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Monday, November 24, 2008

Throne Speech a Triumph of Political Double Speak

It never ceases to amaze me how easily political leaders can talk from both sides of their mouth at the same time. It must be genetic or something.

During last week’s throne speech the Harper government made a point of telling the nation how important it was that Ottawa find innovative ways of securing Canada’s energy future, tackling climate change and building the economy.

That’s what the speech said but what it really meant was: “The Harper government will find innovative ways to secure our political future, pretend we are tackling climate change and build voter support.”

In that speech the government of Canada specifically said it would accomplish it’s publicly stated objectives by supporting nuclear energy projects and by developing the natural gas potential of the North, including the building a natural gas pipeline.

According to the Prime Minister, “Energy is vitally important to our country…The development of our rich energy resources is an important source of wealth and Canadian jobs…Our Government has committed to reducing Canada’s total greenhouse gas emissions by 20 percent by 2020.”

Sounds great doesn’t it?

Sure it does but anyone living on the East Coast of Canada (the REAL East Coast of Canada) can tell you Harper's motives are not what the Prime Minister says they are.

The people of the Atlantic Provinces have suspected for decades that somewhere in Ottawa there is a map that depicts the Country as Ottawa truly sees it, with the border ending at Quebec.

Atlantic Canadians have been unwavering in their disgust each time they have been forced to bend to the will of Ontario, Quebec and more recently, oil rich Alberta.

It’s gotten to a point where the average citizen in Newfoundland and Labrador simply shakes their head and walks away knowingly when a politician announces anything that’s supposedly good for “Canada”.

The most recent throne speech and government actions have done nothing to change this reality.
A few years ago Stephen Harper, upon catching a glimpse of the attitude adopted by long time Atlantic residents, referred to the region as having a “culture of defeat”.

Personally I don’t see it that way at all. What I see is a people that have come to understand that in Canada the cards are forever stacked against them.

When Ontario, Quebec or Alberta strives to accomplish their objectives in Canada they usually win.

When Atlantic Canada strives to accomplish its objectives in Canada, Ontario, Quebec and increasingly Alberta, usually win.

In fact, with successive minority governments constantly on election watch the task of pandering to the big three has become an art form.

No matter the political party or the issue of the day, Quebec is still Quebec, Ontario, even as a have not province, is still Ontario and Alberta has become the newest member of Canada’s political elite.

In reality the desire to protect the environment, provide secure energy and create jobs in the North are little more than fluff for public consumption.

The truth is that massive quantities of natural gas are needed to keep one of the most environmentally destructive projects on the planet, the Alberta tar sands, humming along smoothly. Without it they would grind to a stand still.

Score one for Alberta.

On the nuclear front, yes nuclear power is cleaner than coal or oil generation, but there are other options out there, including wind, solar and good old fashioned hydro.

An example of this is the power potential of the Lower Churchill River in Labrador.

For decades Newfoundland and Labrador has been fighting an uphill battle to develop the massive energy potential of the Lower Churchill River. The project is in the planning stages but not one word was mentioned in the speech from the throne about hydro power in general or the Labrador project in particular, a project that has the potential to create thousands of jobs while providing clean dependable and low cost energy.

If at this point you are asking yourself “why wouldn’t the government support this project?” then you might want to go back and read the first few paragraphs over again.

It’s Canadian politics 101.

Forget the fact that Nova Scotia and New Brunswick need and desperately want the clean power this project would supply (I say forget those two provinces because, once again they are in Atlantic Canada and well…I’ve already shown that they just don’t matter to Ottawa).

Putting Atlantic Canada’s concerns aside, politically important Ontario has also expressed an interest in Lower Churchill power so shouldn't that mean it will move forward?


It doesn't matter because another politically important province, Quebec, doesn’t want the project to move forward unless they can profit from it.

Even though the Harper government has the ability to assist with the development of the Lower Churchill, through loan guarantees or other forms of federal assistance, they won’t do it.

