Monday, 25 April 2016

BALL HITS HOME RUN (WITH EYES CLOSED)

The departure of Ed Martin was a signal that carried, at minimum, the certainty change is coming to Nalcor. A good thing, too. When logistical challenge sees Ed Martin, his Board of Directors, and the old gang leader himself, Danny Williams, unable to keep straight something as simple as whether the failed CEO is leaving voluntary or was pushed, Muskrat Falls must really be in a mess. 

The appointment of former Fortis Inc. CEO Stan Marshall is a "home run" for Premier Ball, even if there is evidence he may have swung the bat with his eyes closed.

Now, one of the original "naysayers" of the "troubled" Muskrat Falls project has become Head of the Crown Corporation. As former Premier Cathy Dunderdale was fond of saying: "imagine that!"

Stan Marshall may do more than just end a costly, corrosive, and destabilizing era of state sponsored deception. While, alone, that would be a welcomed achievement, understandably public focus is directed to matters financial.

Certainly, my "worry" barometer has fallen from something approaching "panic".

Likely for all, except Danny Williams and his pals, the naming of Stan Marshall landed like a grenade, one delivering a palpable sense of relief.  

Perhaps, those facing a $3,000 hit on their disposable income this year, may not find optimism having quite enough value for their sacrifice. But, then, the public never did clue in to why the whistle of the fiscal freight train warned with such a threatening shrill, until the Budget boxed them in the ears.

Stan Marshall
Indeed, they should be warned the appointment of Stan Marshall is not a warranty against the folly of others. 

He can halt the project or give it new direction, but he can’t reverse the damage done or return the money squandered.

After all, Stan Marshall is no Danny Williams. He is merely a long-standing CEO attached to an impressive commercial and personal resume, and a litany of successes field-tested under the gaze of the commercial markets.  He is no Saviour!

But, I will say this: I will take a battle-tested CEO any day over a horse's ass. That includes the grandiloquent, the pompous, and the masters of “spin”.

When a CEO of Stan Marshall’s obvious calibre warns “when these things get off track, it’s a very poor sign”, we should get ready to bite hard.

Tory Leader Paul Davis experienced a mere preview of the public’s wrath, at an anti-Budget rally, last week. The other pretenders, too, the two union leaders and the NDP, though less culpable than he, but not blameless, were nevertheless bold-faced enough to feign righteous indignation. They have no idea of the fire storm of resentment, even towards them, that Muskrat “uncloaked” is likely to unleash.  

I don’t know Stan Marshall. I have lampooned him though on a couple of occasions, so pissed off was I that his redoubtable and acerbic private outrage did not find room in a public space. He is reported to have said, frequently: ‘he wouldn’t touch the Muskrat Falls project with a barge pole’. The comment didn’t leave much room for merit, even if to “naysayers” it was an obvious conclusion.

Perhaps naively, it led me to think that the ratepayers of Fortis Inc.’s subsidiary, Newfoundland Power, were also entitled to Marshall's pithy, albeit accurate, observation. Obviously, I was suffering the misconception that “stakeholder capitalism”, in which customers receive ranking alongside shareholders and others, might be an idea he embraced.

But, no; Stan Marshall seems to be an entrepreneur in the classical mold; for him profit is tied only to the mechanism of risk. He would know in a place such as this, where criticism of any kind, especially of public policy, even a “regulated” entity is not immune to political reprisal.

Indeed, he strikes me as the kind of fellow who would see the “safety minute”, now commonplace in the boardroom, too, having its best utility as a warning to bunglers shown the door, it might hit them on the way out. The Nalcor Vice-President might profit from such intelligence; after all, he must know “Exit Right” isn’t just a new book for the left.

But, I digress.

The public needs a CEO whose only focus is them. Unless Marshall gets bogged down in partisanship, improbable because he would be forced to wear Ed Martin's laundry, he will pay deference to those with ‘skin in the game’.  And, god knows, we have given Nalcor plenty of that.

