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

Just Posted

B.C. Interior free from measles

Vancouver measles outbreak hasn’t spread to the B.C. Interior

Input sought from Cache Creek businesses on Downtown Vision plan

Attracting and retaining employees and businesses are priorities

Community Futures gets more funding to continue business support program

Programs such as Business Ambassadors help small businesses, not-for-profits, and First Nations

Make Children First’s CareFairs are going out with a bang

Folllowing changes to funding, upcoming CareFairs in the region will be the last ones ever held

Support available for those looking after loved ones with dementia

Despite the growing number of people with dementia, a stigma still surrounds it

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

B.C. Special Olympics officially underway in Vernon

Athlete’s Oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Vancouver Aquarium wants your help to name a baby killer whale

The public helped name Springer’s first calf, Spirit, and is being asked to help with the second

Guards protest firing of fellow officers charged with assault at B.C. prison

Corrections officers demonstrated in Maple Ridge on Friday afternoon

Skier dies at Revelstoke Mountain Resort

Cause of death for young man has not been released

R. Kelly charged with 10 counts of sexual abuse

R&B star has been accused of sexual misconduct involving women and underage girls for years

More sailings coming to 10 BC Ferries’ routes

Transportation Minister Claire Trevena said the sailings were originally cut in 2014

Cryptocurrency exchange CEO who suddenly died leaves Kelowna house in will

Gerald Cotten, holding the keys to money tied up in his virtual currency exchange, died in December.

Australian woman killed in avalanche at Whistler

The woman and her partner were reportedly rescued by ski patrol, but she did not survive

Most Read