07 August 2006

The Four York Harbourmen

Monty Python used to do a sketch in which four elderly gentlemen sat about inventing ever more outrageous stories about how tough it had been growing up in their little corner of Yorkshire.

It loses a lot without the broad Yorkie accent but there were a couple of gems like:

"There were hundred and fifty of us living in shoe box in middle of road."

The climax of the sketch is Eric Idle, as the fourth Yorkshireman, who finally launches into a tirade:
Right. I had to get up in the morning at ten o'clock at night half an hour before I went to bed, drink a cup of sulphuric acid, work twenty-nine hours a day down mill, and pay mill owner for permission to come to work, and when we got home, our Dad and our mother would kill us and dance about on our graves singing Hallelujah.

FIRST YORKSHIREMAN:

And you try and tell the young people of today that ..... They won't believe you.

ALL:
They won't!
It's like the Upper Churchill and the lengths some people go to "prove" just exactly how bad Hydro Quebec is screwing us. We already blogged this, but the whole subject is a goldmine of information.

A former senior government official once relayed to your humble e-scribbler his account of where the first Quebec estimate came from. The story went something like this: "Brian needed a number; so-and-so pulled it out of his ar*e."

Works for me, given that the whole issue rests so far on nothing more than myth and rumour. I am just waiting for the next outrageous estimate, pulled most likely like the rest of it, seemingly some an available bodily orifice.

But just to put it in some sort of historical - as opposed to hysterical - perspective, here is the text of a Canadian Press story filed on 18 May 1984. Given the accurate figures cited in this story, the account given by the former senior Newfoundland official sounds uncomfortably close to the truth.

Hydro-Quebec chief challenges Newfoundland profit estimate

18 May 1984

Montreal (CP) - Newfoundland premier Brian Peckford is being illogical if he believes a 50-50 split of the annual profit from the Churchill Falls power station is worth $400 million, Hydro-Quebec chairman Joseph Bourbeau says.

Hydro's entire profit in 1982 was $800 million. Last year it fell to $707 million, dropping the utility into the no. 2 spot behind General Motors of Canada Ltd. among Canadian corporate profitmakers.

Hydro has a 65-year contract to buy the bulk of Churchill Falls electricity at what are now low rates. Newfoundland wants to abrogate the contract. A provincial bill that virtually would have accomplished that was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Peckford claims Newfoundland should get a 50-50 revenue split from Churchill Falls and says Hydro-Quebec profit from the existing contract is something like $780 million.

Bourbeau told reporters it is wrong to conclude that Hydro-Quebec's overall profit comes from selling cheap Churchill Falls power to U.S. utilities.

In 1983, Churchill power accounted for 25% of Hydro-Quebec's supply. The utility received 31.1 billion kilowatt hours from the Labrador station and its total sales to the United States, Ontario and New Brunswick were only 19.5 billion.

Peckford's demand is illogical, said Bourbeau, because "there is no mathematical relationship between the $800 million profit we made in 1982" and profit from the sale of Churchill power.

Hydro-Quebec produces 10, 000 megawatts of electricity itself and for less on average than Churchill Falls power, the chairman said. Churchill supplies just under 5, 000 megawatts.

"So the major part of the $800 million that Hydro-Quebec made in 1982 came from Quebec and not Churchill Falls."

This is because several Hydro installations in the province built much earlier in the century have been completely amortized making the cost of power they supply virtually nil.

He declined to say how much Hydro does make on Churchill power.

Hydro-Quebec had projected a profit of $238 million for 1984 but will probably do better than that since the economy is recovering faster than expected , said president Guy Coulombe. He didn't offer a new figure.

It's first quarter profit was $371 million compared to $391 million for the first quarter last year.

-30-

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