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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

2041 is Fast Approaching

The year 2041 is ingrained in the Psyche of all Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans. That date, so long awaited, is when the current Upper Churchill power contract between Hydro Quebec and the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador will expire.

It may seem a long way off, but in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t that far away.

The year is tossed about in the province like a distant dream. Every so often you can hear it drift on the wind. The longing for time to fly can be captured in snippets of conversation from one part of the province or another. On that day “have not will be no more”. Finally poor old Newfoundland and Labrador will get its rightful dues.

But will we?

Everyone just assumes that when that magic date arrives huge sums of money will begin to flow into the province and all will be right with the world again.

Are we so sure this will happen?

Hydro Quebec has contracts to sell much of this power to the U.S.

The Feds refused to force Quebec into permitting an uninhibited power corridor through the province in the 1960’s even though they had every right to. Will they force Quebec to allow it in a few decades?

Do we expect that Hydro Quebec will just sit idly by and suddenly allow us to wheel power through the province?

Do we believe that in one fell swoop this corporation will simply remove a billion dollars a year from their bottom line without a fight?

What about those U.S. contracts? What if they extend beyond 2041, or what if the U.S. for whatever reason, doesn’t want to pay our price at the time?

Do we think we can just pull the switch and shut off power to the eastern seaboard without suffering major repercussions?

I pose these questions for one simple reason. The same reason people have asked questions since time began. I simply don’t know the answers.

I am not trying to make any subtle comment on the situation, nor am I playing devil’s advocate. I simply don’t know the answers and that bothers me. Worse than a bother, in fact it sickens me because it leads me question what will actually happen in that fateful year, or more likely in the years leading up to 2041.

Have you ever had that sinking feeling where you know something bad is about to happen but you just can't put your finger on it? As a result, there is nothing you can do about it either. It doesn't feel good.

Will another deal be brokered and signed? Will this one be a “Great Deal” for Newfoundland and Labrador, or will the powers that be use every trick in the book to see to it that the status quo continues? Will the Country’s political leaders ensure that the apple cart is not upset, so to speak?

The only thing I’m sure of is that I’m not sure of anything.

What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts whatever they might be.

All I ask is that you don’t kid yourself into thinking we will simply wake up some sunny morning and suddenly start reaping all of the revenues now going to Quebec Hydro. If you do, I have only one question for you:

What colour is the sky in your world?

5 comments:

Mike said...

I've often wondered about this myself.

You can bet it will make for some very interesting and tense negotiating in the 5 years or so leading up to that date.

Every arm will be twisted and every trick in the book pulled to ensure that no major disruption to service or Quebec Hydro revenues happens.

The best we can hope for is to have a strong leader in place when that time rolls around and according to our history, the odds of that are about 10% or less.

NL-ExPatriate said...

Quebec and Canada's sentiments are obvious with their refusal to treat NL the same as the rest of Canada by refusing to expropriate a national power corridor for all Canadians including NL!

Too little too late the only alternative now is a power corridor, fixed link joining Labrador and Newfoundland!

I just don't know why someone hasn't disrupted the blood letting of NL by the scavengers yet? (Resource revenues, Claw backs, fisheries mismanagement, unequal share fed positions, Power corridor, Out migration, military presence, political clout 7 seats, equal Senate representation, NL interests in Supreme court)

Or has it been tried and defeated in the political arena by the combined efforts of Canada in the interests of Quebec, either intentionally or as a result of our undemocratic democracy in appeasing Quebecs interests.

Worse thing we ever did was stop the meech lake accord shoulda let them go with a boot! IMHO Quebec IS, not is going to be but IS the death of Canada!

It's painfully clear that actions are the only way of speaking to the deaf dumb and mute Canadian people!

Maybe it's time NL reversed the tables and held canada hostage?

How hard is it to disrupt power, roads, and railways?

Because thats what is being done to NL, either party or wholely in the interests of Quebec and or the rest of the country at our expense.

Crazy American said...

I don’t wish to take a great deal of your time with irrelevancies, but as an American who started off intending to vacation in your Province, I have found myself being more and more interested in the aspirations and frustrations that you and a number of your internet based commentators have. This last posting is of interest because of that.

I honestly believe the questions raised, and the fear of what accurate answers may be raises the stakes. To be blunt, I think the time will occur well before 2041 where NL must address the underlying issues if it is to reach the aspirations that I keeping reading about.

