22 August 2010

The old trading federal cash for a deal with Quebec trick

“This is truly a historic and momentous occasion for the people of our province, as never before have we been granted access through the province of Quebec with our own power.”

That was Danny Williams in April 2009. 

Williams was describing a deal by NALCOR Energy to wheel power from Churchill Falls through Quebec to American markets.

These days you’d hardly know the event happened.

But it did.

The April 2009 deal is the single episode which refutes all the claims Williams has made since then about not being able to run Labrador power through Quebec.

Williams told reporters at the time that the deal

“… shows that our power [in Labrador] is not stranded power," he said.

"We're not forced to just sell it at the border to Quebec at whatever price Quebec wants to pay for it."

Not surprisingly, given its position on a line from Labrador to Ontario, the Government of Quebec preferred this option to a line subsidised by Ottawa.  CBC quoted Quebec natural resources minister Claude Bechard on the April 2009 deal:

"We don't want to have a new transmission grid that will be subsidized by the federal government," BĂ©chard said.

"That's the way that we have to work for the future. That's the way we have to work if we want to keep our capacity in our place."

All in all, Williams most recent attack on Quebec is very odd indeed.

Neither he nor the Nova Scotians should have been surprised by Quebec’s objection to federal subsidies for a new line to Nova Scotia, even if – as in the Nova Scotia line – it has nothing whatsoever to do with the Lower Churchill.

Oh yes, Danny Williams mentioned this might be a way to run power from the Great White Whale to the Maritimes, but NALCOR isn’t really too interested in that very long and very expensive route.

You can tell this because the route it is highlighting to the never-ending environmental review process, the route described connects the two new dams back to Churchill Falls and then to the border with Quebec.  The most recent local media report confirm NALCOR is still using exactly the same development scenario described in the original submissions, which are the same as the project outlines used by Roger Grimes’ crew in 2002, Brian Tobin’s gang in 1998 and every provincial administration back to Joe Smallwood.

And it’s not like Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter doesn’t realise this whole transmission connect to Newfoundland isn’t really about the Lower Churchill either. As Dex put it last January:

Premier Darrell Dexter said he’s not surprised Newfoundland and Labrador is looking for a cheaper option than an underwater cable connection to Nova Scotia for moving energy from Lower Churchill to market.

"The sheer economics of it are undeniable in terms of a transportation corridor for that energy," the premier said after a cabinet meeting Thursday.

If you want to know what this Nova Scotia line is really all about, you have to look nor farther back than April 2009.

That Ontario line and its subsidies went “poof” pretty quickly, didn’t it?

This whole Anglo-Saxon route is nothing more than a bargaining ploy the Old Man is using in his ongoing efforts to get a deal with Hydro-Quebec.

And besides, it’s not like a Newfoundland and Labrador Premier didn’t use Nova Scotia to try and leverage a deal with Quebec for Labrador power before.

Would you believe 1964?

- srbp -