09 September 2009

A curious misuse of words

Over the past couple of years, Premier Danny Williams and his cabinet got into the habit of referring to 2041 as the year that the Churchill Falls hydro project and all its power would be “repatriated” to Newfoundland and Labrador.

Leave aside the Mad Hatterish implication of talking about a river as if it had somehow been removed physically from the province.  Just look at the words used by the Premier Hisself:

2007 – Danny Williams’ speech to the Board of Trade
And in 2041, we will repatriate the Upper Churchill and take back what is rightfully ours. [Underlining in original]
2008 – Danny Williams, on the occasion of a land claims deal with the Innu:
"We all look forward, with great anticipation, to that day in 2041 when the Upper Churchill is finally repatriated to our province, once and for all," Williams said.
2009 – Danny Williams, during his little tirade aimed at Randy Simms:
And as well by then we will have wind on, we’ll have gas on, we’ll have the Churchill on, we will have repatriated the Upper Churchill, a lot of wonderful things happening in Newfoundland and Labrador and…

Some of you may be wondering what is so special about 2041.  Well, that’s the year the contract with Hydro Quebec expires, the contract that sees power go to Hydro Quebec at ridiculously low prices.  In 2041,  Churchill Falls (Labrador) Corporation will find itself with 5400 megawatts of power and the ability to sell the power to whatever customer comes knocking.

And what of Hydro Quebec?

Well, it will still own one third of CF(L)Co unless it sheds its shares in the meantime. 

So with the Quebec Crown corporation still owning one third of Churchill Falls, the falls wouldn’t exactly be “repatriated” then, would they?  Hydro Quebec would still get a huge piece of the action from the falls.  That hardly seems like any sort of redress for the grievance found in the original contract.
But here’s the question:

When – if ever – might the falls be considered to revert entirely, and unquestionably, to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador?