Furey and Legault’s Churchill Falls meeting ends with agreement to speak more

Quebec Premier Francois Legault, left, and Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey speak to reporters Friday after a meeting about Churchill Falls.  (Matthieu Potvin/Radio-Canada - photo credit)

Quebec Premier Francois Legault, left, and Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey speak to reporters Friday after a meeting about Churchill Falls. (Matthieu Potvin/Radio-Canada – photo credit)

The meeting lasted less than two hours, but Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Andrew Furey and Quebec Premier Francois Legault emerged from their meeting on Churchill Falls agreeing on a few things.

One of them is that the deal between Newfoundland and Quebec is bad. Another reason is that Churchill Falls is worth big bucks these days — last year Hydro-Québec made a record $4.6 billion in profits, a third of which came from selling the cheap electricity generated by Churchill Falls -Contract is guaranteed.

They also left the meeting, which Furey described as “historic”, with plans to assemble a team to talk about the infamous contract and how it will end in 2041.

But there were few other details from what the pair both described as “high-level talks.”

injustice or bad business

Legault arrived in St. John’s on Thursday and had dinner with Furey at the Provincial Archives and Museum’s restaurant, The Rooms.

The two leaders held a photo op before their morning meeting – a meeting Furey would not describe as a negotiation.

Furey began the press conference speaking about the “deep sense of hurt that exists in the culture and fabric of Newfoundland and Labrador as a result of this treaty.”

Legault followed with an acknowledgment of that pain.

“I fully understand your frustration and anger at the Churchill Falls contract,” he said.

But while Furey spoke of a “real injustice — the fiscal injustice,” Legault only said he thought it was “a bad deal.”

“We cannot rewrite history, but we can create the future together,” he said.

“I was in business long before I went into politics, and I’ve learned that if we want a lasting and fruitful partnership, it’s always better to have a win-win long-term deal,” Legault said.

It’s an expression Legault used again and again, in both French and English—win-win, or gagnant-gagnant.

Furey also used the press conference to introduce a phrase that was new to him – “the art of the possible” – which he used at least six times while speaking to reporters.

The phrase is part of a quote from the 19th-century German statesman Otto von Bismarck, who said: “Politics is the art of the possible, of the achievable – the art of the next best thing.”

Francois Legault/Twitter

Francois Legault/Twitter

Big wins

In Hydro-Québec’s 2022 annual report, released earlier this week, Quebec-based energy company Crown reported its highest-ever profit, up almost $1 billion from the year before. Almost $3.5 billion of that money went back to the Quebec government.

Hydro-Québec’s annual report found that the average export selling price in 2022 was 8.2 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Furey has described Quebec’s electricity needs as “urgent, not just for export but for domestic consumption,” and Legault has made renewing the deal a priority as the province looks to cut emissions and meet its growing electricity needs .

Furey — in response to export prices and citing troubled energy markets — said the power plant was “getting more valuable by the day”.

Interim PC leader David Brazil says there are a few things that need to be clarified, including the difference between “discussions” and “negotiations” and what exactly is being discussed or negotiated. He also said the province is entitled to some form of financial compensation or assistance.

“This would be an opportunity for Quebec and Hydro-Québec to show good faith before entering into long-term negotiations,” Brazil said.

He said the biggest issues are whether the province has the best team to start negotiations with Quebec and whether Quebec will negotiate in “good faith.”

“I urge the Prime Minister not to rush anything here. Do not sign a long-term agreement unless it is in the best interests of the Newfoundland and Labrador as part of this process.”

Torngat Mountains NDP MLA Lela Evans said negotiations for any new agreement must include consultations with the indigenous people of Newfoundland and Labrador.

“Part of that fair deal is making sure that indigenous parties are involved and that they are part of agreements, long-term agreements, and that they are not adversely affected by changes made by a unilaterally acting provincial government. ” She said.

Both Furey and Legault said they consider consulting with indigenous people before new developments are a priority.

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador


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