The Harper government has also walked away from its plans for the “East/West power grid” we all heard so much about a couple of years ago. A project once touted as “a nation building exercise to rival the building of the continental railway”.

What was hailed as critical to Canada’s energy future such a short time ago has now been abandoned.


You see developing the East/West Energy Grid or supporting the Lower Churchill hydro project would:

A) Require a part of the grid to pass through Quebec which might upset some seperatists; and
B) Mean Newfoundland and Labrador could reach waiting markets with their clean energy without having to hand over most of the profits to, you guessed it, Quebec.

Score 1 for Quebec.

But hold on you might say “doesn’t that mean Ontario won’t get the clean power it needs”?

“Doesn’t it mean that by pandering to Quebec and denying Ontario this power Mr. Harper has hurt himself politically?”

Not so.

I don’t know anyone who has ever said Stephen Harper was politically stupid and I’m not about to be the first.

In a brilliant move intended to head off any political fallout (while perhaps trading it for the nuclear kind) the Harper government will appease the voters of Ontario by assisting that province in moving forward with building more nuclear capacity.

Yes, the public may have a lower opinion of nuclear, it may be more dangerous and it may even be more expensive for consumers than hydro, but in political circles it has two far more important things going for it.

Unlike the Lower Churchill development, which would create thousands of well paying jobs in the region of Canada with the highest unemployment rate, nuclear will create jobs in vote rich Ontario and it doesn’t tick off vote rich Quebec.

Score one each for Ontario and for Quebec on that one.

So, to recap, the Harper government plans to improve Canada’s energy supply, create jobs and protect the environment how?


Constructing an environmentally risky and potentially insecure gas pipeline across Canada’s North;

Using somewhat clean natural gas to extract extremely dirty and highly polluting tar sands oil in Alberta;

Building nuclear reactors in Ontario (no word yet on where the waste will end up but somebody is probably scouting locations down East); and

They’ll do it all while ignoring Newfoundland and Labrador’s efforts to develop the largest untapped hydro electric reserve in North America. A clean energy project capable of lighting well over a million homes across Canada and creating thousands of well paid jobs in Canada’s highest unemployment region.

Score 0 for Atlantic Canada.


Toronto real estate agent said...

Nice post. Hydro electric energy is maybe the best "green" solution on the planet for now, unlike wind or solar plants it can create substantial amount of energy.
On the other hand - hydro electric energy can NEVER by the key supply in Canada - unless we lower our consumption (and I don't think we are going to do it...).
I am sorry, but I feel atomic energy is the energy of next generation...
Take care

Patriot said...

Thanks for the comment T.O. and you may be right about nuclear being the way of the future, but I think you totally missed the point of the article.

Nuclear may be an option but it doesn't have to the the only option when a major hydro project is just begging to be developed.

The point is, why would Ottawa totally disregard this project (which benefits the Atlantic region) and instead focus solely on projects that are clearly designed to benefit Alberta, Ontario and Quebec?

Anonymous said...

Myles, you are so in tune with what is going on in Prime Minister Harper's mind with regard to everything you wrote. It has all to do with the Canadian voting system and what the Prime Minister is NOT to do if he wants to keep civility in Quebec, and keep a handle on the vote rich Central Canada. But Prime Minister Harper is conducting business no differently than any other Prime Minister has done.

It is time for the people of Eastern Canada to revolt through having their voices heard.

I really think that Ottawa doesn't believe that we, in Newfoundland and Labrador, have figured out what is going on. Myles - You have explained it all so well in your essay but how do you get a piece like your essay printed in the National News Media?
Have you tried to do so Myles? It is so self-explanatory that it will blow Canada's image to shreds!

Why are we so stun as to put up with the working mechanisms of Ottawa, that have put the province of Newfoundland and Labrador in such a precarious and starved position economically, while we have supplied Central Canada with the means and mechanisms to keep their economies bouyant over the past 59 years through the exporting of our naturals resources?

