What’s in it for us?

Colin MacLean
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Labrador residents want assurances Lower Churchill Project will benefit them

MP Todd Russell

It wasn’t quite Open Line, but it was darn close.

This province’s first “virtual town hall meeting”  took place Wednesday night, with Labrador MP Todd Russell inviting his geographically widespread constituents to join a phone conversation on the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project.

“Throughout Labrador in my travels and conversations, and through our most recent survey, Labradorians have told me they have concerns,” Russell said during his opening comments.

“They have expressed their opinions around environmental issues, about economic issues, social issues and cultural issues. The overriding concern that’s come to light is that no thought has been given to meet the needs and aspirations of the people who own this resource, the people of Labrador,” he said.

Just fewer than 2,200 people listened to the conversation, but there was only time for about 15 speakers, none of which were overly enthused about the Lower Churchill Project.

Some commenters were vehemently opposed to the idea, for varying reasons, while most wanted clarification from Russell on exactly what the benefits would be for Labrador.

There was concern wild game and fish would suffer from the project and others wanted more done to protect the environment as a whole.

“I don’t think we should be talking about Muskrat Falls or the Lower Churchill at all,” said Clarice (last names were not given for callers).

“There is just too many negative impacts (because of) this project and no amount of benefits can justify the destruction that it’s going to wreak on our river, on the ecosystem and the rest of the environment,” she said.

Others talked about the possibility of power rates in Labrador skyrocketing.

Roberta wanted to know if power rates on the mainland would be going up as a result of the project.

“I can’t say whether or not that’s going to happen. I can say with some certainty that is a very high probability,” said Russell in response.

“It is a question that is very important to the people of Labrador.”

Others wanted to know if jobs would be created for local people.

Brian from Wabush asked, “what guarantee do we have that the majority of the jobs are going to be for the people of Labrador?”

Russell could not give him a definite answer, mainly because there wasn’t one, he said.

“There’s nothing to say we are guaranteed jobs here in Labrador, even if we are qualified and are willing to take those positions,” said Russell.

The discussion over the pros and cons of the $6.2-billion proposal raged for 90 minutes. Once the time limit had run out Russell invited anyone who wanted to comment but could not, to leave a message through the call-in system.

He also expressed his gratitude for everyone’s participation.

“It has certainly buoyed my spirits to know that so many people ... are concerned about something so fundamental to us here in Newfoundland and Labrador.   

 

cmaclean@thetelegram.com

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Muskrat Falls

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Recent comments

  • Norman Andrews
    February 25, 2011 - 10:03

    Great work Todd! That "virtual town hall meeting" of your's was excellent. Please do it again soon. Who got your back Labrador? Maybe it's Nalcor. http://labradorpower.blogspot.com/2011/02/subliminal-adshydroschool-children.html

  • Brad
    February 25, 2011 - 09:32

    Anyone who thinks this is green power is smoking too much green and has no idea what they are talking about. Natural gas is the way of the future and where it is so cheap now, the US are building natural gas plants to take care of their electricity needs. By the time we get Muskrat falls online there will be no market for this and thr price will be way more than other conventional sources. Can I get a few hundred million dollars from the Feds for a business startup with no customers? I don't think so.

  • badameli
    February 25, 2011 - 05:23

    Now - or 5 years ago is and was the best time to start large projects. The cost of money is extremely cheap now. The - how does this benefit me, it'll hurt the wildlife, not in my back yard stuff is ridiculous. It seems more like people don't like change, don't want progression. If you want newfoundland & labrador to succeed in the future, it will have to grow. The small towns, unsustainable population bases will have to be absorbed into larger cities where infrastructure can be maintained. If anything these types of projects aside from providing "clean" energy will provide an impetus for growth over the next 20 years.

  • Brian D
    February 24, 2011 - 19:13

    Ed hit on the head! It has to be done right, and the people that are sacrificing their land and resources should be compensated. It is wrong to secure your own future and that of your families at the expense of others and their families!!! Until the people of Labrador (West, Central, Nunatsiavut, NunatuKavut, Straits, and the Innu) are assured of tangible, long-term benefits, this project will not go ahead. Perhaps it is a matter of education, or maybe the deal actually lacks in long-term benefits for Labrador. Either way it is the responsibility of all steak holders to make sure its done right. Those that imply or state that moving ahead without the approval of Labradorians is in the best interest of larger groups elsewhere are being pragmatic, and that is a very weak arguement.

  • John Smith
    February 24, 2011 - 15:47

    Ya' know Ed, this is an entirely different deal, and to be honest I know enough about it to see that it will work to our benefit. Emera wants to pay up front for 35 years of electricity, that's fine with me, I want that cable. I see a link to the mainland to be the only hope for our future. For sales of energy, to providing for industry here. Bring on the connection. Or we could remain dependant on bunker C, and see our rates raise wildly like oil.

  • Ed Hollett
    February 24, 2011 - 12:52

    John Smith, you sound exactly like the "John Smiths" who rallied around Joe Smallwood's coat-tails and cheered on the 1969 deal with Hydro-Quebec. They all cheered wildly for exactly the same ideas backed by exactly the same lack of concrete information. Don't be surprised if this one turns out to be the same financial mess the first one was. At least we have the real name of one of the people who backed so we can ask you could make the same mistake twice.

  • John Smith
    February 24, 2011 - 09:54

    Yes Kevin, it will be grim, so that is why for our kids, and grand kids that we support this development, we get power flowing to the markets, and by 2041 we will have even more power flowing on these lines, to stabilize our rates, and to attract industry. this will be the greatest project ever to be done in this province, I hope and pray that it will come to fruition.

    • Kevin
      February 24, 2011 - 21:48

      There isn't a market at the Muskrat Falls price, except in the monopoly market on the island of Newfoundland. Your kids and grand-kids will be paying through the nose for Danny's folly, through their light and power bills and interest on the debt. And 2041? Get real bye!!!!! The transmission line won't even carry Gull Island Falls power let alone Upper Churchill. Give your head a shake!!!

  • Kevin
    February 24, 2011 - 08:50

    When the oil runs out there will be 25-cent electricity to pay and $4.5 billion (plus cost over runs) of Danny Debt to retire. You are right John Smith, pretty grim.

  • Brian
    February 24, 2011 - 08:44

    Newfoundland has plenty of Hydro potential to develop/is developed for its long term needs. So develop that sure.

  • John Smith
    February 24, 2011 - 07:51

    Oh, so that's what smarmy politicians do when you have an election coming up. You sniff out an issue, then you pretend you care about it, and get everyone all riled up. Then when it comes time to mark your X, you but this back in power. It's a shame we all can't suppot this great project, because when the oil is gone my friends, things are going to be pretty grim around here.