Before we get into that, let’s just put out there what a great many people are wondering since Crosbie finished up as lieutenant governor: why are local media so besotted with John Crosbie that they are giving him air time on the radio and column inches in the province’s largest circulation daily to once again say all the things he has said countless times over the past 40 years?
Crosbie wastes no time going right into it. Brinco agreed to sell its ownership in CFLCO, according to Crosbie, thereby making it possible for successive governments to try and right the wrong of the 1969 contract that, as Crosbie put it, “Joey Smallwood had approved.”
They didn’t agree to sell. In 1974, the provincial government decided to nationalise the company. Frank Moores argued that the provincial government needed control of the resources BRINCO held in order to develop the provincial economy.
Second paragraph: Crosbie repeats the claim that the "Government of Canada was requested” to declare the project a project of national importance under the old section 92 (10) of the Constitution Act. Note the passive construction. He never says who made the request. Recent research by Jim Feehan has confirmed that the Smallwood administration made no such request.
Did Crosbie ever make the request? That’s an interesting question given that Crosbie talks about Lower Churchill development like he had nothing to do with it ever. Crosbie doesn’t say, even though he had a chance to set the record straight. Consider that to be an admission that Crosbie never made the request either. As such we have nothing there but an unsubstantiated claim that seems designed to deflect attention onto the federal government and off the provincial government of which Crosbie was a member.
If you want a more reliable version of these early events, consider Jason Churchill’s 2003 paper for the Blame Canada commission. He describes very neatly efforts by Frank Moores’ administration to develop Gull Island. They had a tentative deal with the federal government, a fact Crosbie fails to acknowledge. What killed the project in the mid-1970s was not federal perfidy, but simple economics. The projected cost ballooned to more than $2.3 billion in 1975.
Crosbie makes claims that are simply not true:
All premiers, from Moores on to Danny Williams and Kathy Dunderdale, have tried throughout the years to negotiate improvements to the Upper Churchill contract with Quebec, but Quebec has unfailingly refused to co-operate in any of these negotiations for any sensible improvements to the original contract so unfair to Newfoundland.There’s no evidence the Conservatives tried to negotiate a deal on the 1969 contract after they took office in 2003. To the contrary, Kathy Dunderdale admitted in 2009 that she and Danny Williams made offers to Hydro-Quebec to develop the Lower Churchill without any redress of 1969. The Conservatives talked a lot about redress before he got into office but once they had their butts in the chairs, they changed their minds pretty quickly.
Crosbie’s next column will give his reasons for backing the Muskrat Falls deal but right there in the middle of this first of two columns, Crosbie reveals much of himself in a very simple statement. After listing all the glorious efforts to right the 1969 wrong and develop the Lower Churchill, and blaming all the failures on Quebec and Ottawa, Crosbie says:
None of these actions could have been attempted by successive premiers unless we had acted to regain ownership of CFLCo and to obtain back all of the water power rights that Brinco had received, so the cost of our action was well justified, I believe.Crosbie, the force behind the expropriation, pats himself on the back.
All premiers who followed Smallwood should be given credit for the strenuous attempts they made to overcome the position our province was put in by this deplorable Upper Churchill agreement.
Not everyone involved thought so. before he died, Frank Moores told CBC’s Doug Letto he considers the expropriation one of the biggest mistakes of his administration. Moores wasn’t alone. Go back and check Churchill’s paper:
A former Conservative member of the Moores’ administration, the Honourable William Marshall, considered the initiative to have been a great mistake as it “compounded the mistake” of the 1969 power contract. While costing an enormous amount of money, it did not improve the province’s bargaining position. Marshall stated that the only thing accomplished was provincial money being used to buy out private shareholders. Each year, the province continued to pay the interest on the money borrowed to finance the deal while the Lower Churchill remained undeveloped.The measure failed because Newfoundland and Labrador’s core problem of access to markets without terms being dictated by Quebec remained unchanged.If this is the way Crosbie leads into his endorsement of Muskrat Falls, you can just imagine what sort of self-congratulatory and delusional nonsense will be in the second column.