Saturday, August 22, 2009

Head Harbour Passage and LNG - maybe it's all about something else?

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Why legislate when it could cut off Canada's options for other port expansion on the Canadian side or, more ominously, the planned filling of Head Harbour Passage and Western Passage with multiple, whale-grinding energy turbines ... a much greater threat than an LNG tanker. Or... perhaps both sides want a conflict to be adjudicated in international court? Or are we simply pawns in a bigger game?

Makes one wonder if our politicians are truly interested in the best interests of their Quoddy constituents?

I don't hear much about these upcoming issues from our erstwhile leaders of SPBC LTD.

I know, I know shhh ... you might upset someone or give succour to the enemy. But as Max says, legislation would resolve the issue! The foundation has already been prepared for a Marine Protected Area or a Marine Managed Area. Get on with it!!!  We've been screwing around with this since Pittston ... that's over 40 years!

That's my opinion tonight. Art

It's not often in this frosty corner of the globe that you can get the local population to gather for a meeting on a hot, steamy evening in a church. An Anglican Church to boot.

Columnist Max Wolfe argues that Canada can protect its territorial waters on the east coast by regulating ship traffic in Head Harbour Passage.
The gothic arches may be an exaltation of the almighty but they don't do much for the sweat stains under your armpits. The baroque festival in Lameque is celebrated in an equally sweltering church at an equally sweltering time of the year - most years, so I guess it can be done. And it is good to see the church providing their facilities for occasions of serious community concern. It keeps them relevant

The occasion this week was the annual general meeting of Save Passamaquoddy Bay Canada, in the Anglican Church in St. Andrews. About 200 people turned out to sit on hard pews and listen. Speakers were well informed and discussion was limited. It was too hot or maybe the converted had been preached to and were more or less satisfied with what they heard. There were no dissenting or even critical voices.

SPBC Ltd. has been fighting to keep liquified natural gas tankers out of Head Harbour Passage and Passamaquoddy Bay for three years now. There were no oratorical flourishes, stirring speeches or explosive applause at the meeting. It was all very professional and low key. The time for fiery oratory passed three years ago when the issue first hit the headlines. Now the group is slogging through the mud of the required political processes working at both the provincial and the federal levels. And the process has been ongoing for so long that SPBC is now educating the next generation of bureaucrats and politicians. They don't tire, and if anyone expects them to fold their tents and slink away into the night, think again.

These people and their supporters from around Passamaquoddy Bay see the threat of tankers in their area as not just an unacceptable challenge to Canadian sovereignty. It is a massive threat to their environment and to their way of life. So why is it that the residents of Washington County, Maine don't see it that way too? Simply because they have been misled into believing that this is a "jobs for Mainers" proposition and they need the jobs. There will, of course, be jobs for Mainers, but not very many.

SPBC has already made significant progress. They have pressured the federal government into stating more than once that Canada will not cooperate with the U.S. regulatory people looking into the matter. It's our turf, we don't negotiate with you or anyone on that. Canada promised to send a diplomatic note to the Americans and has done so. Good for us! In fact, they have done everything but be effective.

As one person aptly pointed out, if we haven't been able to do "enough" to grab the American attention, why would the Americans need to do anything at all? It is hard to argue against that, but on the other hand, the longer it all drags out, the more likely that American investors will move their money somewhere else. Time is on our side, and the longer the process takes the better for us.

The mood of the meeting was one of satisfaction with the work the SPBC was doing, but only of grudging acceptance of the snail-like pace of the negotiations, if negotiations are even in process. The meeting was typically Canadian and didn't even have the gumption to say "I'm mad and I'm not going to put up with this any longer." That is not the Canadian way. To get the American attention we need to explode our own nuclear weapon or elect a fundamentalist Muslim prime minister rather than a fundamentalist Christian one.

The big trouble is that there is never just one issue on the table when dealing with the Americans. There are always half a dozen pots simmering at the same time. There's trade, softwood lumber, border crossings, Cuba, Iraq and a whole host of problems that come from allowing ourselves to be in the American hip pocket, if not attached at the hip.
There is one thing we could do that would show we are serious and that would not involve detonating a nuclear weapon in order to get the Americans to sit up and take note, and that is to legislate.

Head Harbour passage is our internal waters, so no one can stop us from legislating rules for its use. If we were to do that, chances are the Americans might back off altogether. It would certainly give the backers of the various LNG schemes cause to reconsider their investment plans. But we are too timid.

Regrettably, in the face of the Americans we are gutless.

The posturings of the Shawn Grahams and the Greg Thompsons of the world are not going to change that. Our failure to regulate passage through these waters is the measure of our ineffectiveness. Expressions of concern by our governments are not enough. It appears the politicians have to be dragged to action, kicking and screaming. And the problem is in large part ours. We should know by now if we don't push them they won't do anything.
Our governments have been doing a reasonable job so far. We need to push them to finish the job.

Max Wolfe is a freelance writer who resides at St. Andrews.

Original article in TJ:

Photo Credit SeaGen turbine: