27 July 2009

Significant digits: $100 million

No, it’s not Dr. Evil trying to catch up with the times.

There’s something about $100 million that seems to tweak the current Provincial Conservative administration in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Even more specifically, it is $100 million coupled with Labrador.

Take, for example, the plan to string hydroelectric lines and massive steel towers from Labrador to St. John’s via a UNESCO World Heritage site.

The Premier is backing the proposal to drive the giant steel erections straight through Gros Morne because the cost of jogging around the park -  which he estimates at $100 million – is too high a price. 

Or during the last provincial election campaign when the Liberals floated the idea of establishing a $100 million fund for economic development in Labrador.

Oh no, screamed the Tories.  The province might go bankrupt at such a price.

And then there’s the cost of extending fibre-optic telephone and data lines to Labrador.

Glorious idea, but the provincial government can’t even think about starting without federal cash.  The estimated cost is $80 million, but that’s only a couple of minor cost overruns or a simple bit of rounding from hitting the magic number.

All that is strange enough from a government that has money pouring in by the barrel-full from oil deals signed before 2003 when they came to power.

But, in fact, the Tories in power have so much cash floating around from all those old deals that, according to the last budget, they’ve got almost 20 times $100 million sitting in temporary investments.

Bankruptcy is far from imminent.

Still, the consistency of the talking point that connects $100 million and Labrador as being something problematic, just leaps out as a pattern.


$100 million.

There’s something about the two that sounds awfully familiar.

A few clicks of the keyboard and up it pops.

Faced with bankruptcy in the early 1930s, the Dominion of Newfoundland tried to sell Labrador to Canada as a way of picking up some fast cash and retiring the crushing debt that had been accumulated by decades of over-spending and mismanagement by Tory and Grit and coalition governments alike. 

Labradorians didn’t even have a vote before the 1946 National Convention but their lands, won by Newfoundland in a 1927 Privy Council decision on the boundary went up for sale before the ink was even dry on the documents.

The asking price was $110 million.  In some accounts the $10 million bit gets dropped off, probably due to rounding.

The Canadians weren’t interested.

Seems like the connection between Labrador and $100 million is passed on genetically because it just keeps seeming to crop up among local politicians.