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LETTER: Let’s not get tripped up in the Atlantic Loop

['Prime Minister Stephen Harper and Premier Kathy Dunderdale stand together following Harper’s speech at the Delta hotel Thursday evening. Harper said if the Conservatives are re-elected, they would provide this province with a loan guarantee “or equivalent financial support” for the Lower Churchill project. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram']
Then prime minister Stephen Harper and then premier Kathy Dunderdale, following Harper’s speech at the Delta Hotel in St. John’s during which he said if the Conservatives were re-elected, they would provide this province with a loan guarantee “or equivalent financial support” for the Muskrat Falls project. — Telegram file photo

Make no mistake. Both the Harper and Trudeau governments were, in part, to blame for the Muskrat Falls fiasco.

The federal Conservatives all but ignored key recommendations of the Muskrat Falls joint federal-provincial review panel, and by backstopping the project with a $4-billion loan guarantee, the federal government enabled the project.

Then, in 2016, and without doing its due diligence, a Liberal government enabled the half-completed project by failing to ensure that a benefit/cost analysis was completed before backstopping it with more than a $3-billion loan guarantee.

Furthermore, Muskrat was pushed, encouraged, financially backstopped and driven, not just to satisfy inflated egos, but for the environmental and political benefit of the federal government and the Maritime provinces (to meet Canada’s greenhouse gas reduction targets and Nova Scotia’s urgent need to move away from its dependency on coal-fired energy production).

It is now clear who the principal beneficiaries (and the losers) were/are and it is also clear that the federal government has a duty to help Newfoundland and Labrador deal with this political and fiscal mess.

The federal Conservatives all but ignored key recommendations of the Muskrat Falls joint federal-provincial review panel…

This brings us to Ottawa’s latest “enabling” initiative: the Atlantic Loop (a Trojan Horse version of “we are the government, and we are here to help.”

Who benefits (and who loses) from this latest nation-building strategy?

Some of those who are now quick to jump on this Atlantic Loop idea were not that long ago saying that the Muskrat Falls Labrador-Island transmission link would not only provide Newfoundland and Labrador with the benefits of having its own link/loop to Nova Scotia, but would also, at a time leading up to the 2041 Churchill Falls contract negotiations, demonstrate that our own high-capacity transmission line can be built through the island. And in that way, Newfoundland and Labrador would be able to reap the full benefit of export sales to the Maritimes and the northeastern United States.

What will the so-called Quebec/New Brunswick “Atlantic Loop” do to the feasibility of Newfoundland and Labrador ever making a sound economic case for building its own high-capacity line through this province to feed Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and to the U.S.? The time for thinking and planning about the Churchill Falls contract renewal negotiations with Hydro-Québec is now — and an Atlantic Loop initiative will cut the legs out from underneath Newfoundland and Labrador’s negotiating position.

That is not to say that such an initiative might not at some time in the future be one that Newfoundland and Labrador should negotiate with the federal government, Quebec and others, but only from a position of strength.

Both Ottawa and Quebec know all too well that we have strategic advantages — and in the guise of this “Atlantic Loop,” and in the guise of “collaboration,” they are determined to wrench them from us.

“We are better than this.” — U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings.

Maurice E. Adams
Paradise

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