Monday, July 06, 2009

Power trips

It was like the Ghost of Christmas Past this weekend with the racket over running a power transmission line through Gros Morne National Park reappearing. I initially thought this was summer doldrums material. Just because it's summer, doesn't mean there isn't column inches to fill or minutes of air time that need to be occupied. As loathed as I am to admit it, the MUN president racket doesn't get as much play if it happened in February rather than the summer. Basic rules of media.

(Note: One wag in the comment section quipped about the CBC's ability to rewrite what the Telegram reported on Saturday. With due respect to the importance of the CBC to the national discussions, they are awful for it. When The Packet came out on Monday's, we used to turn on CBC Radio Wednesday morning to see which stories CBC Gander lifted from us without attribution. One reporter actually read the first four paragraphs, verbatim, from one of my stories. My editor told me I should submit a freelance claim.)

But no, there is some meat on the bones of this one. Dresden Elbe Valley in Germany lost its status after running a four lane bridge through it. Surely a less egregious violation than running 40-foot high power lines through the heart of the park.

So yeah, all right, there's a legitimate reason for this story. I just don't think there's a legitimate chance of this happening. The power lines actually going through Gros Morne, I mean. There's probably every chance the premier will try and get them put through.

I think this one has the scent of doing serious damage to the premier. Political historians can correct me if I'm wrong on this analogy. Someone in the CBC comments section called this Williams's Sprung Greenhouse. Close, but not quite. I think the analogy might be closer to Clyde Wells attempts to privatize Hydro. He was still a relatively popular premier at that time, came up with this idea, which was nearly universally loathed. And no matter how logically he tried to explain it, the people of the province never went for it. And the harder Wells fought, the more harm he did to his popularity and reputation. I believe towards the end he was viewed as an arrogant, condescending bully. Hmmmm, that sounds familar somehow.

I'm not saying the Hydro racket is what caused Wells to quit. There were many factors involved, I'm sure. But it certainly ended his time as premier on a sour note.

Hell, I've never been to Gros Morne and I think running power lines through it is a spectacularly terrible idea. Lots of people will. Lots of people on the Mainland will. And if Parks Canada steps up and says "forget about it, you're not running a power line through the park" and the premier falls back on his usual shtick - "Look at what the Harper government is doing to NewfoundlandLabrador. They're jealous of us and trying to harm us, etc, etc", well, I don't think that's going to fly nearly as well as the premier might think.

My curiosity isn't so much on whether or not this project goes ahead. I'm 99 per cent certain it won't. My curiosity is whether or not the premier tests his popularity and will against opponents of this idea. I'm curious as to how this polls. I'm willing to bet the premier already knows. And if that number is less than 80 per cent opposed, I'd be shocked.

Will he try and ram this through anyway? Time will tell.

Last Five
1. Calculation theme - Metric
2. Hallucinations - The Raveonettes
3. The limit to your love - Feist
4. No Kathleen - Ron Hynes*
5. Ragoo - Kings of Leon


Anonymous said...

Point of clarification - the proposed towers are not 40 feet high - more like 40 meters.
That's a significant difference!

Edward G. Hollett said...


I think you've pulled together some of the ideas in this issue quite nicely.

To me, the whole notion of the towers is bizarre. Given the scope of the project, an alternate route is hardly a difficult or costly thing to propose. They could have easily avoided a controversy and once it started, NALCOR took the sensible line by saying they'd look at alternatives.

Minor problem. Make it go away and then focus on the gigantic prize of the project itself.

All the Premier succeeded in doing today is further strengthen the opposition to the park route and cause people to doubt him. That can't be good.

I don't think he's got polling on this. I think his comments today were just another example of his off-the-cuff, flying by the seat of his pants, shoot from the lip style.

Some aspects of his approach are a lot less calculated than people assume.

If there is a poll, it likely shows much bigger problems with the fishery, forestry and economic uncertainty outside the overpass. That's what seems to be causing so much anxiety in the political circles these days.

Maybe that's why he just shot off today with a rambling answer to Cochrane's question just like he flew off the handle with Randy a couple of weeks ago.

The over-reaction is the tell.