Still, the public needs to temper their expectations on three levels:

First, though the Premier hit his first “home run”, he very nearly struck out. Reportedly, Ball offered Marshall, at first, only the inconsequential Board Chairman's position. That he was prepared to leave Ed Martin in the CEO's role, in spite of the disaster unveiled by Nalcor’s own information and an incomplete EY Report, suggests we have reason to be wary of this Premier.

Second, as already noted, Marshall can help stem the bleed on the Muskrat Falls project by either shutting it down or giving it "re-set". But the public must gird themselves for an unhappy outcome, whether Muskrat gets finished or not.

Third, as public protests over the Budget continue, every person should be reminded that while the new “levy” is outrageous, it is less a tax than a penalty on political dysfunction. The public needs to commit that they will stop placing their faith in “straw men”.

Finally, only time will confirm if Stan is, indeed, “the man”.

But I am less worried about him, than I am about the Premier and whether he will rest on a single success. He really should shoot for a “triple hitter”. The next two home runs don’t even require nerve, let alone precision; but they would be important asterisks on a late start.

The Premier must disband the Tories’ fake “Oversight Committee”, which he, too, embraced; it is an offense to the concept of studied independence its very name implies; a fraud upon notions of good governance.

Just as quickly, the Premier must shoo away the Consumer Advocate. It is unconscionable, given all we know about this project, that one of the biggest “cheerleaders” of the Muskrat Falls debacle still enjoys that title.

It was an overcast week in a wiser and, perhaps, slightly less worried Newfoundland and Labrador. Even a spring storm delivered metaphor for the protest and discontent now brewing.

Perhaps, our good fortune is that, even in the bleakest of times, we always seem to be afforded a glimpse of the sun. 

23 comments:

  1. With appointing Stan Marshall, Dwight can now divest himself of the problem known as Muskrat. The first thing Stan should do is to take a mirror image of the IT backup from 3 weeks ago, then do a scan over the current version. Then look at how many files have been deleted over the past 3 weeks.

    I expect Stan Marshall will make big changes at Nalcor. He will get it "Back to Basics" with good lean management. He will likely really scale back many of the lagresse at Nalcor (Oil and Gas etc).

    He will at least open the books on Muskrat. Then the real witch-hunt can start.

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  2. Great expectations, for sure. But we have been there before.

    "He can halt the project or give it new direction...."? --------- I wish.

    "The decision as to whether the project will proceed is up to the people, the democratic government and the institutions...they are the judges of this" ---- Stan Marshall: responding to a question from the media about a highly controversial dam Fortis was building in Belize.

    Nevertheless. I remain hopeful. But let's not rely on hope alone. Maurice Adams, Paradise

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  3. Thought this might enlighten me, is Marshall a lawyer, a engineer, businessman, or all three

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  4. Nfld Power and Hydro (jointly on the Take Charge Program) this past year spent 1 million on various studies for Conservation and Demand Management and could not find anything to help the home owner or to reduce the system peak demand. Imagine that. Nfld Power too , like Nalcor , has mastered spin, and use our ratepayer money against us. I count 13 programs measures to assist home owners in Nova Scotia that are not offered here. And what little is offered here, for buying new appliances and lights actually saves almost nothing, as it increases the load on baseboard heaters, an energy saving illusion. Such is the misrepresentation on the consumers. But our Consumer Advocate is about to expose that...., (and Chairman Wells may not be pleased that the underdog is being screwed) and force Uncle Gnarley to retract his comment that Tom should go. Tom just might have seen the light, so to speak, and enlighten the public. Watch for his report on CDM exposing Nfld Power and Hydro. Oh, well, sometimes my dreams linger into the morning until I shake them off.
    Winston Adams

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  5. "The public needs to commit that they will stop placing their faith in “straw men”."
    But what do we do when we only have straw men to choose from? It's been a perpetual cycle of fiscal chaos in Newfoundland that goes right back to Joey and beyond. Liberal? PC? NDP? Why are we forced into these options when neither is probably the way to go?

