Y'all don't come back now, y'hear?

Michael Johansen
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Come and listen to a story about a man named Ed,

A wily financier with too much power in his head,

He was done building dams, but he’s not a man to brood,

And so up from the sea came a bubblin’ crude,

Oil, that is. Black gold. Labrador tea.

Hearts sank in Labrador when Nalcor announced there may be oil under the seabed off the region’s north coast.

Naturally, those who earn money pumping hydrocarbons out of the ground, or by buying and selling it at a high profit, are far from downcast. In fact, they’re all a-giggle at the news that Nalcor might have found them yet another public resource they can exploit for private gain. Unfortunately, most of the happy people are in St. John’s. That’s where the president of Nalcor revealed to the oil industry and not to the House of Assembly that he might have found more bubbling crude.

There’s no proof yet there’s any oil in these new places off the coast of Labrador. So far, all Nalcor has been able to discover with the nearly $30-million of taxpayers’ money it spent on early exploration is that there might be oil or gas in some geological formations under the seabed, a type of formation known to hold hydrocarbon deposits.

Well, the first thing you know old Ed’s a billionaire,

Market said, “Ed, get it away from there,”

Said, “Labrador’s not the place it ought to be,”

So they sold all the oil for the folks in Saint Johnny,

Newfoundland, that is. Foggy rock. Politicians.

So, not knowing if there’s oil under the Labrador Sea or not, the first step, according to Nalcor’s president, is to spend even more public money (around $5 million) to confirm the big maybe. After that, the next step is to sell the territory off to the highest bidder — that is, to whichever multinational mega-corporation pays the most for the privilege of further exploring the Henley, Holton and Chidley basins. If it doesn’t find anything, that company will lose every cent it sinks into the underwater drilling it will have to do all over the seabed, but it also stands to become slightly richer if black gold does indeed fill those three basins off Makkovik, Postville and Hopedale. There could be enough oil under there to keep a corporation’s prime shareholders afloat for years and make any number of pilot fish happy with a feast of tertiary industry scraps.

However, the pleasure southern oilmen feel about the possibility of a discovery is not shared by many who actually live near the suspected resource — those adjacent to this potential source of revenue. In fact, the reaction in Labrador has been muted: no celebrations. No one is wondering if they need bigger wallets. Instead they’re saying in dismissive tones: here we go again! Nalcor’s Labrador “candy store” is open for business, as one detractor puts it. More of Labrador is up for sale, but nobody in Labrador is doing the selling.

Having recently endured Nalcor’s steamroller sanctioning of the Lower Churchill hydroelectric project, those who desire moderation in this manic drive to exploit Labrador no matter what the cost, already know what to expect with this new development. First, as has already happened, a huge amount of increasingly scarce public money that could have been used to provide public services to citizens on the coast of Labrador is instead used to subsidize private profiteering. Next, as we’re seeing, every subsequent decision concerning the extraction and use of the resource will be made outside of Labrador and that’s where all the benefits will go, as well.

All Labrador stands to get from any offshore well is a gift of whatever oil accidentally leaks from the pipes and washes ashore on an ocean slick. No doubt when that happens it won’t be Nalcor coming with the mops and buckets.

Well, now it’s time to say goodbye to Ed and all his kin,

Because we’re kind of tired of them always dropping in,

They’d be invited back again to this locality,

But they’ve probably found a way of selling hospitality,

Labrador’s, that is. The Big Land. With the big sky.

Y’all stay away now, y’hear?

Michael Johansen is a writer

 living in Labrador.

Geographic location: Labrador, Saint Johnny, Makkovik Hopedale

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Recent comments

  • Petertwo
    February 17, 2013 - 07:13

    Well, I never knew that there were no hospitals, schools , roads,et cetera.. in the province until the revenue for oil came along, what a marvelous discovery. Surely John Smith does not truly expect people to believe this hyperbole? St John's has definitely benefited from the oil spin offs, I'm nor sure the rest of the province has, but I ''m open for enlightenment. The major beneficiaries are the oil companies, but it is scary with global warming that more and more oil is coming on stream when there surely ought to be less and less?

