"The Government of Newfoundland and
Labrador has never tried to defend the
expropriation of the mill ... It was never
our intention to expropriate the mill,"
Premier Kathy Dunderdale
This weeks conclusion to the legal saga spawned by our Provincial Government’s nationalization of Abitibi-Bowater’s hydro, land, forest limits and the mill in Grand Falls-Windsor provides an important lesson in trust.
The Bill was a rushed piece of work.
The opposition and the public were told that the i’s were crossed and the t’s were crossed. The Minister of Natural Resources backed by NALCOR’s new CEO Ed Martin assured the province that they what they were doing. Trust us!
It would not be fair to state that everyone bought it. There were some voices in the woods who articulated their concerns about a rushed process and the potential impact of the nationalization of private infrastructure under the NAFTA Agreement.
The plan, we were assured was bullet proof. The mill itself would be left in the hands of the company. The purpose was to ensure that public resources did not fall into the hands of draconian foreign interests who had no interest in producing paper, who wanted to sell electricity.
Every individual and party in the House of Assembly bought the sirens song. They were lulled into a sense of comfort. The government’s legal beagles, NALCOR and Legislative Council had this one down pat.
On a late December night in 2008 after a rushed debate the legislation was passed. Premier Danny Williams with the unanimous support of the House of Assembly became the Hugo Chavez of the North.
Shortly afterwards we learned that the assurances provided by government were wrong. The nationalization had inadvertently included the mill itself! Some faceless bureaucrat had provided false data that placed the land the mill sits on inside the expropriation zone. The Minister of Natural Resources –Kathy Dunderdale & the CEO of NALCOR shagged up.
This week the government exhausted the legal avenues it had perused to have Abitibi pay the costs for the environmental remediation of it’s former properties. The province is on the hook for $100 million bill.
That is in addition to the federal government subsequently agreed to pay AbitibiBowater $130-million to settle a claim under the North American Free Trade Agreement.
That does not even include the costs associated with the pensions of former mill workers or economic diversification funds targeted for the region.
Fast forward to the present. One again the major players in the 2008 debacle are once again saying trust us, we have this. Kathy Dunderdale is now the Premier and despite a plethora of concerns from independent regulatory organizations, is plowing a ten billion dollar project down the public’s throat with a similar refrain, trust us – we have the expertise and the experience to manage the Muskrat Falls project.
As Liberal and NDP MHA’s learned from the 2008 Nationalization legislation, having blind faith in government, assuming they know what they are doing, can lead to monumental expenses.
Can you/we afford to risk $10 Billion + on the word of NALCOR and the Premier?
I don’t think so.