Well the project, as they say, 'came a cropper.' It was launched in 1987. It died in 1989. The greenhouse assets were eventually sold by the province for $1. Yeah, one dollar. It cost N&L taxpayers $27.50 per cuke at a time when cucumbers were going for fifty cents.
Peckford now lives on Vancouver Island, just down the road from my place. Yippee!
We don't do political screwups on that scale any more. Now we do them in multiples of billions. A fine example lies in the province next door, Alberta's Athabasca Tar Sands.
Like Brian Peckford's pickle palace, the Tar Sands have been on government life support for - well, forever. And, this time, it's not going to be a 20-million dollar write off. The worst part of this disaster is that Tar Sands operators, with the connivance of Alberta regulators, have transformed a vast tract of the province into a backwoods version of the Love Canal.
We're still pouring billions into the Tar Sands upkeep and operation. Justin Trudeau, his greenwash notwithstanding, is still committed to constructing the Trans Mountain pipeline. Then again, he owns the damned thing, having taken it off the hands of its private sector owners, former Enron boys who escaped indictment. He grossly overpaid for the pipeline and grossly underestimated the cost of the pipeline expansion. And for what? Why is the Liberal government doubling down on a horribly bad deal?
We have touted Canada's bitumen bounty to the point that it's seared into our brains. I cringed when Trudeau's predecessor, professor Mikey Ignatieff, heralded the Tar Sands as the "beating heart of the Canadian economy for the 21st century." The reality more closely resembles Brian Peckford's pickle palace on steroids.
When it comes to the Tar Sands the Alberta and federal governments do the same thing - they wildly inflate the bounty Canadians have received from Athabasca and wilfully understate the liabilities we have incurred. At the end of the day, those liabilities may well exceed every dime our governments have ever pocketed from the Tar Sands.
Add to that many tens of billions more to remediate the thousands of orphan wells that dot central and southern Alberta and Brian Peckford suddenly looks positively astute.
Bitumen mining is not the only source of unfunded taxpayer risk accumulated under decades of friendly provincial oversight. The leaked AER presentation suggested an additional $100 billion in unsecured cleanup costs from conventional oil and gas plus another $30 billion from pipelines. Together with tailing ponds, this adds up to an eye-watering figure of $260 billion. At the current leisurely pace of reclamation, it could take 126 years to plug an estimated 180,000 abandoned wells left behind by a previously profitable industry.
Those numbers, horrible as they are, don't tell the full damage. They don't include the human cost, the lives lost to Tar Sands contamination.
“Our members have been concerned about tailings pond leakage for years. We have observed changes in odour and taste from groundwater and surface water in our traditional territories,” said Melody Lepine, director, Mikisew Cree First Nation Government and Industry Relations. “We don’t trust groundwater sources and now bring bottled water with us everywhere.”
The human and economic costs of bitumen extraction will continue to climb long after the last oil boom is a distant memory. In the fullness of time it could well be that the so-called economic engine of Canada was not only a massive polluter and climate killer but a money loser as well.
Mr. Trudeau can don his father's buckskins but they don't fit him. He could, however, put on his long pants and put a stop to this bitumen madness. Sadly, unlike the guy who used to wear those buckskins, our prime minister didn't inherit the previous owner's courage or his wisdom.