Double standards

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There’s an old saying about money and moguls: if you owe the bank $10,000 and you can’t pay, you’re in trouble. But if you owe the bank $10 million and you can’t pay, your banker’s in trouble.

It’s got to do with scale: essentially, there’s a point at which your size creates its own kind of motion — or its own kind of inertia — and you end up being treated differently than anyone else might be.

Keep that in mind and ask yourself if it might apply to this question: if Vale/Inco has a problem with toxic waste spilled into Arctic waters, is that really their problem or, given their size, is it a problem for the provincial government?

Because Vale is having a problem — one that they may well be trying very hard to solve, and one that the federal government has recently charged them over.

Vale was charged with three charges related to the release of toxic materials into Anaktalak Bay in Labrador.

But just try getting anyone to talk about not only the issues involved in the case, or about Vale’s past record of failing a series of tests on effluent, and you find that everyone is pretty much mum.

Here’s how our news story spelled out that experience: “Questions — including whether or not the provincial government was aware of the allegations against Vale — bounced between the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) representatives, a provincial spokesperson for DFO, the Environment Canada communications office in Ottawa and provincial communications staff from Service NL to Environment and Conservation.

“There has been no response to any questions about environmental monitoring at Voisey’s Bay, interaction between regulators at the provincial and federal level, or the alleged environmental crime that has prompted the charges against Vale, other than to say the case is before the courts.”

Contrast that with the treatment that a different company got in this province, a company that was not a big investor, but instead, public paper-making enemy No. 1.

When the province was taking action against AbitibiBowater after the government’s accidental seizure of the Grand Falls paper mill, it not only issued news releases and talked publicly about the company’s involvement in contaminated properties, it went as far as to list properties as far-flung as woods camps that had been closed for decades.

Interestingly, the province hadn’t shown the same concern about the contaminated sites earlier — at least, not as long as AbitibiBowater was still employing hundreds of people at the Grand Falls mill.

Companies may not ask for kid-glove treatment or any kind of deference, and we’re not for a moment suggesting that Vale/Inco has sought anything of the kind.

It’s just that, with big corporations and big projects, sometimes it sure looks like it’s the banker that actually has the problem.

Organizations: Inco, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, Environment Canada communications Service NL

Geographic location: Arctic, Anaktalak Bay, Labrador.But Grand Falls Ottawa

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Recent comments

  • Corporate Psycho
    July 14, 2013 - 21:29

    Don't forget Charlene Johnson's decision to give Sandy Pond to Vale.

    • Eli
      July 15, 2013 - 14:51

      Yeah, she said something about economic developement and sustainable something or other that amounted to a "Get Out Of Jail Free" card for Vale to pollute as they please. Something she and her bobbleheads neglected to mention, in 15 or 20 years our kids will have to pay billions to get Sandy Pond cleaned up.

  • Trolling for Effluent
    July 14, 2013 - 16:45

    The Voisey's Bay region is not on Arctic Land, nor is Edwards Cove on Arctic waters. Maybe this is not an important point. These days, I look at all disinformation, even the innocent mistakes, closely and if there is no listed author, (maybe a bathrobed troll crawled out of his basement and managed to gain access to the Editor's desk at The Telegram!) even more so. After the revelations made by Jerome Kennedy (our "Banker", Lord help us!) in reference to the multi-coloured "not promises" pop-up fairy-tale books that the political partiers mesmerize us with before every election, we can surely assume by now that the 2002 statement of principles between this mining entity (if you must call it INCO... why not call NALCOR BRINCO...) and the NL government is quite meaningless. What about the locals? Surely they won't take this lying down. From Vale: "Vale has successfully negotiated IBAs with Nunatsiavut Government and Innu Nation, resulting in a mutually beneficial relationship where benefits to Aboriginal people are maximized and negative outcomes are minimized. While details of the agreements are confidential, they do provide specific business, employment and training opportunities for members of Innu Nation and Nunatsiavut Government related to the mine and concentrator component of the development. That leaves the Feds. Who have no problem leaving a leaking vessel to continue leaking in Notre Dame Bay: Senior environment officer Bob Grant said another crack has been discovered, and more fuel is seeping from the hull. "Right now, we haven't had any reports of any negative impacts on any of the fisheries in the area," Grant said. There is an Environmental Management Agreement to challenge, a mining lease from the Department of Mines and Energy we can void, maybe, and a Harmful Alteration, Disruption or Destruction of Fish Habitat authorization from Fisheries and Oceans Canada to be looked at closely as we learn more about this incident, that I assume is not being classified as an accident, if it went to trial. I will venture further than the geographically-handicapped troll (until proven otherwise) who put together this piece. I'd be tempted to guess that journalists with The Telegram manufacture outcomes when they do their rounds of calls and emails by merely settling for the string of no comments because it suits their byline, bypassing the dog after a bone persistence for the dog getting its belly scratched contentment of a politically safe non-story. Why not call Bill Montevecchi or someone for a little quote? Naw, he might tell us that this concentrator is not in the Arctic. He might be brash enough to set the tone for the serious conversation we need to be having about frontline conservation compliance auditing. He might even go beyond the banker analogy presented and place the conversation in the real world.