Using historical fact instead of political fiction

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Hands up all who think premiers Clyde Wells and Brian Tobin and Roger Grimes — even Danny Williams, had the opportunity occurred in his time — must have signed the deals by which oil companies and Voisey’s Bay Nickel began selling product into world markets, and that, in the same way, Joey Smallwood must have signed that “infamous” power deal with Quebec.


Absolutely wrong on all counts, and for one simple reason: it was none of their bloody business!

That’s because, on being discovered and developed and brought up from the depths of the Grand Banks, the oil, for example, is the property of the relevant leaseholding company.

And it is that company’s sole, unfettered right to sell it to whomever, at whatever price — give it away if they wish, so long as their obligations to the province are fully discharged. (The right and responsibility of government , on the other hand — unlike what occurred in the forced revision of the Hebron contract — is that we Newfoundlanders receive the benefits stipulated in the lease agreement, no more, perhaps, but certainly no less. It is the responsibility of the premier of the day to ensure that it is so.)

Business as usual

Literally thousands of lease agreements have allowed individuals and companies to enter legally onto our public lands and into our waters, searching for and perhaps developing deposits of oil, coal, iron, gold, silver, zinc, fluorspar, slate, asbestos, copper; to harvest fish and wildlife and timber; to establish camps for sportsmen; to occupy public lands for farming and recreation…

You get the idea. In every case the resulting activity, assuming the terms of lease are faithfully carried out, is the private business of the leaseholder.

Electric power no different

What about electricity?

Precisely the same thing.

Contrary to arrant nonsense spouted recently in The Globe and Mail, by two or three correspondents to The Telegram, and by poor, befuddled Premier Kathy Dunderdale, neither Mr. Smallwood nor his government negotiated or signed the Upper Churchill deal to sell its power to Hydro-Québec, only Brinco could — and did.

It’s a fact, confirmed by the Moores administration in an issued document, and by Brian Peckford out of his own mouth.

In 1961, the House of Assembly approved unanimously a statutory lease to allow the mostly British conglomerate Brinco to develop Labrador electricity, including the $1 billion project on the Churchill River.

In return, the province would receive a financial benefit then calculated at $600 million or 36 per cent of the company’s earnings.

There was massive employment of Newfoundlanders, electrification of Labrador West, making possible its iron ore industry and much of its infrastructure, and a Lower Churchill proposal with a so-called “fixed link.”

But then came a change of government and takeover of the Upper Churchill company, described by Premier Moores before he died as “the worst thing we ever did.”

The province was saddled with Brinco’s $1 billion construction debt, plus the buyback of its shares.

The action foreclosed an impending lawsuit against Brinco and Hydro-Québec for infringing the water power lease, the foundation of the project.

And it blocked development of the Lower Churchill for 40 years.

William R. Callahan writes from St. John’s.

Organizations: Hydro-Québec, Globe and Mail

Geographic location: Quebec, Hebron, Labrador West Churchill River

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Recent comments

  • Don II
    February 01, 2013 - 15:32

    The use of political fiction to alter historical fact for ulterior motives has been practiced by the Government of Newfoundland since Confederation and the promotion of political fiction to distort historical fact continues today. The secrecy, lack of disclosure and withholding of the facts regarding the Muskrat Falls project is just one case in point. I have been inquiring into the expenditure of millions of tax payer dollars in the town of Cupids based on claims that the town of Cupids is the location of Cupers Cove where John Guy established the Sea Forest Plantation and Cupers Cove Plantation in 1610. For decades the Government of Newfoundland promoted the town of Cupids as being the location of the oldest English colony in Canada. In 1910, the Government of Newfoundland promoted a series of Post Card photographs showing the location of the Sea Forest Plantation in Cupids. In 1998, documents were revealed to contain information that confirmed that the Sea Forest Plantation had never been located in Cupids. The founder of the Cupers Cove Plantation wrote in his letter of October 6, 1610 that Cupers Cove was a branch of or located near to a place called Salmon Cove. It appears that everyone assumed that a place called Salmon Cove situated near Cupids was confirmation that Cupids was Cupers Cove. Recently, historical documents, maps, Charter Grant documents, the Plantation Book and correspondence was revealed to contain information showing that the Salmon Cove to which John Guy referred in his letter did not exist near Cupids in 1610. The Salmon Cove which is situated near Cupids was not inhabited, not named and was not recorded on maps or in the Plantation Book for over 150 years after John Guy arrived at Cupers Cove in 1610! The Salmon Cove that is recorded in the historical documents, maps and in John Guy's letter was located near where the town of Avondale is situated today. Despite overwhelming historical documentary and physical evidence which proves that Cupids is not Cupers Cove, the Government of Newfoundland persisted in promoting political fiction as historical fact and pumped millions of tax payer dollars into Cupids to promote the town as being the site of the oldest English colony in Canada! The Government of Newfoundland even went so far as to expropriate privately owned land and dispossessed the owners to acquire and protect the purported site of the Cupers Cove Plantation. Upon expropriating the private property, the Government of Newfoundland promptly designated the land to be the Cupids Cove Plantation Provincial Historic Site. The Government of Newfoundland ignored the historical fact that Cupids is NOT Cupers Cove and ignored the fact that there is no mention or reference to any place called the Cupids Cove Plantation in the entire historical record of Newfoundland and Labrador! It appears that the Government of Newfoundland expropriated the wrong location which was purported to be the site of the Cupers Cove Plantation! The Government of Newfoundland then named the expropriated land as the site of the Cupids Cove Plantation, a place which never existed in the historical record of Newfoundland and Labrador! The Government of Newfoundland has continued the practice of promoting political fiction as historical fact in Cupids. It appears that the Government of Newfoundland was not prepared to accept the fact that the land it expropriated from the rightful owners was NOT the authentic site of the Cupers Cove Plantation! It appears that the Government of Newfoundland is unwilling to admit that it made a major mistake in Cupids and is unwilling to negotiate a proper settlement and to undertake to correct that mistake. Instead, the Government of Newfoundland continues to pump tax payers dollars into promoting and operating the completely fictional Cupids Cove Plantation Provincial Historic Site! The Government of Newfoundland has the dubious distinction of expropriating privately owned land in order to create a Provincial Historic Site to commemorate the fictional Cupids Cove Plantation, a place which NEVER existed in the historical record of Newfoundland and Labrador!