Here we go again; the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador appears to be full speed ahead to move toward a giveaway of public land – Crown land – to private businesses.
This time, the big gamble is wind energy, but what’s the rush?
Wind energy may be a profitable opportunity for the province and certainly warrants investigation. No doubt private enterprise can possibly play a beneficial, and leading, role in pursuing wind energy opportunities. But it seems that this whole process by the Furey Liberal Government is about as transparent as a muddy puddle. All Crown land, it was announced this week, is open for proposals for wind energy. But with our collective land assets, environment and future open for bid, you’d think that a bit more information on this whole process would available at this point.
What role and opportunities for input will local peoples have throughout the process of development and management of wind turbines and infrastructure in their regions? Is the province looking for a stake in any venture to ensure income to the provincial purse? To what extent are the Crown lands for sale versus for lease, and who is making the decisions about the sale or lease for the province? How are conflicts of interest being assessed, by whom and mitigated? And how are considerations for the short and long-term effects on local ecosystems and traditional practices of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians being incorporated into the proposal processes?
These are just some of the questions that need to be publicly discussed before major decisions that will affect our present and future are made. I live in Central Newfoundland. The legacy of privatization of large parts of our forests to pulp and paper companies starting about 130 years ago still affect local communities and people as land use and access is complicated by the end of the industry in the region.
Lessons need to be learned and incorporated from our experiences with the pulp and paper industry. Wind energy may be a positive future opportunity, but transparency is needed as we explore these new and untested waters.
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