Damned if you do, damned if you don’t

Trevor Taylor
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I wonder sometimes what people really want. I hear government should spend money on rural revitalization initiatives, but see condemnation for losses when things go asunder.

I hear calls for new ferries, yet I see questions of how much longer we should foot the bill for ferries that go nowhere and carry no one.

And while we are at it, let’s build another big ferry to go to Fogo Island for that one weekend of the year when current capacity is exceeded. Of course, the capacity was exceeded because the provincial and federal governments, in conjunction with Zita Cobb, invested in the tourist development that now has people going there. Hopefully it will not run into financial troubles, since for sure the governments will be condemned for risking taxpayers’ money there, as well.

I hear calls for reduction of emissions from Holyrood, but condemnation of the Muskrat Falls development.

I hear calls to deal with the fishery, but not a suggestion as to how.

Gray Aquaculture has run into some trouble. Let us condemn them. After all, there was government money, you know, the rural development kind that went into them.

Which way do you want it? Do you want the government to invest in high-risk rural development initiatives that the banks are averse to going into? Do you want clean power? Would you like to see the Connaigre Peninsula just whither away as it was doing?

I wonder what it is that the government is not doing that it should be doing from a development perspective. I have seen and have been party to investments in aquaculture on the Connaigre, wood pellet plants in forestry, and quota acquisition in Arnold’s Cove to name a few. They have all been condemned in some fashion, yet the alternatives have not been advanced.

The Liberals are in the midst of a leadership race now, and one of the issues is rural revitalization. Of course it is. Do you hear any suggestions on what should be done? No, me either.

Do you remember Sheila Copps and the GST? Do you remember the federal Liberals and the privatization of Pearson Airport?

Do you remember the helicopter contract? The helicopter contract that the Mulroney government had secured but the Liberals cancelled, at considerable cost. And we still ended up with essentially the same helicopters.

As for Sheila, she resigned after promising to end the GST; a byelection brought her back, (I liked her, actually.) And Pearson was still privatized, and so were most of the rest of the airports.

So let’s save ourselves a whole pile of money, and save Dwight Ball — in the event that he makes it as Liberal leader — a whole lot of hand-wringing.

Let us stop the Muskrat Falls development. Cheaper power is for sure available from burning coal; after all, it is about the money. That will make it easier for Cathy Bennett, too. And in the off chance that Jim Bennett makes it, let’s shut down the aquaculture industry.

And if Danny Dumaresque, by some stroke of divine intervention, makes it, I will be there to help him with the tunnel to Labrador.

As for Paul Antle, good luck with Tom Osborne!

Just remember: it is easier to be opposed to anything than it is to stand for something.


Trevor Taylor is a former cabinet minister under the Danny Williams administration. Email: trevortaylor@nl.rogers.com.

Organizations: Pearson Airport

Geographic location: Fogo Island, Holyrood

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Recent comments

  • Winston Adams
    September 04, 2013 - 15:16

    Trevor, you say "stop the Muskrat Fall Project, after all cheaper power is available from coal, as it is all about the money" This is a simplistic statement that dismisses reasonable alternatives. Some 45 percent of our present energy production is wasted by inefficient end use.... primarily in the use of obsolete baseboard heaters and hot water tanks for residential and commercial. Other jurisdictions are spending 5 times more per customer on efficiency and achieving 10 times the energy reduction that we are. Such an approach stabilizes the rates for electrity to consumers and reduces their energy costs by needing less electricity. Our climate is excellent for 60 percent reduction in winter heating electricity using cost effective , reliable efficient heating systems. An a engineer involved in electric power systems and heating systems I have written several pieces on this and presentations to the PUB. It a major component to reduce Holyrood pollution without high cost Mustrat Falls. It has been ignored. I'd be glad to show you a few houses I did as a pilot project to prove their value, and the huge reductions in energy needed. A reasonably well constructed house can heat year round for 250.00 per year per 1000 sq feet of space. The equipment cost per kw output is about 1/4 the cost of new power from Muskrat Falls. It should be a no-brainer for Nfld, and as other jurisdictions are much advanced in this approach. Guess you never heard of this? The economics is simple: An 8 percent increase on the power bill saves 30 percent on the yearly power bill since less electricity is needed. These saving more than pay for the new heating equipment, with less cost to the consumer and no need for large scale expensive new generation sources from a thousand miles distance. It's being done all over North America.

