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Tom Hedderson

Every now and then, perhaps unwittingly, a government gives you an idea of the lens through which they view our world.

And that’s maybe the best way to look at the comments by Environment Minister Tom Hedderson reported in this paper Thursday.

Hedderson was responding in The Telegram to questions about why the provincial government has turned down an offer from Parks Canada to do a preliminary study for establishing a marine conservation area off the southwest coast of Newfoundland.

Hedderson said the province doesn’t need the study, even though it’s clear the area would be a perfect candidate for such a conservation space.

The thing is, the province doesn’t want a conservation area. No, they are more interested in oil and gas prospects in the area, and potential aquaculture sites.

“Once we give it over to the feds, it’s like any of the parks. You’ve given it over to them, and they then have total control over that piece of geography,” Hedderson said.

Why even bother with the study, Hedderson suggests, if the provincial government doesn’t want the conservation area anyway?

What’s more interesting is that there isn’t even work proposed for the area yet. Hedderson, you could say, is putting hypothetical business ahead of protecting the environment.

“Like any other part of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, we certainly encourage business to set up in various areas, and we’re constantly indicating that there’s lots of opportunity,” he said. “And there’s lots of opportunity in that particular area, and hopefully somewhere along the way there will be some exploration done that could open up that situation.”

When an environment minister makes such a clear plea for the commercialization of resources, it’s worth thinking about how far that mindset actually goes within the government.

After all, our provincial government is already an equity partner in oil and gas developments, and is overseeing a hydroelectric megaproject that will have one of the largest environmental footprints ever contemplated in this province — and at the same time, it is the regulator charged with overseeing its own developments and, in some cases, the actions of its own private business partners.

If the provincial government’s view is that the first order of business is harvesting resources, perhaps we all have to be more involved in making sure that all sides of the argument are aired and that clear voices are heard to counterbalance what sounds like a pretty one-sided rationale.

To be clear: there’s nothing implicitly wrong with a government choosing development over anything else — as voters, we have a pretty strong record of supporting governments that offer us fiscal treats, regardless of the effects of those decisions on future generations.

What’s essential is that voters know clearly and precisely what it is that a government feels is most important, so voters know exactly what they are voting for.

For voters who might feel long-term stewardship is more important than satisfying the full and immediate needs of particular businesses, Minister Hedderson has supplied some crucial information.

The fact that he is the environment minister, charged first and foremost with protecting the province’s natural heritage, makes those optics all the more clear.

Organizations: Parks Canada

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • N
    September 21, 2013 - 07:25

    Any time any group talks about privatizing a river, beach or pond the press and public quickly decry the loss of access to a public domain. The promise of '25 jobs' from the private sector would be scoffed at. Yet the idea of giving away access to a marine area to a federal government body for their use and regulation is cheered by this paper??? This is the exact same case. Ask the people in communities around Tera Nova National Park how they feel about Parks regulation on the land they used to be able to access and use. Ask the people in Gros Morne who fight regularly against a federal group trying to restrict their ability to live in a rural environment. The sell off of public ground to a body run in Ottawa is a bad idea in all cases. It is privitization in a different form. Well done Hedderson!! You may have earned my vote back.

  • Tony Rockel
    September 20, 2013 - 21:00

    What else can we expect when our province is now being run by a bunch of savages that knows the price of everything and the value of nothing?

  • Douglas Ballam
    September 20, 2013 - 10:06

    Dismissing a feasibility study into a potential national marine conservation area because of the completely unknown potential for oil and gas is like throwing away a winning lottery ticket because you heard a rumor that there may be a bigger jackpot down the road, for which you haven't even bought a ticket yet. This administration has the worst protected areas record in the Western World.

  • Samuel
    September 20, 2013 - 10:05

    What the hell has happened to the online version of the Telegram. Since they revamped the format using the template from all the other TransCon papers, the whole thing has just about collapsed. Stories take forever to generate - if they do. Moving around the site or finding a button is an all day chore. And if you try to post a comment, especially in some areas such as the business section, it ain't gonna happen. Try reading let alone replicating some of those authentication codes. And when you hit 'send', nothing happens for the next ten minutes. Later you see that your comment is still sitting there - but now with a new code for you to enter. Even when it does go through - or at least you think it might have - there is no message acknowledging it. From everything one hears, TM has essentially put the Telegram on auto-pilot - like Voyager 1 somewhere out there on the edge of our system, sending the occasional message back but otherwise powered down to save energy.

    • Ken Simmons
      September 20, 2013 - 11:31

      We have had a few technological challenges with our new format. Thanks for remaining patient while we iron them out.