After second thought though, why do we need to sell the power to Central Canada anyway? Why not develop the Lower Churchill Hydroelectric Project for the fuelling of industry in Labrador and Newfoundland? Why do we have to ship every resource out of here?

There have been trillions of dollars kicking around the Globe over the past 10 years that were waiting for secure places to be invested, which instead were placed in the sub-prime mortgage sector, which proved to be worthless financial instruments. How come nobody sought some of those dollars out to have had the Lower Churchill Hydroelectric Energy Project developed for the sole purpose of creating industry right here in Labrador and Newfoundalnd? I am baffled since nothing seems to add up politically or economically?

What is going on, maybe Myles that can be your next assignment.

Anonymous said...

Well Myles I was really hoping for a larger response to your article, seeing how this is such an important topic not just for Newfoundland and Labrador, but for Canada and its unity as a hole. The comments made by Miss Davis are very typical for people from the Toronto area. Yes, nucular is the energy of the future and that is the direction we must take it seems.
What people do not see though Myles is that the good people of Toronto do not want this kind of power plant in their back-yard? As a matter of fact they don’t even want a wind farm near their scenic lake Ontario view because it makes too much noise. Yes, the sound of a wind farm would create too much noise pollution in the city of Toronto and would destroy the view of the lake.



In fact they believe that nuclear is far better because it creates industrial jobs and will keep the province moving forward. The only problem that they have with this though is the fact that nobody wants the nucular plant near them. The Ontario government was trying to push a nuclear power plant on the good people of Norfolk and Haldimand County’s ,but it seems that the angry mob that went to the county meeting basically told the government to send it somewhere else. It would seem that the good people of Norfolk County have said that they wish to invest in renewable energy.


Not to get off topic here but there have been hundreds of research papers done showing how Newfoundland and Labrador is an energy warehouse ready to explode. From one of the world’s leading experts on the topic Mr. Hermann Scheer. When Mr. Scheer visited the great lakes area he was taken aback by the great gift that Ontario had for wind coming off the great lakes. When he visited St John’s, he was in utter disbelief that Canada has not taped into what he called “the greatest natural resource on the planet” Newfoundland’s wind. The complete show can be watched here.


Now one may say how does this involve national unity and why would anyone even want to start talking about such things when the country is going thru such a down turn. Enter the lower Churchill and the Saxon Route. The technology is there for Newfoundland and Labrador to use alternative routes for selling its surplus energy. The technology however does not come cheap. By choosing this path the government would have to commit close to a billion dollars for undersea cables to reach such markets. If the province did commit itself to such an endeavor, how could this be good for Canada? Would the province have to commit itself to using this route to pay off the cost of the technology? It would seem to me that if Ontario or Quebec cannot control what they need for their province and their people then it’s a no go.
How is this going to pan out in 2041? With the new attuide in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador it would seem that the only loser here is Canada. The federal government is going to force St John’s to act in the best interest of her people and who can blame it.
Quebec is doing a fine job of destroying a country that has not yet had the chance to blossom. Its revenge of geography it seems is working just fine.



PS, The Gospel Of Green can still be viewed on the CBC sight.I would strongly recommend it to your readers Myles.

Anonymous said...

These are very interesting things that you are writng. I am a big fan of Canada, its history, traditions. I don't agree with everything you are writing here on this blog, but I will definitely come back here to check what’s new. I try to spend every summer vacation in Canada (this is my fav Canada picture:
http://www.odyssei.com/travel-gallery/94960.html. See you soon!

Anonymous said...

Myles, I can, at least, deduce from your article that Quebec is the entity which is keeping the province of Newfoundland and Labrador in a stagnant and backwards position.

We know that the North American Continent is craving clean Hydroelectric Energy, yet despite that, the Lower Churchill Hydroelectric POTENTIAL remains untapped without any assistance from Ottawa, unless, of course, it is developed and funnelled through Quebec for Quebec’s use, for either resale or creating industries there.

