24 November 2009

Danny Williams, Hydro Quebec and Churchill Falls: that was then edition

In light of Kathy Dunderdale’s revelation of secret efforts to start talks on the Lower Churchill with Hydro Quebec as part owner, it’s interesting to go back and look at what Danny Williams used to say when other people tried the same thing.

The year is 2002.  In fact,   the release came  two days shy of one year before Williams won the 2003 general election as it turned out.

Back then, redress for the 1969 contract was an integral part of Williams’ policy and the thought of splitting one (1969 and redress) from the other (the Lower Churchill) was anathema:

…Yet, Roger Grimes has categorically stated that the Upper Churchill and Lower Churchill agreements are separate entities. In referring to this new agreement, he recently said, ‘Let's not be stuck in the past.' I say those who do not learn from the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. Nobody wants to see this province walk away from the only lever we have to seek some form of redress from the Upper Churchill. I don't accept Premier Grimes' position. [Emphasis added]

 

Who would have thought that a mere three years later, Danny Williams would be trying to recreate Roger Grimes’ policy to the letter?

-srbp-

The full text of the news release:

Williams calls for more
information on Lower Churchill

ST. JOHN'S, October 24, 2002 — Danny Williams, Leader of the Opposition and MHA for Humber West, today called on Roger Grimes to provide the people of Newfoundland and Labrador with additional information on the deal now being finalized with Québec to develop the Lower Churchill.

"We are asking for additional information on this deal to develop the people's resource so that we can understand exactly what is being proposed and possibly offer a few suggestions that may be able to help the process. Unfortunately, because it is being negotiated in secret, we know very little about this deal and therefore are not able to provide constructive thoughts and suggestions as to how it can be improved," Williams said in a news conference.

"The agreement-in-principle reached between Québec and Newfoundland and Labrador involves new concepts and new ideas that were not previously discussed. It is fundamentally different from the principles agreed to with Québec in 1998. In fact, this entire arrangement sprang out of nowhere just days after talks between this province and Alcoa fell apart. There has not been a single update provided to the House of Assembly. We were not able to ask a single question in the legislature on behalf of the people, which is our right and duty as the Official Opposition. The government has an obligation to provide the people with this information in order to allow meaningful debate."

Williams outlined a number of concerns with the limited details of the deal as described by Premiers Grimes and Landry. "The principles do not appear to address the future energy requirements of the province. This is further evidence that our province does not have an energy plan. Roger Grimes has stated that there will not be a transmission line to the Island. Therefore, the Island will never have access to clean, cheap and renewable hydroelectricity.

"This should be of great concern as this province presently uses almost all of the hydroelectricity at its disposal. All new developments must be powered by conventional fossil fuel energy sources. That places this province at a serious disadvantage when competing for new industrial developments, even more so now that the government of Canada plans to ratify the Kyoto Accord.

"This agreement will see all of our hydroelectricity shipped exclusively to Québec so that it can become the supplier of choice for cheap power. Québec will be in an excellent position to attract new investors. Obviously, Québec has an energy plan to attract new investors. My question is simple: what will we use to attract new investors?"

Williams also pointed out that this agreement fails to seek redress for the Upper Churchill contract with Québec, which has been a key objective for successive Liberal governments. "The Upper Churchill power project must be the most lopsided agreement ever signed in the history of Canada. Prominent Newfoundlanders and Labradorians, such as Chuck Furey, a former energy minister, and Vic Young, former president and chief executive officer of Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, have stated that any deal to develop the Lower Churchill must address the incredible loss suffered by this province through the Upper Churchill. I agree.

"Yet, Roger Grimes has categorically stated that the Upper Churchill and Lower Churchill agreements are separate entities. In referring to this new agreement, he recently said, ‘Let's not be stuck in the past.' I say those who do not learn from the lessons of history are doomed to repeat them. Nobody wants to see this province walk away from the only lever we have to seek some form of redress from the Upper Churchill. I don't accept Premier Grimes' position."

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