Learning from Nova Scotians

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Those crafty Nova Scotians keep sticking up for themselves.

Barely a day after getting his new job, incoming Nova Scotia premier Stephen McNeil declared he and his government won’t support the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project unless people in his province get more power from it, and at cheaper rates.

Readers in Newfoundland (and Labrador) would instinctively wonder what McNeil means by “cheaper.”

After all, those wily Nova Scotians already negotiated a deal that will give them access to Muskrat Falls power at a price lower than Newfoundlanders (and Labradorians) will pay for it.

This may seem outrageously incongruous — given that Muskrat Falls is in Newfoundland (er, Labrador) and thus owned by and for the benefit of, etc., the people of the province — but it is consistent with the topsy-turvy logic that proponents of the project persistently push.

Premier-designate McNeil told The Canadian Press, “I can be very clear to (Premier Kathy Dunderdale) that if it’s not in the best interests of Nova Scotia ratepayers, then we would not be supportive.”

Of course, the Newfoundland government always claims to act in the best interests of provincial ratepayers, despite the deluge of evidence to the contrary. Power bills will go up? You’ll pay more for Muskrat Falls power than Nova Scotians will? It’s in your best interests.

In Nova Scotia, politicians talk bluntly about ratepayers having a right to buy energy at market prices. In Newfoundland, government politicians have a list of excuses about why provincial ratepayers can’t have energy at market prices — demand is up, oil prices are up, we’re up for getting revenge on Quebec and so on.

Drawing conclusions

The Nova Scotians are smart negotiators. They look at Quebec, and see it being subsidized by Newfoundlanders on a Churchill Falls deal, and decide they want the same sweet setup.

McNeil had more tough talk after his election Tuesday, and told The Canadian Press, “Until we see something new, Muskrat Falls is where it is, which is on the drawing board.”

There’s a quote that smacks you right between the eyes. The Nova Scotians are so concerned with me, me, me, that they don’t seem to realize Nalcor has already gotten out the shovels and started digging. (Insert witty reference to holes and debt here.)

Note to McNeil: Nalcor has already been allotted hundreds of millions of taxpayers’ dollars, and contractors have begun work at the Muskrat Falls site. If you find out details about what exactly this money is being spent on, please let Newfoundlanders know, because Dunderdale and her PCs deem it to be in ratepayers’ best interests to not have information about what their money is being spent on.

Power surge

McNeil is a Liberal. This is a bad omen for Dunderdale and the PCs. The day may yet come when the Newfoundland electorate objects to governance by belligerent incompetence.

McNeil’s Liberals defeated the incumbent NDP government of Darrell Dexter. This is bad news for NDP Leader Lorraine Michael and her band of aspiring New Democrats.

This is all good news for the Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador — unless they elect Cathy Bennett as their new leader, in which case they will merely be Tories with a different name. McTories, say.

As of this writing, Nalcor’s monopoly over energy production and supply does not yet extend to firewood. Someday it might. In the meantime, Tory legislation gives Nalcor the exclusive right to produce and sell electricity in Newfoundland.

Over in Nova Scotia, The Canadian Press reported Wednesday, the incoming Liberal government “will introduce legislation aimed at opening up the province’s power grid to regulated competition.”

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by email at bjones@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Canadian Press, Liberal Party of Newfoundland and Labrador, The Telegram

Geographic location: Nova Scotians, Newfoundland, Muskrat Falls Nova Scotia Quebec

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  • ceyoung
    October 11, 2013 - 23:06

    I heard a story like this about 53 years ago where one politician who won an election didn't like the other politicians project. Except it was about a very special aircraft called the Avro Arrow. Are we seeing history repeat its self? One can only hope not.

  • Pierre Neary
    October 11, 2013 - 18:39

    Ms. Bennett's declaration to take on the Premier in her district was a gutsy move. Might not be enough to move her ahead of Mr. Ball but a gutsy move all the same.

  • Nessie
    October 11, 2013 - 15:29

    Nova Scotia shafted Newfoundland and Labrador right from the beginning in 1949. According to one very well versed person I heard on VOCM a few years ago who divulged to the audience that Nova Scotia had an office set up right next door to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador during the negotiations of the Terms of Union in 1948. He said Nova Scotia was not about to let Newfoundland and Labrador have control over the vast fish resource that was contained in the large expanse of Ocean that the province of NL was bringing into Canada. To this very day Nova Scotia has the lion's say over the say in the fishery with most of the administrative jobs centered in that province that are outside of Ottawa. There were other matters that Nova Scotia interfered in as well such as Agriculture.

  • John Smith
    October 11, 2013 - 06:34

    Mr. Jones, here'e a little bit of insider information for you...we live on an island! While NS has access to the national grid, and purchase power from several sources, we cannot...we must provide for ourselves. The other utilities are not going to build a link to sell their power into this province. NL, like many other provinces regulate who can put power onto our grid. The reason is to keep fly by nighters from putting unreliable, uncontrollable power on the grid. Keep up the tirades...nothing like reading a mainlanders thoughts in a quebec owned newspaper....