10 March 2011

Labrador hydro: That 70s Show reruns

Listening to Leo Abbass on CBC radio Wednesday afternoon, you could almost imagine you were back in the 1970s. 

Harry Hibbs. 

Banana seat bicycles. 

Joan Morrissey. 

All around the circle.

John Crosbie with muttonchops. 

The whole shooting match.

Radio Noon had Abbass, the mayor of Happy Valley-Goose Bay, as the guest for its hour-long call-in show. He was talking up Muskrat Falls, the economic disaster doing business as Danny Williams’ memorial to Hisself. 

Some guy called in to point out that after construction ended, there’d only be a handful of jobs left keeping an eye on the gauges as all the power streamed off somewhere other than Labrador.  Abbass disagreed.  After all, he reasoned, there’d be all that cheap power available to lure some industry or other and hundreds of jobs to boot.

Flick your mind back 40 years - if it goes back that far -  and you probably remember another bunch of politicians who said exactly the same thing. That was the big idea for Churchill Falls back to the 1950s when Joe Smallwood supposedly first dreamed his first dream of immortality: cheap power for aluminum plants and lumber mills. 

Ditto Baie d’Espoir on the island.  That one was supposed to support not one, not two, not even three or four major new industries.  By the time Joe Smallwood and his crew got around to that one, their cheap power was supposed to sustain seven new industries.


With one blow.

Paper mill.


Petrochemical plant. 

Hockey stick factory.  Betcha never heard that one before.

Phosphorus plant.

A couple of others the old brain can’t recall.

A bunch of new industries.

Hundreds of new jobs.

All with cheap power.

2 mills, even less than at Churchill Falls.

Not even the pretext of trying to make the thing break even.

Just like the aluminum smelter in Labrador.  That old chestnut is still good for all sorts of mileage even from the most highly educated members of our population.

What do the hydroqueen, at least one recent premier, the odd economist and now maybe a mayor have in common? 

Your first two guesses don’t count but if you get it right, you could win the chance to cut the ribbon at the Grand Opening of the latest Great Unnamed Industry to Save Labrador. 

The gigantic load of horse manure is that much a part of our culture that when they get done with the 60th anniversary of the Fisheries Broadcast, CBC should celebrate 60 years of aluminum smelter rumours in Newfoundland and Labrador. 

Oh dear.  Was that sarcasm?  There’ll probably be a Telegram column now defending the honour of this particular myth.  If two university professors get a quote in the paper pointing to its turd-like aroma, you can bet there’ll be at least two columns, one of which will point out that the two learneds are – whispers – you know.

That way.

What way?

You know:


You mean mainlanders?

YES!  For Gawd’s sake.

And as such, they are unfit to comment at all on our revered customs and venerated observances.

Like Screech-ins and gravel-pit camping, both of which have been practiced in the province (and maybe even Labrador) since John Cabot’s time at least. 

Surely, that long.

And they are definitely not – respectively – a cheesy 1970s marketing gimmick by the liquor corporation and a relic of the post-war era when the government actually had enough money to build roads for people to drive cars on.

And it isn’t just this Labrador hydro power stuff.

Take a look at municipal politics.  Some poor sod who went into a coma around the time of the Canada Summer Games in 1977 and who sprang back to life this week would look at the TV and wonder what the frig was going on.  Some woman from city council with a hat on then talking about being verbally beaten up by her fellow councillors went his lights went out.  Now that the lights are back on,  he sees some woman from city council with a hat on…

You get the idea.

Then there’s the fishery.

Only difference is that this cartoon today would have the one guy with four hands covering ears and eyes and with both feet in his mouth.

Since 2003, it’s like the province – and Labrador - is one giant trip back to the 70s.


- srbp -