and NDP responses were very encouraging on several fronts, including support for a loan guarantee for the development of the lower Churchill... and support for a cost-shared agreement on the completion of the Trans Labrador Highway, among other issues.”

With respect to the Lower Churchill, Danny Williams is suffering under the illusion – if not some other kind of -lusion – that Harper has promised a loan guarantee.

Harper has done no such a thing.

Williams asks, “Does your party support efforts to develop the hydro-power resources of the Lower Churchill River System [sic] for the primary benefit of Newfoundland and Labrador, including the provision of a Federal Government guarantee to proceed with the project?”

Notice that Danny Williams does not ask for a loan guarantee in his original letter. What kind of “guarantee” is he asking for?

Harper says, “We support this proposal in principle and believe that it is important for Newfoundland and Labrador to have greater control of its energy mix. A Conservative government would welcome discussions on this initiative and would hope that the potential exists for it to proceed in the spirit of past successes such as the Hibernia project.”

Danny Williams is rumoured to be a lawyer. Even a bad lawyer knows the difference between “support” and “support in principle”. And a good lawyer would immediately red-flag a curious, and very deliberate, ambiguity in Harper’s response: Is the antecedent to “this proposal” which Harper “supports in principal”, the development of hydro projects on Grand River? or the Federal Government “guarantee”?

If the latter, what kind of “guarantee” is Harper offering?

If the Federal government “guarantees” the project, can it truly be said that the province is proceeding on its own?

And if the project is done “in the spirit of Hibernia”, is Harper saying his government would require an equity stake like the one the federal government acquired through its Hibernia investment?

(And it seems no one told Harper that all provinces have total control over their “energy mix”, other than in respect of nuclear power: hydro, provincial energy corporations, etc., are, and always have been, under provincial jurisdiction.)

In any event, Harper isn’t offering anything concrete other than a platitudinous statement that he “would welcome discussions on this initiative”.

Take that “guarantee” to the bank, Premier. That, and $1.25, will get you a cup of coffee.

Nor is Jack Layton’s letter much more impressive.
“The NDP is committed to the development of a national power grid for electricity… [This] would also give hydro-producing provinces like Newfoundland and Labrador access to energy markets, to maximize benefits.”
(Does this mean the NDP would use the federal declaratory power to force a hydro corridor across Quebec from Labrador? What would Pierre Ducasse do?)

Layton continues, “The NDP supports green power developments… We are therefore open to examining possible developments like the Lower Churchill, as long as it can be done in an ecologically sound manner, help meet our Kyoto commitments and for the principle benefit of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. Should this development meet these criteria, we would support the federal government to providing, [sic] for example, an investment guarantee…”

Score one for Williams! He didn’t ask for an “investment guarantee”, but he got one, anyway… assuming, of course, that all of Layton’s other conditions are met.

Speaking of met, has the NDP yet met a hydro project it couldn’t find a reason to oppose?

Which brings us to the PM’s response:
“The development of the Lower Churchill River is an exciting opportunity for our shared goals of Newfoundland and Labrador’s economic future and for the necessary investments in clean energy. We have funding in place to assist in the development of hydro power projects such as this and upon the province giving this project a high priority, we want to ensure Labradorians, and in particular, Aboriginal, Métis, Innu and Inuit communities are central to consultations that will be undertaken.”
What a concept! Consulting with Labradorians about a resource megaproject to harness a resource in Labrador.

Danny’s real issue with Paul Martin’s response, as opposed to that of the other two leaders, is probably not that it is weaker. It isn’t.

It’s that it’s stronger – stronger than anything the Premier has ever committed, verbally or in writing, to the people of Labrador whose resource he is so anxious to develop. Labradorians have, until recently, been the Invisible People; invisible to the politicians and policy makers in St. John’s who wield the power from afar.

Not that his promise is worth anything anyway, Danny Williams has never made such a strong commitment to consult with all Labradorians, including the Métis, in respect of the Grand River hydro proposals.

Paul Martin has.

And unlike the other two party leaders, who speak of Newfoundland and Labrador, only Martin puts the interests of Labradorians, Aboriginal and otherwise, front and centre.

Danny Williams has not.

Next post: Trans-Labrador Highway.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Vivid imagination

According to the CBC, Stephen Harper's letter to Danny, in response to Danny's letter to Stephen et al., is big on the Labrador issues:

Williams said he is pleased with Harper's responses, especially on issues involving Labrador. [...]

"On the Trans-Labrador Highway, there is a commitment for a 50-50 cost share of support for the Trans-Labrador Highway, which is a major undertaking which our government is committed to do," Williams said.

Two slight, inconvenient, problems of fact with that glowing review:

- in his letter to Danny, Stephen Harper doesn't actually offer to cost-share the TLH on a 50-50 (or any other) basis;

- in his letter to Stephen et al., Danny Williams never asks them to cost-share the TLH on a 50-50 (or any other) basis.

It's easy enough to declare victory when you don't define winning conditions in the first place...