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Brian Jones: Court ruling ensures whining will continue

Joseph R. Smallwood at the Churchill River, circa the 1960s. — Telegram file photo
Joseph R. Smallwood at the Churchill River, circa the 1960s. — Telegram file photo

The list of things Canada has stolen from Newfoundland grows longer: fish, oil, sovereignty, hydroelectricity.

At least, that’s if you believe the unrelenting whining of Newfoundland patriots, who live in some sort of dream world where life would be better if, say, Danny Williams could have been Newfoundland prime minister rather than merely premier.

The Supreme Court of Canada’s 7-1 decision in favour of Hydro-Québec regarding the 1969 Upper Churchill contract was like tossing a bone to a lazy dog — it got the patriots’ jaws moving, if not their brains.

Yup, contract law evolved for centuries just so Newfoundland could be foiled again by evil Canadians and even more evil Québecers.

Don’t let go of that bone, even though the Supreme Court’s decision was foreseeable the moment the case was launched.

You don’t need to be a lawyer — in fact, all you need is to not be a Newfoundland patriot — to realize that dumbly signing a contract that turns out to be lopsided is not valid grounds for declaring said contract void.

Yet that is exactly what Churchill Falls (Labrador) Corp. wanted the Supreme Court to do. It’s like selling your house, and later discovering it has tripled in value, so you go to court seeking more money.

The bad news for the Newfoundland patriots is that things are even worse than envisioned by their terrible imaginings.

Canada has not wrecked Newfoundland.

Newfoundlanders have wrecked Newfoundland.

Newfoundlanders continue to wreck Newfoundland.

Clarify that: Newfoundlanders continue to elect politicians who carry on with the wrecking of Newfoundland.

Canada has not wrecked Newfoundland. Newfoundlanders have wrecked Newfoundland.

This is the single most important lesson to be learned from the Supreme Court’s ruling in favour of Hydro-Québec. It will be ignored, naturally.

How opportune for the baying Newfoundland patriots that the dissenting vote in the Supreme Court’s 7-1 decision came from the lone Newfoundlander on that esteemed bench, Malcolm Rowe.

How coincidental that Rowe, prior to getting into the judge business, was a prominent Liberal on his home isle, serving as secretary to then-premier Brian Tobin’s Liberal cabinet. That was the same party, you may recall, that wanted the Upper Churchill contract in 1969.

Rowe could have done his fellow Newfoundlanders — including the patriot crowd — a huge service by making the vote 8-0. Maybe a unanimous vote would kill the perpetual excuses and force Newfoundlanders to finally admit that their leaders circa 1969 made a big blunder. But the 7-1 vote ensures the whining will continue.

Exhibit No. 1: Premier Dwight Ball, faced with the fact of a lopsided loss, refused to rule out further court action. If nothing else, Newfoundland’s politicians know how to play to a gullible mob.

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Appealing the case to the Supreme Court was a waste of $5.8 million of Newfoundland taxpayers’ money. Amend that: it was a waste of $7.3 million, because the court’s decision included an order that CF(L) Co. pay $1.5 million to Hydro-Québec for its legal costs.

Newfoundland politicians have extra leeway to blow millions of dollars on wasteful indulgences, because it’s a paltry price compared to $12.7 billion. (See: McKinsey and Co., ideas on economic diversity, $1-million contract for.)

It’s too bad Ball wasn’t in such a litigious mood back in 2015, when his Liberal party’s election victory happened at about the same time it was revealed that Astaldi Canada was significantly behind schedule in its construction of the Muskrat Falls dam.

That would have been an opportune time to lawyer up, cancel the ill-conceived hydro money pit and dare Astaldi Canada to go to court.

But back then, today’s legal warrior Dwight worried about the consequences of breaking contracts. Such irony.

The Astaldi Canada that in 2015 stoked such fear in the premier is, of course, the same Astaldi Canada that couldn’t meet the payroll of its workers at Muskrat Falls, and whose parent company in Italy is under creditor protection.

Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached at brian.jones@thetelegram.com.

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