16 November 2009

Lower Churchill definitely a long way off

Danny Williams and his little band might be off to New York to push the Lower Churchill but those savvy people in the Big Apple will know the project is increasingly nothing more than a cute little video with Ron Hynes’ voiceover.

The aboriginal land claims agreement said last year to be finalised and set for a ratification vote in January is still mired in the negotiation and ratification process.

Canadian Press is reporting that Innu deputy grand chief Peter Penashue said:

"Government and the aboriginal people have signed off ... and that will ultimately go for ratification in the very near future."

But Penashue said it could be three or four years before the agreement winds its way through federal channels and is ultimately approved and voted on by his people.

Three or four years before it gets to a vote.

That’s a long way from this fall, which was Penashue’s prediction in June 2009.

Danny Williams was right when he told the Telegram editorial board recently that the project would not happen in the near term.

One of the reasons for the delay in finishing the land claims agreement is that only two of the three parties necessary for a finished product were involved.   Despite the provincial government’s  decades of experience with land claims agreements, including lengthy negotiations on the Innu claim, these talks ignored the federal government entirely. 

"At one point we were looking at splitting the agreement" into provincial and federal areas of jurisdiction, he said.

"Subsequently, it has been agreed to by lawyers that (provincial issues) can't be separate from the feds because the feds have the constitutional powers and authority to finalize these agreements," Penashue said.

There’s no explanation why the provincial government and the Innu embarked on the bilateral talks knowing that legally there was no way to cut Ottawa out.  What legal genius thought otherwise?

This is further proof that the problems and delays in the Lower have nothing to do with the politically driven fiction coming from the Premier’s Office  - and faithfully repeated by some others - that the whole Lower Churchill project is buggered up because of Hydro Quebec.  

There’s a reason why your humble e-scribbler labelled the New Dawn announcement the Matshishkapeu Accord.  The whole thing is a pile of wind, from some of its initial details to the  sheer nonsense that the whole thing was done.

The Premier heralded the thing last fall as doing everything except curing scoliosis. The deal was not just an important step toward the Lower Churchill, it was an “extremely important” one and before the already breathless sentence ran out of breath let’s add that it was also a “significant” step too.  Like an important step  - let alone an extremely important step  - wouldn’t also be significant unless that was added to the sentence as well.

Anyway, the overblown language turns out to have been a very good indicator that the deal was not so much of a deal after all.  Remember the Rule of Opposites?

After it was announced, the Matshishkapeu Accord  quietly slipped away into MIA Land.  The ratification vote was cancelled amid rumblings of major problems with the deal that needed reworking.