By Tom Careen
On Nov. 30, 2009, Ed Martin, president and CEO of Churchill Falls (Labrador) Corp. Ltd. (CF(L)Co), Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, and Nalcor Energy wrote his counterpart at Hydro-Québec and called upon him to renegotiate the pricing terms of the Churchill Falls power contract for the future.
Martin did not receive a reply.
On Feb. 23, 2010. the lawyers for the plaintiff — CF(L)Co — filed a motion to institute proceedings against the defendant — Hydro-Québec — in Superior Court, District of Montreal.
The case will be heard this September.
In November 2010, there was an announcement by then-premier Danny Williams, with his caucus, cabinet ministers and the technocrats Wade Locke, Gilbert Bennett and Ed Martin in rapt attendance, that Newfoundland and Labrador had a deal with Nova Scotia’s Emera and would be proceeding with construction of two dams and a powerhouse at Muskrat Falls, building transmission lines to the island of Newfoundland and Churchill Falls, and not one, Mr. Speaker, but two — count ’em if you can — two subsea cables.
The almost farcical goings-on since Danny the Unforgettable relaced his skates, retired to the arena of his childhood dreams and unceremoniously dumped the hot, hot, hot potato of Lower Churchill River development in the lap of his maladroit successor would make one think the odious epithet, “Goofy Newfie,” had some merit and basis in fact.
Upwards of a billion dollars has been spent so far and each day brings more disquieting news.
There is no firm deal with Emera beyond the ballyhooed term sheet. Nova Scotia’s Utility and Review Board (UARB) has put forward a condition to be met before approval is given by the UARB that is reminiscent of Hydro-Québec’s 11th-hour demand for an automatic renewal clause in the Churchill Falls power contract.
There is the clay-filled North Spur at Muskrat Falls. That doesn’t seem to daunt our present day Tower of Babel builders or those who would peg their tents on shifting sands.
The supposed natural dam’s potential for calamity, both physical and financial ruin, scares this old heavy construction worker, well, spitless.
Did anyone think Hydro-Québec would say or do nothing when its policy has been and will remain to hang on to the Churchill Falls contract, and especially to the 25-year renewal clause, until the bitter end?
Since the Privy Council decision of 1927, Quebec’s balm for its bruised ego and affronted self-image is that Newfoundland was a liar, cheat and thief (and so, much admired by the English) and stole Labrador de chez nous.
According to the French Canadian version of Canada-Newfoundland history, Newfoundland was an even bigger whore to hit London than Hermann Goering in the Battle of Britain!
Not a labourer with pick and shovel, surveying crew or helicopter jam-packed with cabinet ministers should have gone anywhere near Muskrat Falls (or Gull Island) until CF(L)Co’s motion of Feb. 23, 2010, had wound its way through Quebec Superior Court and, if need be, the Supreme Court of Canada.
Were the plaintiff to win in court and be awarded even half what Hydro-Québec earns for Churchill Falls power in export markets,
then Lower Churchill development could be self-financed from the cash cow of Churchill Falls.
That would be much better than pleading with stepmother Ottawa to co-sign the loan papers, wouldn’t it?
I understand Martin’s career experience has been in the oil and gas industry.
Our offshore, comprising five coasts, should have been enough to keep him or anyone busy. (If we had the guts and foresight, there is a sixth — the coast of Baffin Island on Davis Strait and Baffin Bay.)
Martin ventured into the Churchill River and, so far, has managed to run our ship (of state) aground on every shoal and bar, struck every sunker, both charted and uncharted, got rammed and holed by every submerged tree trunk adrift in the current, and still he orders, “Full speed ahead, Mr. Bennett.” And, “More fuel. More steam. More smoke, Doc Locke.”
It is as if the debacle at Churchill Falls never happened to us.
Has no one studied Brinco’s history? It is reckless to continue construction, spending huge sums of money and to tender equipment and service contracts under the current clouds, yes, the plural clouds of uncertainty.
Muskrat Falls must be put on hold. If it is still necessary to build a monument and legacy project to Danny Williams, may I suggest the provincial government claw back a couple of hundred million dollars from Nalcor (if anything is left in the till) and create a law school at Memorial University dedicated to and named for Danny Williams.
At any rate, a law school would be much cheaper to build and run than the $9 billion to $10 billion cost for Muskrat Falls. And the edifice (temple?) to Williams’ glory would be sited right in the middle of St. John’s rather than in distant Labrador.
Now, if only Jerome Kennedy was to have himself appointed dean of the new law school, it would put an end to that man’s disastrous, blunderful trip into provincial politics.
Tom Careen writes from Placentia.