Otherwise by then, it will be closer to a parallel of the US Indian reservations than that of one of our states or an equal footing as a province. Why? You are loosing population way to rapidly to remain viable outside the Avalon Peninsula. And the Avalon Peninsula is too small to remain independently viable on its own.

However, there is a dovetail in this posting to an early posting about developing lower Churchill by the province itself.

May I make a suggestion that seems innocuous, but may be critical to the longer term prosperity of your province?

Do not tie Lower Churchill into the North American grid through the upper Churchill falls plant operations. Why? Because while it may be a short term gain in terms of provincial revenues coming on line earlier, it doesn’t make sense if you really intend to drive permanent growth in Labrador or the western and central regions of Newfoundland.
And you must drive growth in those areas for longer term viability

Instead, run the lines through the Labrador Straits, and down the backbone of the rock all the way to Channel-Port aux Basques. From there it’s much more straightforward to tie into the rest of the NorthAmerican grid. That way, you can accomplish more than just a few major things to Labrador’s and Newfoundland’s benefit.

First, by running the lines along the same route as the proposed TLH, you can get the road up and running for less cost than it would otherwise take. Also, it would allow the power lines to be run for less cost than would have otherwise been the case. Individually each would be cheaper alone I agree but the combined cost would be lessened.

Secondly, feeder lines to the coastal communities of Labrador could be run, reducing or eliminating the need for the ever nagging diesel electric issues nagging the communities in Labrador.

Third, by running the cable across the strait, you gain the same benefit for communities all the way down the island, while still having watts to sell through Nova Scotia and the rest of the North American power grid. Sounds like that would undercut part of Abitibi’s arguments at least.

Fourth, I may be wrong, but I would suspect that while there are other potential hyrdroelectric sources in Labrador, they aren’t bringing as much interest to the province if the lines run west through Quebec.

Fifth, you may not realize it, but at least from what I read, the Labrador community is as seriously frustrated with the current provincial government as they have been with preceding governments.

Sixth, a road connection to the southeast from Goose Bay is just as practical to maintain as one to the west (the pictures of snow clearing in Red Bay notwithstanding), but industries which use or smelt or refine the resources of Labrador only makes sense to be located where easy export is available. Until you have a road connection, this is not practical in Newfoundland only Quebec. What that means from a purely economic and political standpoint is that Labrador is dependent on Quebec as much or more so than Newfoundland. This remains true in 2041 if nothing is done before then

Seventh, your province is growing both older, and less populous. The population projections only indicate what will happen if things don’t change, and outside the Avalon peninsula they are pretty bleak. But unless things are done to bring industry and commerce outside the Avalon peninsula, I worry that your province will only grow weaker. Infrastructure brings industry all other considerations being equal.

Eighth and to the end at last coming back to your original posting. By properly doing this now, there is an alternative to electricity flowing only through Quebec. Which would certainly short out some of the arguments that will be made in 35 years.

If you are looking for a parallel example look at the Tennesse Valley Authority in the 1940’s and 1950’s in my country. It’s not a perfect analogy but it has the benefit of having actually worked.

There are many ways to do this from a business standpoint. I read enough about Mr. Williams to realize that at heart he is still a businessman, masquerading as a politician. So make sure any deal he makes includes poison pill provisions, so that not only the development and royalties flow fairly to the province, but also the growth that better power and transport can provide remains at least partly within the province. Figure that part out and you can get greeted with all kinds of new problems which deal with growth and not strangulation

I just have one question though.. do I have to try poutane just to visit? :)

Patriot said...

American:

(I still refuse to call you crazy.)

Again, some very astute points that need to be addressed.

I, like you, believe the key is to create a power corridor across Labrador,into the island and out to NS and beyond. Like you say, this will give us the power we need to grow while ensuring that when 2041 rolls around, we have options to market the power without Quebec.


Great observations and Keep them coming. I check my statistics on this site regularly and I know from what I see that this site is accessed on a regular basis from provincial government servers as well as the Canadian Parlimentary server.

The word does slip out one way or another.

Oh, by the way, you definately don't have to eat poutine to come here. We haven't been taken over by Quebec yet. You may have to drink some screech and kiss a cod though.

Visiting From NY said...

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Keep it up and let's spread the word.