06 December 2010

The Cable Atlantic solution

They say that you can never go home again but Danny Williams’s parting gift to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador seems to be more than a massive guarantee they’ll bear an ever greater public debt than the crushing one they carry now.

The guy who made his fortune delivering Detroit television stations to townies just couldn’t resist adding some cable to the deal.

Seems that Nalcor, the government-owned energy monopoly Williams created is now promising the people of Labrador that if they go along with his plan to bring Labrador power to townies, they will get cable.

Now to truly understand just exactly what this little bait and switch deal is really all about, recall that Danny Williams once promised, in writing, that

[c]onsistent with our energy policy objectives, a Progressive Conservative government will make use of the hydroelectric potential of the Lower Churchill and any electricity that can be recalled or reclaimed from the Upper Churchill to accomplish the following priorities:

•   Promote industrial development and meet domestic energy demand in Labrador and then on the Island of Newfoundland. [Emphasis added]

But that promise went out the window right as soon as Williams got into the business of trying to build his debt-laden legacy. They’ve been offering cash for the past couple of years for people to study small hydro projects as an alternative to powering these coastal towns with diesel.

If the Old Man and his hand-picked successor get their way, power lines from Muskrat Falls will run right by communities now served by diesel generators.  Power lines will run by the towns and take that Labrador power off to St. John’s and down into Nova Scotia, but none of it will go to the people closest to the dam, if it is built.

So, as it turns out that promise about using Labrador power for Labradorians is headed for the same dustbin that holds the one about only developing the Lower Churchill with Hydro-Quebec if there was redress for the 1969 deal.  As it turned out, Williams spent five years of his seven in office trying to get HQ to take an ownership stake without redress.  Set redress to one side is the way Premier Kathy Dunderdale described it last year.

What was that some famous politician said once about greatest frauds and unkept promises?

Anyway, …

The people in different parts of Labrador are none too pleased about this idea, apparently.  You can tell because there are suddenly Internet and telephone cable lines in the mix for the Lower Churchill.  The existing lines in Goose Bay are apparently at capacity and can’t handle any more subscribers.

Only a handful of years ago, back when the Old Man’s party was cutting a deal to subsidize some private sector cable companies, the cost of adding the lines to Labrador was something they needed to study.  And at a cost of $80 million or so back in 2006, it seemed to be a bit much, apparently because the provincial government couldn’t manage to step up.  Billions in public infrastructure but no cash for a Labrador cable line.

And then in 2009, Danny Williams was mongering any scare he could find just to sling a power lines through a World Heritage site.  The cost of going around the park was about $100 million according to Williams, and that was too much since it might jeopardize granny’s heart surgery or some such foolishness. 

But now – suddenly – they can find the cash.

If…that is.

Even though fibre optic lines would be a completely separate thing from the Nalcor project, government is now talking it up.  Maybe they are counting on the gullibility of the people of the Big Land.

Maybe they should think again.

- srbp -