Feeling conflicted over Bay du Nord

Pillar to Post

By Craig Westcott

The Bay du Nord issue has me feeling deeply uncertain.

With the effects and threats of climate change growing more extreme and evident by the season, it’s hard to feel good about supporting further development of an industry that has a major role in causing climate change.

In Newfoundland, the issue is even dicier as oil is the biggest player in our economy and hundreds of jobs and as many small and bigger businesses are dependent on it. That’s why the CBS council has come out and given full throated support for Bay du Nord, and you can’t fault them, or other people for standing by the local oil industry.

When our oil industry and economy hit the jackpot of soaring oil royalties in the early 2000s, there was much talk about using that money to invest in developing our economy into other areas so that we would not be so dependent on oil.

All that talk turned out to be a lot of blarney, as the Williams and Dunderdale governments in particular  squandered every cent of it and even borrowed nearly as much again to waste on bureaucratic bloat and the Muskrat Falls boondoggle.

So, like the pre-moratorium days of the early 1990s, we still have all our economic eggs in one basket. It seems we are incapable of learning anything from the past.

The other thing about Bay du Nord that is troublesome is its location — some 500 kms from land and in waters as deep as 1,200 metres. That’s much farther away than our existing oil plays and in a part of the ocean that is much, much deeper and remote. In the event of a catastrophic equipment failure, such as what happened to the Deep Water Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, or a life threatening hurricane or storm, it will be much harder to get help to the drill sites in time, or to evacuate workers safely. I’m not a hundred per cent convinced we have the capability to act in as comprehensive and timely a manner as would be required in those circumstances.

The main factor weighing in Bay du Nord’s favour is that given the increasingly fragile state of world politics, Canada needs a safe oil supply of its own. Deteriorating relations with China, and the fraught situation with Russia over its barbaric attack on Ukraine has made it necessary for countries such as Canada to become much more self-reliant. Oil is critical to that. Granted, if NATO does end up at war with Russia, oil installations around the coast of North America will probably be among the first targets of an attack.

I agree with Bay du Nord’s advocates that the world economy is too dependent on oil in the short term for most industries to operate without it yet, and that with the climate suffering from global warming, it makes sense to provide the lowest polluting oil possible.

But I’m still not comfortable with it. The world needs to move away from oil, that is clear.  Equally clear is that Newfoundland must end its desperate dependence on the oil industry to support our economy.

The alternatives to oil as a source of energy are well known and the world is moving slowly towards adopting them.

The alternatives for Newfoundland to make our economy more sustainable are less obvious. But we must find them.


The junior hockey finals are playing out in Bay Roberts and Mount Pearl and if you’re a hockey fan it’s worth watching.

The Moor Frost CBN Stars, which finished first in the standings this season, and the Marks Mount Pearl Blades are both at the top of their respective games. The play is fast, skilled, and relentless. Both teams are creative passers, the defencemen are workhorses, and the goaltending is solid. After two games, the series is tied 1-1 with all indications it could go the full stretch.

It’s great hockey.

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