No blame here, just manipulation

Brian Jones bjones@thetelegram.com
Published on August 1, 2014

Newfoundlanders (and Labradorians) are such suckers. Faced with a choice between nationalism and rationalism, they choose nationalism every time.

The Upper Churchill power contract with Hydro-Québec is the biggest sinkhole of Newfoundland nationalism and taxpayers’ money.

Even news last week that the government had blown $4 million in its futile attempt to have a court overturn the infamous 1969 contract based on a so-called “good faith” argument couldn’t quiet the calls for the Tories to blow even more by pursuing an appeal.

There are two certainties about such an appeal: 1) it will fail, and 2) it will waste additional millions of public funds.

But it won’t take much to convince gullible Newfoundlanders that Judge Joel Silcoff of the Quebec Superior Court was predictably biased against Newfoundland.

Premier Tom Marshall told The Canadian Press last week the province will pursue the issue to the Supreme Court of Canada if need be, and would be “negligent” if it didn’t.

On the contrary, the negligence was made in Newfoundland, by a government and by successive premiers who insistently churn out rhetoric and propaganda blaming Quebec for the provincial government’s mistakes in the 1960s.

The citizenry can line the sidewalks of Duckworth Street to cheer as the government sends legions of lawyers to once again do battle with Quebec, but it would be more fun — and about as effective — to pile the money in a huge mound on Signal Hill and hold an impressive bonfire.

It is preposterous to claim Newfoundland lost the case because it was heard in a Quebec court. Judge Silcoff probably couldn’t care less about the decades-old political spat between Quebec and Newfoundland. He should, and likely does, care more about his own career and professional standing — both of which could suffer were his ruling to be reversed on appeal.

No judge wants the Supreme Court of Canada to declare he, or she, is a jurisprudent twit.

The wails of woe that have emanated from the likes of former premier Danny Williams and Nalcor Energy CEO Ed Martin are crass manipulations meant to deflect the public’s attention away from foolish decisions and costly errors that were made right here.

Some statements from Silcoff’s ruling:

Paragraph 468: “The Court is satisfied, based upon the uncontradicted credible evidence, that the parties concluded what they each believed, at the time, was a mutually beneficial agreement embodying and reflecting their respective legitimate expectations and an acceptable risk allocation strategy freely negotiated without undue constraints or compulsion on the part of either party.”

Paragraph 484: “Moreover, if the Government of Newfoundland believed in 1969 that the terms and conditions of the Power Contract were abusive or unfair to CFLCo and to the Province, as it has contended since the early 1970s, it could have refused, in 1969, to provide the various approvals and incentives required by the financial institutions as contemplated under the Power Contract and the various ancillary agreements signed in connection therewith.”

Paragraphs 519 and 520: “In this context, the only question to be asked and answered is whether, as CFLCo contends … the contractual obligation of good faith and cooperation and the duty to exercise its rights in a reasonable manner require Hydro-Québec to ‘share the (allegedly) unexpected benefits’ in the manner sought in these proceedings. Seeing the evidence as to the nature of the relationship between the parties in the contractual equilibrium agreed to under the Power Contract, the Court would conclude there is no such justification in fact or in law to support this contention.”

Burning more millions on a foolhardy court fight founded on “creative legal theories” (Paragraph 534) will merely prove yet again that Newfoundland is governed by bumpkins.

Brian Jones is a desk editor

at The Telegram. He can be reached

at bjones@thetelegram.com and can be found on Facebook.