Saturday, November 20, 2010

Provincial deal on hydro-power..a real breakthrough

By  Shawn McCarthy, Globe and Mail, November 18, 2010
Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Danny Williams is celebrating his government’s $6.2-billion deal to develop Labrador hydroelectric power as a declaration of independence from Quebec’s domination in an economically critical, historically controversial industry.

Provincially-owned Nalcor Energy and Halifax-based Emera (EMA-T31.130.581.90%) announced Thursday they have agreed to proceed with the long-delayed development of the Lower Churchill hydro project, as Mr. Williams and Nova Scotia Premier Darrell Dexter trumpeted a new era of economic co-operation in Atlantic Canada.

“Today we sign an agreement on our own terms with another great partner, Emera, which is free of the geographic stranglehold which Quebec has had for far too long on us,” Mr. Williams told a news conference in St. John’s. “Today, we are saying that Quebec will no longer determine the fate of Newfoundland and Labrador, and one of the most attractive clean energy projects in North America.”
Thank you, to both Premiers of Newfoundland/Labrador and Nova Scotia, for negotiating this deal, circumventing the undue influence on the development and transmission of hydro-electric power by the province of Quebec.
As a citizen of Ontario, one has to wonder out loud why is the premier of this province not screaming "foul" at  Quebec's refusal to permit the transmission of power to our province, thereby potentially reducing the costs to consumers, especially with the announcement, just this week, that Ontario electric bills will rise by 46% over the next five years?
For far too long, the concept of interprovincial trade, and interprovincial labour and interprovincial co-operation has been subverted by the parochial, narrow and selfish interests of  provincial fiefdoms, at the expense of the benefits to both those same provinces and the nation, from a more "enlightened" approach.
It is happening again in the field of financial regulation, as the federal Finance Minister struggles in vain to secure permission from the provinces, in this case specifically Quebec and Alberta, to mount an national system of financial regulation.
There will be a federal election in the next twelve months, most likely, and then there will be a leadership contest for the federal Conservative Party and, it says here, the name of Danny Williams will be one of those from which the members of that party will select their next leader (see footnote update below). Here is a no-nonsense, pragmatic, somewhat visionary and certainly not "backward about coming forward" in has manner premier. He has presided over a significant change in the way his province both does business and is perceived by the rest of the country. He is unabashed in his pursuit of the interests of his province, without the time-worn shibboleth of remaining "respectful" until he earns his stripes, as was expected of earlier politicians.
Call him the P.K. Subban of provincial premiers, (one Montreal newspaper has dubbed the rookie, "P.K. Cocky") and I am confident that the current Prime Minister would concur with that assessment, so unbridled in his confrontation of the PM has Williams been.
A sound business deal, eco-friendly and providing the base for some limited export to the U.S. of hydro electric power, reducing green house gases and continuing the transformation of NL to a "have" from a "have-not" province...who can argue with that, except the Innu, who are demanding that the federal government settle their land claims, before they will agree to the new agreement.
And, all Canadians can only hope that the federal government will not bobble this negotiation as they have so many others, like the funding to Parry Sound Muskoka for the G20/G8 while leaving Toronto and its many obvious costs out in the cold, like the non-compete contract for 65 F35 fighter jets, and like the recent bruhaha with the United Arab Emirates over the closure of our air base, because the UAE are not granted landing rights in Canada.
Canadians have lost confidence in the Harper government to be simply "competent" never mind visionary or imaginative. And only their incompetence could subvert this game-changing agreement.

UPDATE
By Sue Bailey, Canadian Press, Toronto Star, November 25, 2010
Premier Danny Williams, the political pugilist from Newfoundland and Labrador whose popularity was the envy of politicians across Canada, is leaving politics before the new year.

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