01 July 2011

Innu vote overwhelmingly for something

The Innu of Labrador voted overwhelmingly in favour of something on Thursday.

News media are calling it the “New Dawn” agreement and say that the vote approves the Lower Churchill development, gives Innu compensation for Churchill Falls and does a few other things.

Not the least of those other things is “pave the way” for Muskrat Falls.

Beyond that, details are sketchy.

communionwaferwaiterKathy Dunderdale, seen at left waiting to receive communion outside the House of Assembly,  took time out from her junket to Europe to issue a news release about the vote.  The release contained no details on the deal.

What exactly are we talking about here? 

A very good question, grasshopper.

In late 2008, Danny Williams announced something called the New Dawn agreements. 

You can find a news release on it, as well as a link to a document signed by the provincial government and the Innu nation.  Labradorians might find the accompanying map – the one detailing Innu land – to be a bit more interesting than anything else.

Supposedly it was the last step before a final agreement set to be finished by the spring of 2009.   That release had lots of interesting details in it, including reference to privatising Churchill Falls.

Local media didn’t report on the details very much.


That’s an exaggeration.

They didn’t report the details at all.

And then suddenly it wasn’t the end of negotiations.

Like poof,  the Innu had to negotiate again.

They cancelled a vote scheduled for January 31, 2009 in the face of so much opposition to the deal the Innu Nation leadership had no choice but stop things cold.
Lots of talks and rumours of discussions followed but at no point did anyone discuss – nor did anyone report – anything on what the Innu and the provincial government were talking about.

Even last November, the Innu were the most noticeable cloud raining on Danny’s “I am outta here” parade. 

From an American consular briefing note leaked earlier this year, we know that Emera balked at the first discussions about something called the Lower Churchill project.  In the end, Danny Williams gave away a whole pile of stuff in order to get them to show up for his surprise retirement announcement.

So what did the Innu get for all their hard bargaining from the guy who was that anxious to get out the door of the Premier’s Office he gave Emera 35 years of free electricity, discount electricity above and beyond that plus a share of transmission revenue in Newfoundland and Labrador no other company has, all in exchange for building a power line across the Cabot Strait?

Emera didn’t have to negotiate half as long as the Innu to get their free gifts.
And they didn’t have a legitimate claim to own the land and resources everyone wanted to develop.

And that was after Williams used the legislature to seize generating plants from other companies just because he could.

T’would be nice if someone turned up some details and told the rest of us what the Innu voted on.

Like say, is this the final deal and will it pave the way for Muskrat Falls.  Or is it - as Dunderdale’s news release says plainly -  a “non-binding agreement” that will form the basis for future talks and an Innu land claims agreement?  In other words, this vote doesn’t pave the way for anything except more talks.

This is a wee bit more important to the future of the province, after all, than the name of Danny Williams’ latest hockey team. 

- srbp -