As far as I can see the province of Newfoundland and Labrador is caught up in a collection of provinces in a dysfunctional country, which calls itself the Nation of Canada, but the province of Newfoundland and Labrador is a captured territory, with a great geographic location *(for God's sake it gives Canada its complete Eastern Flank situted on thousands of kilometers of the Atlantic Ocean) and many fine, coveted natural resources, but it cannot move ahead economically since it is under the directorship, or is that dictatorship, of Ottawa. The province of Newfoundland and Labrador is a CAPTURED territory.

What a conundrum for the province of Newfoundland and Labrador to find itself in, after being an independent country for 450 years? Fifty nine (59) years ago, just on the cusp of when the whole world was poised to move ahead into the 20th and 21 Century Economic Revolution, at that very moment when WE LEAST needed to be attached to some other entity, Ottawa decided the time was ripe to Capture our beautiful and bountiful land. Ottawa wanted our land not only for its its strategic geographic location, which it had availed of just 5 years prior, by setting up military installations in NL to assist the United States in protecting the North American continent, but Ottawa also wanted to avail of Newfoundland and Labrador’s great natural resource base to grow economies in Central Canada. What a Shame!

Anonymous said...

Myles if I may add to what anon, November 26, 12:40 is, is saying. Many people that have studied Newfoundland and Labrador culture as a hobby or as part of a professional curriculum know the circumstances that basically forced Newfoundland and Labrador into confederation with Canada.

Now I am not going debate the fact that we as a nation may have never joined Confederation with Canada but the conditions that brought us into the Canadian experiment is sad to say the least. When Mr. Smallwood was approached on the proposition of Newfoundland becoming the tenth province of this country, all he seen was self glory. A way for himself to be immortalized if you will in our nation’s history. This is clearly evident in his negotiations in dealing with Canada. Protecting a margarine company and handing over the fishery is evidence enough for any sane mind. What upsets me even more is the evidence that he went around the Island telling women that their children would starve if we did not accept Confederation.
Typical, British brainwashing of the time. Britain did this all over the world to enforce its ideology. India, the Caribbean, and Africa are but a few examples of this.

As far as a captured nation goes, why not. Canada had asked Newfoundland several times to sit at the table and discuss union. Trying several times to bring it into the fold and failing. This little known fact escapes many people today. Just recently, talking to a college from Nova Scotia, he was under the assumption that Newfoundland begged to become part of Canada after the war. That we had no choice. What shocked me even more was the fact that this was a very educated, informed individual that had access to this information.
I think what finally drove Canada into doing whatever it took to gain control of the country was the fact that Canada was scared of manifest destiny. It seen America creeping up its borders on the western part of the country. Seeing Newfoundland strengthening its ties with America during the war and having American military bases on the Island finally led to the negations that took place for Canada to step in and take control of what it seen as its eastern front. Many conspiracy people to this day believe that Newfoundland never had a chance and that the vote was rigged. Evidence of this would also turn to the 1927 decision of the Privy Council on the boundary of Labrador.

This was Britain’s way of paying off its war debt to Canada, and the nation of Newfoundland payed that debt with its fishery and natural resources.

What Canada did was rip apart a country hoping to destroy a culture and convert or assimilate it into its own.

The one thing we loved the most at the time, king and the commonwealth led us to our own demise. By running off to show our status in the commonwealth led not only our brave young men and women to their deaths, but our country as well. Not being able to protect the country gave Canada the opportunity to take over as Overseer of the government. Leading us to the situation we find ourselves in today. We gave up one form of government for another. This does not mean that the province has the freedom it wants or needs to provide for its people. And, we wonder why we can’t get a highway across one of the richest areas of North America., or why thousands have to leave to find work. Let’s just hope that whatever premier we get next .Whatever his or her political stripe. That they keep the same attitude of self reliance, and determination. This is our only hope of staying in the “have status”