06 April 2006

Peter Fenwick on Hebron failure

Realization that the Hebron deal is dead is starting to sink in across the Newfoundland and Labrador oil patch. Hope of possibly restarting talks and concluding a deal have faded and more and more individuals and businesses are coming to understand that the Hebron partners may not seek again to develop the field for at least two years.

National media criticism of Danny Williams in the Globe and the National Post continues to be strong. It makes their previous criticism during the flag flap in 2004/05 look like a love tap. What the national newspapers and columnists are saying about Danny Williams' decisions about Hebron makes their condemnation of Tobin's "Not one teaspoon" stunt with Inco over Voisey's Bay in 1998 look like foreplay.

While the rhetoric has been extreme in the wake of the deal's collapse, cooler heads will start to look at the entire issue. The blame game will end and people both inside and outside of government will see if there are lessons to be learned.

Ultimately no one profits from blame - as much fun as it can be in the short term. The goal must always be to learn from bad situations and figure out how to move forward positively.

In the meantime, there is this column "Newfoundland's shakedown racket" in the National Post from former provincial New Democratic Party leader Peter Fenwick. Criticizing Williams by comparing him to Hugo Chavez or Vladimir Putin is not only unfair, but also only boosts his stock in the wrong-headed circles clogging radio call-in shows. Condemnation from The Mainland only serves to rally the locals around their Leader in the short term.

In the longer term, as with Tobin, the costs of these situations can be severe. Screwing with the local business community can be deadly and there are undoubtedly deep wounds Danny Williams needs to heal. Tobin suffered a steady erosion of his support - at least in private. Roger Grimes paid the price for Tobin's folly as well as his own shortcomings.

There is value in heeding Fenwick's last comment:

There's a reason Newfoundland has seen over two decades pass since the discovery of a new oil field: If you keep changing the rules, people won't want to play.

Hugo Chavez may not be able to grasp that reality. Danny Williams is too savvy to make the same mistake.