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

Monday, July 23, 2007

Border battle bunkum

Carl Powell and Sue Kelland-Dyer are trying their hardest these past few days to convince everyone who will listen, through whatever lies and misinformation the task demands, that somehow Quebec has unilaterally changed the Labrador boundary.

Quebec has not only done no such thing, it can’t do such a thing, not with all the maps in the universe.

The latest theory they have expounded is that by damming the rivers which flow out of Labrador into Quebec, Quebec has changed the border.

Never mind that Quebec hasn’t actually dammed any of them yet, nor that any of their proposals to do so involve flooding one square inch of Labrador. Who needs facts when you have a good nationalist Newfoundland rant to peddle?

Take Carl Powell (please!). On Thursday, he told Linda Swain and her listeners:

The headwaters of these rivers, the Romaine, the Natashquan, the Mecatina, the St. Augustine, the St. Paul, all originate in Labrador. They feed those five rivers that go down into the St. Lawrence and go into Quebec territory… It’s very serious… Now Quebec is constructing, Linda, four hydro dams on the Romaine, which comes down from the border, for 1300 megawatts, and plans are now released for hydro development on the Mecatina, that’s getting over towards the east…. All of these Quebec rivers have their vast headwaters and source in Labrador, and our provincial government is legally paralyzed to do anything about it, because all federal, American, state, and international law is quite clear on the construction of third parties on headwaters and sources of dams and industrial and municipal water supplies. This came up in Mr. Peckford’s water reversion rights, that Hydro-Quebec owns the water in the Smallwood Reservoir… Back on this border change, a letter to Premier Williams from engineer Tom Kierans headlined “Potential Problems Could Stem from Labrador Boundary Claims”. Mr. Kierans, quite independently from me, with exact knowledge and maps, and he laid it out, and that was printed in a local paper. And as far as I know that letter was never acknowledged by the government.
Dastardly stuff! He recycled his thesis the very next day:

Mr. Hollett is talking about the border, which is gone. I mean, you don’t expect that Quebec is now budgeting $9- to $12-billion to harness these five rivers and they don’t have an inkling that they own the water that’s in Labrador… What I’m trying to say is the border is changed… Nobody would build this big complex on these five rivers, and somebody up the stream can dam ‘em off or stop the water, they have control right back to the springs, right back to the little tricklets that feed into this new Labrador watershed, that is the new Quebec border… Mr. Hollett and Minister Dunderdale are completely wrong if they think Quebec is going to spend maybe up to $12-billion on these rivers and not have control of the headwaters...
The Powell-Kelland-Dyer thesis is easy enough to test in the real-world.

Their idea is that, by damming a river downstream from Labrador, Quebec would thereby gain jurisdiction over the headwaters. Or that Quebec has already done so. Or something like that.

That thesis must, then, surely be a subset of a broader principle: If X builds a dam on a river in X, which flows across a border from Y, then X gains jurisdiction over that portion of the watershed in Y.

This is what Sue Kelland-Dyer and Carl Powell have been arguing. It’s a good thing that they aren’t in any position of power, because they have just made concessions of argument that, in a future tribunal, would hurt the province they profess to love.

So, let’s play along and pretend it’s true.

It must also then mean that the province of Labrador and Newfoundland — there, constitution notwithstanding, that’s the new name — could take over territory in the neighbouring province of Quebec.

You see, there are two rivers whose headwaters actually rise on the Quebec side of the border, but which flow into the Strait of Belle Isle in Labrador. They are the Forteau, shown here highlighted in red, and the Pinware (only partly shown below), in orange, both of which cross the Quebec-Labrador border, the thick black line:

So, build a dam anywhere on the lower reaches of these streams, entirely within Labrador, without flooding any bit of Quebec, and voilà! you will have seriously tweaked the noses of the territorially-sensitive Quebec government.

There are two possible outcomes to your experiment.

Either the “watershed” thesis that Carl and Sue have been expounding will be proven right, and they can gloat. Or, Quebec will deny that there is any legal implication whatsoever, thereby setting a precedent that will further confirm Labrador and Newfoundland title in the headwaters of the seven rivers.

Of course, there’s really no need to go through such extremes, especially not building dams on the sensitive salmon rivers of the Labrador Straits.

Manitoba has hydro-electric stations on watercourses which originate in Ontario and Saskatchewan. Saskatchewan, in turn, has dammed rivers which originate in Alberta. New Brunswick’s hydro production relies on water flowing in from Quebec and Maine. Yukon has a hydro station on the Yukon River not far from where it flows in from northern British Columbia. Even Hydro-Quebec has installations which rely on water flowing into the province from Ontario and the United States.

Can Sue Kelland-Dyer or Carl Powell point to one — just one — example of where the construction of a hydro-electric generating plant in Canada resulted in a change to a pre-existing, legally-defined border?

Just one.

Put up, or shut up.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home