  • Cashin Delaney
    September 04, 2013 - 11:27

    Mr. Taylor wonders what people want? Naw, that is just a lead-in to his endorsement for the all or nothing approach that helps government help businesses at the expense of people and their communities. There are solutions all around us for moderates to choose from. Genuine and passionate people have been screaming alternatives to every situation mentioned, or alluded to, in this column. Unfortunately, moderate solutions are systematically rejected. Ferries and hydro dams and salmon farms have been studied, but the government attitude seems to defer to the companies who quickly build these subjects of debate, rather than the concerns of locals and/or end users. All or nothing seems to be the only way to go. Helios had alternatives to MF, but it wasn't in the money-milking agenda so their recommendations were dismissed outright. All or nothing is exciting. Moderate is boring. Ferries. Will we have our own fast ferry scandal like BC had in the late 90's. Like the MF project, BC was warned about the ferry situation by those with experience, and who were unafraid to look at historical data. Taxpayers understood that the rushed choice was 1) race to whack together some awesome boats to save the whole shipbuilding industry, or 2) do nothing. Salmon. Atlantic salmon is not a true salmon. It is of the trout family. Atlantic salmon swim again after spawning. Pacific salmon do not. We are polluting our waters (any word on Vale court case yet?) and so many of our rivers are dammed off for hydro already. We are creating an endangered species only to farm it and cause further ecological damage. ""I wonder what it is that the government is not doing that it should be doing from a development perspective."" I think the Gov't needs to stay out of development and do it's core job. If private money can't build AND operate a fish farm, a generating plant, or a few ferries, why would a government? A government's primary focus should be regulating these operations, not leading development. Government cannot create employment, it can only foster an environment were job growth can occur. A well-run province with genuine leadership will draw in respectable developers, and support concerned citizens. Naw, we scare honest investors away with our track-record of graft and corruption and cower our citizens and shame them for speaking out. Rural revitalization is not some gigantic welfare novelty cheque to be handed out to the King of the Baymen to share among the tribe. It is an ongoing process that is often overshadowed by political ambitions in the all or nothing battle. Just remember: it is easier to stand and bark for the Big Boys than it is to sit down and explore alternatives outside the all or nothing reality tunnel that we seem to be trapped inside by our secret government. A younger Taylor once said, "I want to be part of a government that sees the bigger picture and translates it to results for real people in our communities." Now that he is retired, he is charging the average, unpensioned, rural citizen with the task of picking the bones out of all the isolated, high risk, complicated projects while he fires all these issues of the day in a blender and pours the foul mixture over the 5 Liberal leadership candidates. Maybe Mr. Taylor's next column will focus on fish farming on the south coast, or just ferry service, or the grounding station residents of Holyrood are getting now, while they wait for Holyrood to shut down. Share your vast oceanic wisdom. Earn your pension. Remember when You, Danny Williams, Jerome Kennedy and Paul Oram were in Harbour Grace trying on workboots? You guys were job-creating machines that day. Remember.... oh, wait, I should go do something constructive. The remember game is better left to those retired.

    • Cashin Delaney
      September 09, 2013 - 23:23

      Correction: Trevor Taylor is not retired, nor is he drawing a pension. In refering to his retirement from politics and writing about unpensioned rural citizens, he has corrected me on these facts via email. Sorry Trevor if I may have corroborated with your byline to insinuate that you were hove off on some pittance since your days within government . He also did write about ferry, salmon and hydro issues in his past columns. Once again readers, do not let me decieve you. My facts were wrong, I stand corrected and beg forgiveness.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    September 03, 2013 - 15:37

    For the record Trevor, Muskrat Falls has no impact whatsoever on 92% of the provinces greenhouse gas emissions. Large industry and the Transportation sectors are BY FAR the biggest polluters, yet government is not making these industries pay their share GHG emission costs and instead are spending BILLIONS of taxpayer dollars on Muskrat Falls and putting that forth as the province's GHG emissions reduction plan ---- all, for the next 50 years, on the backs of ratepayers, their children and grand children (see www.vision2041.com )

    • Francis from Holyrood
      September 04, 2013 - 12:22

      Holyrood was betrayed by the government, and it's master, NALCOR. Scrubbers and parcipitators could have been installed had the town demanded it. The plant will now continue as normal, until Muskrat is done, which will be well delayed. 2020 maybe, longer, or maybe never? In the meantime, we are getting a grounding station built. By the time the average Joe gets a notion of what this entails, it will be rush on to the next half-understood issue. How can citizens defend against our anti-democratic government, a gutless DFO and the monstrosity that is NALCOR?

  • Willi Makit
    September 03, 2013 - 13:33

    Hey, we could use some of our rural areas to store nuclear waste - that would make money! How about we buy electric cars for each household? That would help the environment! See Mr. Taylor, bone headed ideas are everywhere. Just because it's difficult to ''stand for something'' as you state doesn't mean that ''something'' is a good choice. In fact, it's probably the opposite. In the case of this government, it's almost a guarantee! There is zero sense in doing something for the sake of doing it. We need sound ideas, not foolhardy ones.

  • Ken Collis
    September 03, 2013 - 09:40

    Pretty good statements here but these decisions are the difficult choises every government has to make and when the poor outcomes outweigh the good ones the government in power is sure to feel the heat. As for the ferries that you say go nowhere and carry no one, you should be careful not to tar every isolated community with the same brush. The governments investment in aquaculture on the south coast has helped Rencontre East quite a lot. There is an example of an isolated community that is growing. Every person capable of working is doing so and people are moving back to the place they love. In the last two years there have been three new houses started and there will be more to come. I have seen the ferry carrying a high number of passengers and freight this summer. We don't deserve to be called "nowhere".

  • Craig
    September 03, 2013 - 07:45

    I totally agree Trevor! However, standing for something can be taken to extremes as well. Just look at the Williams and Dunderdale administrations for 30 seconds. They were and are vehemently opposed to ANYTHING and EVERYTHING that the cabinet table doesn't support. To hell with the wishes of everyone else ( taxpayers)!