31 January 2010

Pick a position, any position

Over at nottawa, Mark draws attention to the most recent provincial government position on the federal shares in Hibernia, namely that the provincial government would be willing to pay cash for them.

This, Mark notes, is in stark contrast to the government’s original position, which he cites in a letter dated in 2008.

And indeed it is.

Like Sands Through the Hour Glass…

But in 2005, the provincial government’s letter to Santa put it differently:


The paragraph preceding that specific question puts some other colour in it.  The provincial government recognizes that the federal government had recovered its initial investment.  The provincial government expected anything beyond that to accrue to the provincial government.

But that question refers to the whole silly business of being “kept whole”.  In effect, such a phrase commits the province to ensuring the federal government recovers not only its investment but what they anticipated getting back as well.  it’s a bit of a nebulous idea but there should be no doubt about it:  If the reserves have grown  - as expected - and the potential federal return on investment has grown – as expected – the the question actually lays claim to zilch.

And as a consequence there wouldn’t be any purchase of shares.  Indeed, there would be no claim to the shares in the first place.

… so shifts the Demand of the Day

Now the rather quaint convention of meaning what you say and saying what you mean has always been no never mind for the current provincial administration.  Take for example, the varying positions on Equalization. One day the provincial government wanted 100% inclusion of natural resources revenues.  The next day, it demanded 100% exclusion.  One November, it was great to province that was not getting any Equalization.  Two months later, not getting hundreds of millions in Equalization that year and the year after was a betrayal of historic proportions.

Or for that matter the political racket that wound up with the one-time transfer of federal cash to the provincial government.  The provincial government’s initial position would have produced that single amount in one year.  Ultimately they caved and said yes to way less than they originally demanded.

Whatever position the government took before or takes now actually doesn’t really mean very much of anything at all. 

So right now there’s talk of paying cash for the shares.

What comes out the other end of the process – if anything comes out at all – may wind up looking a lot different from whatever has been said or written until now.