  • Cyril Rogers
    February 16, 2013 - 14:48

    Well, Michael, if its any consolation, all of the Island of Newfoundland, with the exception of the Avalon and some major centres, will be in the same boat in a few years...thanks to the over-exploitation of some hydro resources in Labrador.

  • Winston Adams
    February 16, 2013 - 10:12

    What a wonderful piece you have written, and how appropriate. I remember the politicans and their joy and smiles in the 70s on TV seen raising the glasses of Hibernia oil, to toast, as if a glass of wine you could drink.The recent Gulf disaster shows another side to oil resourses. And we are spiraling to disaster with burning fosil fuel with damage to the environment, yet those fools, like Martin, care little. From one side of the mouth they promote the need to shut down the Holyrood plant, then from the other, lets produce more oil for fosil fuel burning. And the few, mostly from St. Johns, and international profiteers, reap the benefits and leave the Labrador coastal communities with the risk and mess. My father, Capt Esau Adams was a navigator and was also involved in the fishery and lumber industry in Hopedale area in the 30s. I was told that sometimes he would go out to the deeper waters and take soundings and that he caught large turbot there. A few years ago the cod almost disappeared around Nfld and the Labrador coast . A school of cod was found barely surviving in the deep water in Trinity Bay. We know that we have had 3 decades of very cold water that have pushed cod and caplin south and offshore, and this coincided with record Artic ice melt and cold Labrador Sea currents. A possible shift in this over the past summer coincided with a improved outlook for the cod and caplin. But this is very uncertain, and the ice melt up north may get worse yet. Those deep water basins off Labrador may be the only salvation for many of our fish species. But this has no importance to those who want to profiteer from oil. A sort of insanity. Better Martin got serious to get hydro power or cost effective clean alternative power for all of coastal Labrador.Third world oil rich countries always seems to skim the wealth of oil to the benefit of the few. Our recent wealth is now going to massive debts for our government, but the few do just fine, at the expense of the many. We seem to be on a path for Third world status. That make Labrador Fourth world, at best.

  • Jay
    February 16, 2013 - 08:57

    Michael, What kind of cheese do you want with your constant whine?

    • carogers
      February 16, 2013 - 12:23

      Jay, The same kind you will want when the spill happens..and it will. Why is it when faced with logic and the use of deductive reasoning the Jay's of the world manage 11 or 12 words of nothing as their response?? The article has facts, your statement is that of a little boy who whats to get in a dig so your friends can have a laugh. Well no one is laughing little boy this is an adult conversation about the environment. You are the making the constant whine with your childlessness.

    • Jay
      February 16, 2013 - 18:45

      Gee, CAROGERS, Did you forget your meds today. (HaHa)

  • John Smith
    February 16, 2013 - 07:14

    What a sad, sad commentary. The offshore oil on the grand banks has been responsible for providing all in this province with a better way of life, including those in Labrador. The "candy store" in Labrador doesn't really add that much to our provincial coffers...no matter how many times the 20 thousand who live there want to tell us so. We were never a have province with all the mines in Labrador running full tilt, but became one overnight when the offshore started. The Hospitals and schools and highways that have been provided for the people of Labrador(the size of the town of CBS), have mostly come about, not from mining, but from the offshore of the grand banks. So I guess Mr. Johannsen and those of his ilk don't want lower taxes, schools, hospitals, paved highways, and all the other things that come from offshore oil...they would rather it come from where? Butterflies and loolypops. Time to grow up Mr. Johannsen, and stop pandering to those who always think they are hard done by. If the mines in Labrador take a downturn as they did in "08 who will you look to for money? Why the other 480,000 of us who live on the island...of course...

    • GodGuardTheeNL
      February 16, 2013 - 13:56

      Lol, another comment from the paid hack on the public teat. Where does the money come from to pay your salary Johnny? According to today's front page story in the telegram, from the other 500,000 of us. To think a portion of my hard earned money goes to pay weasels like you to sit on their asses and comment online all day makes me friggin sick. Why don't you go back to school and get a real job? One where you contribute to society rather than leeching off of it. Thanks.