John Hickey says one of his biggest strengths when he was in politics was his ability to smell out what is happening and right now, his nose is telling him ‘Gull Island.’
Hickey, former MHA for Lake Melville and a cabinet minister under Williams and Dunderdale told the Labradorian he sees the writing on the wall.
I’ve been doing some research and I think Gull Island is a done deal,” he said. “They must think we’re all stupid. There is something happening with Gull Island, there are discussion happening with Ontario, there are discussions happening with Hydro Quebec. The statements that came out of Marshall’s mouth as soon as he came in was that he was talking with Hydro Quebec and that he would forge a good working relationship with them.”
Hickey said when he was in government the plan was to eventually develop the Gull Island project and he thinks that is happening already. The current government is strapped for cash, he said, and one of the easiest way to get that cash would be to work out a deal on Gull Island.
“On Gull Island right now we need to push the reset button,” he said. “Things have changed since I left government in 2011. I think there are a number of issues.”
One of those issues he sees potentially happening is exporting all the power to Ontario and Quebec to offset their carbon emissions.
“Nowhere else in the world would a community allow them to give away, well not give away, sell to Ontario our clean power to clean up there fossil fuel plants, only to at the end of the day to come back and charge us carbon tax,” he said. “Taking our green energy, damming another part of our river and we end up with no long terms jobs.”
He said this is the perfect time, with those in Happy Valley-Goose Bay focused on Muskrat Falls, for government to work on this deal in the background.
“We’re up here in Happy Valley-Goose Bay with our eyes on Muskrat Falls, as we should, we have lots to learn from it,” he said. “Methylmercury is an issue that has to be dealt with and has to be one we get right at Gull Island. And we have time to do that. I’m afraid is what’s happening here is that we have some big players involved.”
One of those big players that Hickey is concerned with is Stan Marshall, former CEO of Fortis and current CEO of Nalcor.
“We have a guy who’s very aggressive, with a bullish attitude moving forward,” he said. “I really don’t think he cares what the people of Labrador think. Marshall calls this a boondoggle and it has turned into a disappointing project, it was a good project but there were bad decisions made. We can learn from that for the next project. The Chamber of Commerce, the people of Lake Melville, we have to start putting our demands in now on this. This is moving behind the scenes faster than we think.”
Hickey said he is also concerned with Marshall’s business holdings.
“I’ve been doing some reading on Marshall, the more I read the more concerned I am with his role with Nalcor and conflict of interest,” he said. “I think he should disclose all his business interests, including in the supply chain. He sits on numerous boards; he has many shares in Fortis. He has his hands in so much I think he’s the fox in the henhouse, in control of our public utility.”
He said he has nothing against Marshall but he thinks the Auditor General should look into the checks, balances, and disclosures to ensure that there is not even a perceived conflict of interest in what he is doing.
Hickey said Gull Island would just make sense, with the Prime Minster talking about creating an East-West power grid and the carbon-taxing plan coming down in the next few years.
“We need to clean up the dirty fossil fuels industry in Ontario and Gull Island could do that,” he said. “We need to make sure it benefits us first. Why are we seeing dirty diesel put into Voisey’s Bay for the operation of the mine, it should never be. The people of North Coast of Labrador, this is their last opportunity to get hydropower from the Upper Churchill. As far as I’m concerned they should have it.”
He said he has no problem with Quebec wanting to bury the hatchet, as Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard said a few weeks ago, in reference to the Churchill Falls project. He just wants to make sure it isn’t in Labrador’s back.
TC Media has made numerous freedom of information requests to the province on Gull Island and will be following up as more information becomes available.