Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Steve Jobs
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Saving Private Peter -

Peter Penashue, federal Intergovernmental Affairs Minister, under fire. Not exactly the beaches of Normandy, but you get the idea - this guy needs saving. He's managed to leave a paper trail a mile long and a mile wide of everything from possible illegal corporate donations, possible illegaly subsidzed air travel, possible conflicts of interest in his dealings with the New Dawn Agreement, possible conflicts of interest in contracts awarded involving Muskrat Falls development, and God knows what else. This man is terminally damaged, and in reality there is no saving Private Peter. Why then would the Prime Minister attempt a last minute attempt at damage control to save him? Or was it really about saving him?

To find that answer we have to look at the big picture. Peter Penashue is not really a Harper man. No, he is more a Williams/Nalcor man. He negotiated the New Dawn Agreement primarily with Williams and Nalcor. The Prime Minister has nothing vested in him and no favours owed to him. In fact, Peter Penashue is hanging in the balance as an ally of Danny Williams. Not a good place to be these days.

The key to understanding Penashue's position is to realize he is corporately aligned with, we'll call it, Newfoundland Inc - the corporate folks that run this province's economy. His very real problem is that Harper is not.Harper has been supported as a politician for decades by people associated with another corporate world - primarily Enbridge. Why does that make a difference? Well Enbridge has a strategic alliance with Hydro Quebec and GDF Suez of France. They have interests that involve Gaz Metro that runs all natural gas distribution in Quebec. Hydro Quebec recently sold its share to the Casse, but its from one crown corp to another. It follows then that despite his poor political standing in Quebec, Harper is corporately aligned there. That is a primary reason why he granted Hydro Quebec an offshore agreement on the Gulf of St. Lawrence one day before he called the last federal election. That Accord allowed Quebec to freeze any development of the Old Harry oilfield, which downed this province's interests. It wasn't done to hurt us, it was done to stop Williams and company. Same goes for Williams attempt to name his longtime friend, Elizabeth Matthews, to the CNLOPB. Downed. Unfortunately, when you wrap yourself in a flag, and as a Premier use it to shield yourself, the province and its people become the casualties.

In any case, as Premier, Williams created Nalcor to take on Hydro Quebec, and to build the Lower Churchill. He wanted power first and foremost for the mines in Labrador, and secondly for export. He made it a centre piece of his reign to demonize Quebec, as to do otherwise be treachery. He brought the people along for the ride, his ride, with no apparent regard for their interest. In other words, as premier, he was prepared to sacrifice their future for his vision and interest. He was determined to have his cake and eat it to. He tried to force Quebec to accomodate all the power from a Gull Island site on their transmission system, and if they could not he expected them to pay for the necessary transmission expansion. When that did not work he attempted to force their hands by going to Quebec's regulator, and the US regulators. He was determined to have everyone else pay for his grand plan. As premier, he could not make an honourable business agreement with Quebec, so his Gull Island plan went down the tubes.

Williams then took the second best plan of Muskrat Falls. He negotiated hard with Penashue and company to bring the Innu onside. He threw the Crown's fudiciary responsibility to look after the interests of the Aboriginal people first right out the window. He focused the agreement primarily on the Lower Churchill to the point that other aspects of the deal would fail if the Impact and Benefits Agreement on the Lower Churchill was not passed by the Innu people. He put them in a position of weakness. He tied their rise from poverty, which should have been taken care of with a land claims agreement first, to their approval of his dam projects. Penashue went along for the ride with him.

That brings us to November 30th,2012, yesterday, and the sudden trip to Labrador to sign a "loan guarantee". Peter needed saving, and it fit right into the old master's plan. To add the maximum amount of humiliation, Harper did not inform Dunderdale until it was all leaked to the press. She was forced to admit she knew nothing of it. Then, to top things off, it wasn't a loan guarantee at all. It was, in fact, a term sheet. A term sheet that would take months and months to finalize into any kind of formal agreement. However, the biggest problem for Dunderdale, and Williams, is the tying of the guarantee to Emera joining the project. The coup de grace. Then Premier Williams' grand plan of a deliberate failure for the maritime link, while retaining a federal loan guarantee is gone. The Prime Minister has handed him his final defeat.

Most commentators, and the press, have been watching the Muskrat Falls deal as if it were a roller coaster. They have been dizzied by the turns. The drama. The reality is one man who thought he could be a big fish in a big bowl, and damn all those who got in his way, has now been placed in check mate by a far superior chess player. Do I agree with everything the Prime Minister does? No. I do however appreciate him keeping the golden rule: power, use it, but abuse it and lose it. It seems that lesson is finally coming to Newfoundland and Labrador, thank God, and the people of this province will be so much better off for it.

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