August 29, 2007

Be hopeful, but skeptical

After a series of tense negotiations, Newfoundland and Labrador signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on Wednesday, August 22 to develop the Hebron offshore oilfield.

Danny Williams, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, said during a press conference in St. John’s that it is a “historic day” for the province. Since it entered Confederation in 1949, resources were essentially given away by misguided politicians. “Step by step, we are becoming masters of our own house,” he said.

“Today’s announcement is good news not only for those directly related to the oil and gas industry,” said Kathy Dunderdale, Minister of Natural Resources, “but also to every Newfoundlander and Labradorian who will enjoy the economic benefits of this exciting development.”

At the current oil price of approximately $70 dollars (US) allowing for two per cent inflation, total revenues of $16 billion (CAD) are expected to accumulate in the province over the 25-year life of the project. In addition to revenues for the province, the federal government and Canadians will be benefiting from more than $7 billion in revenues from this project.

Local benefits are maximized with this agreement. From the start of construction through to the end of oil production, Hebron will generate significantly more jobs in the province than either the Terra Nova or White Rose offshore oilfield projects. For instance, a gravity based structure (GBS) will be constructed in Newfoundland and Labrador and all fabrication work will be completed in the province, with the exception of the utilities/process module. It will provide more engineering benefits, more revenue and more fabrication tonnage in the province than White Rose or Terra Nova does.

Based on the estimates of the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board, the Hebron-Ben Nevis field contains in excess of 700 million barrels of recoverable oil. The field, which was discovered in 1981, is located approximately 350 kilometres offshore. The owners expect it to be able to produce 150,000 to 170,000 barrels of oil a day.

Liberal Opposition Leader Gerry Reid is pleased but skeptical. “While today’s announcement is not an agreement and negotiations could once again go off the rails, it is encouraging that at least all parties are once again talking,” he said. “I am disappointed that it took 18 months to reach this point while thousands of Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have left the province in search of work.”

The province will purchase an equity ownership position of 4.9 per cent at a price of $110 million (CAD). If the $16-billion Hebron deal is finalized, construction could begin in 2010.

I am agreeing with Mr. Reid on this one and taking this agreement with a grain of salt. When or if this project gets underway, are there hidden details we don’t know about? Williams is insisting confidentially on the details of the MOU, which immediately raises suspicions. Coincidentally, campaigning for an October provincial election will be officially underway soon.

Be positive, but don’t get too excited. My email is hutchings_i@yahoo.ca. What are your feelings on this agreement?

August 8, 2007

Where is home, really?

What does home mean to you? Is it the house you grew up in or, as a relation put it: “home is where your stuff is.” What is your heart crying out for when you are homesick? Do you miss your family, your friends, your house or hometown or province, or a combination of these?

I’ve been living in Lloydminster for over a year, but the Welcome Wagon came to the Booster office several weeks ago and officially welcomed me to Lloydminster with a bag of coupons and letters. I guess I’ll be living here for awhile, if you’ll have me. Since my arrival in January 2006, life has been a roller-coaster, as I bounced from job to job, from a restaurant to retail, then to the Booster.

I recently had the joy of seeing my mother and aunt again for two weeks. They, along with a few other relatives who live in Lloyd, helped make the transition easier. My apartment actually looks liveable now – all it needed was a mother’s touch. Sadly, the ten days we were allocated went by much too quickly. Not everything that I planned was done, due to my busy life. It was a fun time though, one that I really didn’t want to end. Due to the great distance between Newfoundland and Alberta, the last time I saw my mom and aunt was in October 2005. I haven’t seen my father since September of that year, as he had left on a business trip. Neither of us expected that I suddenly would be getting my first newspaper job and flying off before he got back. Due to the rapid cascade of events that took place, I sometimes feel like I was ripped away from home too quickly.

At the end of their visit, there was no long good-bye. I was relieved, because I was dreading it. When we arrived at Edmonton International Airport in the early morning, my cousin and I helped our mothers with their luggage, made sure they had their tickets, and after several quick hugs, kisses and "love yous", we parted ways for another span of time.

I can't help but feel a little empty inside right now, though – which is natural, I’m sure. I guess for me, “home” is more so the people than a physical building. It’s more than a mere place of residence. Home is where the heart is, as the saying goes.

Carbonear, Newfoundland was where I was born and raised, but new roots have been planted here. I now consider myself a resident of Lloydminster, Alberta. I have a positive feeling about this unique little city based on the friendships that are being cemented and my recent integration into the Meridian Printing staff. But . . . it’s not “home.”

Once again, my email is hutchings_i@yahoo.ca, and I spend a lot of time in the ever-expanding Facebook network. What does the concept of home mean to you?