A freighter loads at Bay Bulls near St. John's

The view from the East Coast

Offshore oil development has transformed Newfoundland, and a big hydro project is one parallel with B.C.

VICTORIA – I’ve just spent two weeks viewing events from the opposite side of Canada, in and around St. John’s Newfoundland. It’s the same country, but you wouldn’t know it sometimes.

Here on the West Coast, “kayaktivists” paddled around a Shell offshore oil drilling platform being serviced at Seattle, striking poses of resistance for the media from their petroleum-based watercraft.

Meanwhile at Bull Arm outside St. John’s, work continues on a massive “gravity-based structure” that will soon be drilling into the Hebron oilfield 350 km offshore. It will have living quarters and drill rig above and a tank with capacity for 1.2 million barrels of crude below.

Offshore oil has turned St. John’s into a boomtown. With one industrial park nearing capacity on the edge of town, a second is under construction. Locals call it “Dannyland,” after its developer, former premier Danny Williams.

St. John’s Airport is buzzing with flights back and forth to Edmonton and Fort McMurray, and crew helicopters shuttling back and forth from offshore oil rigs. Tourism is picking up, with a new cross-Canada ad campaign and WestJet starting service to Dublin and London.

A foreign supplier won a contract for tankers to bring oil ashore. With no media-connected environmental groups to steer the subject to far-fetched disaster scenarios, debate in the Newfoundland and Labrador legislature turned to concerns about maintaining local employment.

Outside the city, parallels with B.C. become evident. Tiny towns struggle to hang on as young people choose opportunity over isolation, and the only expansion is at church graveyards. While cities struggle with high housing and recreational property costs, homes in remote areas are going for a song.

Up north in Labrador, a hydroelectric dam at Muskrat Falls is under construction. Its $8 billion estimated price tag is in the same range as BC Hydro’s Site C project on the Peace River, which will part a sea of protesters and lawyers and move ahead this summer. Nalcor Energy, Newfoundland’s electrical utility, is dipping into contingencies in an effort to keep it on time and on budget.

Here on the Left Coast, enviros and the Green Party rail against hydro as well as oil and gas, and of course you can’t even mention nuclear. Climate activism proceeds in a logical vacuum in these parts, as it often does in Europe.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper signed on to a farcical “carbon free in 85 years” pledge at the G7 meeting in Germany. But hey, it’s an election year, not a time for serious discussion of issues.

Imperial Oil’s Kearl oilsands mine at Fort McMurray has started production from its $9 billion second phase, with the help of many Newfoundlanders. Production continues to grow, heavy oil prices have surged with paving season, and large-scale liquefied natural gas export plans begin to take shape in B.C.

With the legislature about to be recalled to endorse the Petronas-led LNG export project, Premier Christy Clark has assembled a climate action team with representatives from industry, First Nations, local governments and a couple of professional protesters for good measure.

They have an absurdly short deadline to recommend changes to B.C.’s token carbon tax, as gasoline consumption returns to pre-tax levels despite continued high pump prices.

In St. John’s, another long, cold winter has finally loosened its grip after piling snow to doorknob levels. Every street in sight is being patched and repainted.

The debate about new energy supplies has a more serious tone in Newfoundland. The last elected premier, Kathy Dunderdale, lost her job in the wake of winter power blackouts.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Parksville chamber names finalists for annual business awards

Parksville-Qualicum Community Foundation to receive Community Spirt Award

PQB crime report: Thieves pilfer safe, flare gun, even a walker

Oceaside RCMP deal with 196 complaints in one-week span

Coldest Night of the Year walk in Parksville scheduled for Feb. 22

Annual event raises money for those in need

VIDEO: 7 things you need to know about the 2020 B.C. budget

Surplus of $227 million with big spending on infrastructure and capital projects

Higher costs should kill Trans Mountain pipeline, federal opposition says

Most recent total was $12.6 billion, much higher than a previous $7.4-billion estimate

Wet’suwet’en hereditary chiefs say they’ll meet with ministers if RCMP get out

Federal minister in charge of Indigenous relations has proposed a meeting to diffuse blockades

Trees Cannabis director fined $1.5M for selling marijuana

Fine follows provincial crackdown on popular dispensary

World Cup skier from Okanagan dies suddenly at 19

Kuroda, who made his World Cup debut earlier this year, passed away suddenly Monday night.

Coastal GasLink pipeline investor committed to closing deal despite protests

Developer TC Energy Corp. — formerly TransCanada Corp. — is to remain the operator of the $6.6-billion pipeline

New highway proposed between Alberta and B.C.

The route would connect Red Deer to Kamloops

What’s in a name? The story of Revelstoke’s Mt. Begbie

It’s likely the iconic peak had several Indigenous peoples’ names before settlers arrived

Budget 2020: B.C. Liberals blast ‘Netflix tax,’ lack of economic plan

ICBC rates still go up, except in election year, Shirley Bond says

Most Read