Having been following the matter for some time now, having spoken with members of several communities, and having read the recent article in The Northern Pen concerning the site selected for the pellet plant, I — like many — feel betrayed.
Rationally, I accept that corporations, as stand-alone entities, are malignant monsters the likes of which Pandora couldn’t dream. These entities, left to their devices, would destroy, deflect or absorb all competition in order to satisfy their bottom line.
Despite the logic of supporting marginalized communities as good business from a political and philanthropic perspective, the goal of a for-profit business is just that — profit. Deception and secrecy go hand in hand as well-worn tools of big business. Clear communication and complete transparency, while holding the moral high ground, often bankrupt.
All this said, I have no choice but to accept the logic outlined in the Dec. 5, 2018 article as being sound business, but it was despicable. I still have that sense of betrayal. I don’t believe any person alive has fought for this plant as hard as Mayor Sheila Fitzgerald. Roddickton had an existing facility, we fought for years for this chance, and our reward is more vague promises about the possibility to harvest wood in our area.
Again, I accept Hawke’s Bay may have made a better site, but everything about this feels wrong. They were not involved in the process but they are getting rewarded with a facility and the economic stimulus it affords.
The trucking costs to the facility and shipping costs also feels wrong.
Furthermore, the primary market being Poland rather than a more local one feels like the oil deal in the Atlantic Accord, or Ottawa’s sale of Newfoundland’s resources to other nations. The provincial government reserved any judgment or influence in the decision, and Hawke’s Bay wasn’t even consulted until the last minute and it is a town without sufficient human resources to even support the facility.
The fact that Mayor Fitzgerald and the Town of Roddickton-Bide Arm can work so hard for so many years only to have the fruits of their labour handed to a community that wasn’t involved, and only then offered the crumbs from the decision-maker’s table, feels wrong. The calculus is sound, but the moral foundation of the decision is shaky.
So where does this leave us? Residents from Englee to St. Anthony are left with empty cups extended as another opportunity is denied us. Influential members, complicit in this betrayal, will not be found accountable. Fear of economic retribution will tie the hands of conscientious objectors who also have to ask how to feed their families in light of this choice. Yes, opportunities exist to construct the new facilities in Hawke’s Bay, yes there will be ongoing logging in zone 17 and zone 18, but more important than the financial gutshot this brings my home, Roddickton-Bide Arm, is the cruelty of the decision.
We were led on. We could have been told prior to this economic bombshell; the equation is not a secret, but the product was. I, personally, feel not only was the secret kept for corporate back door operations, but to encourage those fighting for this project to keep fighting.
To keep the interviews and the articles going is free publicity. By rights, the relative travesty of this decision will have people talking about the plant for months. This acts as more free advertising for an entity that already stated they will simply harvest our resources and ship them away, like so many similar betrayals in the past.
In all, we as Newfoundlanders and Labradorians shouldn’t be surprised. The whole event fits the pattern we’ve all been taught to expect from our overseers. Dumpster fire that is Muskrat Falls, the provincial budgetary deficit left by the former PC government and the outports experiencing infrastructure deterioration sometimes feel like a more underhanded version of Smallwood-era resettlement. In my mind, I know there will be positive impacts to this project, but the shady and underhanded way it happened behind closed doors leaves an ashen taste in my mouth.
We are a resilient people. If we were not born of brine and ice we couldn’t survive 500 North Atlantic winters. I know that we will survive this recent travesty. It is my sincere hope, however, that this does not cause tension between municipalities, especially since Hawke’s Bay didn’t steal anything. They were just the best location for the great economic equation that left no room in it for effort invested by mayors, the promises made and agreements implied by business owners, and the tens of thousands of voices crying havok at how very much they wish they could have been involved, for once, in their own futures — just this once.
Roddickton-Bide Arm, N.L.