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    1. Why are demagogues like Danny Williams the ones that the public ends up clamouring for, voting in, and giving sweeping majorities to?

      As one other commenter said on twitter this morning, if you are looking for who is to blame for the current situation, look in the mirror.

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  6. I still think the Liberals should have chosen Dean MacDonald as their leader. At least you'd have someone who knows economics and can plan for longer than 4 years.

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    1. You must be joking, or not know eho he is.

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    2. Um... no.

      No, thanks.

      Just no.

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    3. Your choice of Dean MacDonald is the same rationale we used electing Danny Williams, and look what that got us.

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  7. Mr. Sullivan, I have no doubt this blog has contributed greatly to the current changes we see. You have brought to light the greed of Nalcor, and the ineptitude of government and those who purport to have our best interests at heart. You have been a necessary thorn in Nalcor´s and in the government´s side. I thank you for your incessant work on behalf of all Newfoundlanders and Labradorians. After all we are the ones who pay in the end.

    While I know the money squandered cannot be recovered, I hope that it limits the amount spent in the future. Mr. Marshall, there is a lot riding on your shoulders. I hope you are up to the task.

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  8. Yes these steps are needed but they miss the point you were driving at. There is no saviour, no hero in a white hat that rode over the horizon to save NL from economic, social and ecologic disaster.

    Only a public airing of ALL the facts and engineering reports and especially the contracts signed will bring sanity to this MF debacle. Unless transparent democracy is demanded and competent regulatory oversight reinstated. NL will immolate and the culture disintegrate.

    Voters have just received a harsh lesson in the illusion of choice in elections. They have just endured a dose of the Shock Doctrine that results from neoliberal oligarchs destabilizing society.

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    1. Bruno, I think you nailed it in the second paragraph. As a rate payer who have seen some major coin already squandered, I could care less if Mr. Ball spent millions more on delving deep into the books. Many may ask what a witch hunt like this will do but I think it's absolutely necessary to find if any level of corruption is evident. And yes, if there is wrong doing I want to see prosecution. This project should've had the checks and balances to catch mismanagement 1000 times over. To spiral out of control as it did appears that many hands were in on it... the height of negligence even if no corruption is found. I want answers. Simply put, I want someone to pay for, if warranted, for what I'm now expected to pay for for the remainder of my life. Knowing if it was mismanagement or under-handedness is the home run for me.

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  9. And I ask again, what is Stan`s qualifications

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  10. Hear that Marie Golfman, a journalist by training makes $265,000 on some board with MUN, and the lawyer, Bob Simmons, is on the board, who meets 4 times a year and gets $110,000 for this part time job.
    Any fat to be cut there

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  11. Uncle Gnarley site is getting a lot of hits( reaaders) these days, and this is good. Disappointed no one answered my question as to Stan Marshalls qualifications: so I did some checking last nite, found a item OGM (Oil gas magazine I guess). It gives a glowing report, and Stan is a chemical engineer, and a lawyer. Does a chemical engineer qualify him as the most knowledgeable person in the province as to power systems. Maybe so. But power is a general term, power can be electricity, oil and gas, business, or politics.
    Now Ed Martin did not have a clue what transmission losses were. During our bad outages and one main line went down, `transmission losses,no big deal` said Martin, until Liberty Consulting later said it restricted the good line`s capacity by 34 Megawatts. Nalcor had deliberately delayed a third line to the Avalon. Would Marshall be more in the know on transmission losses than Martin. Likely so, being an engineer, but not an electrical engineer, his junior engineers at Nfld Power understands transmission losses, and Marshall would have been informed. The third line would have been built before the blackouts started.
    Now the OGM wants Marshall to make our offshore better than the North Sea. Where does that leave us,our country having signed in Paris last week to roll back fossil fuel burning if we want to save our planet from global warming. Is it `drill baby drill` to use Sarah Palin`s phrase. Science says 80 percent of reserves must stay in the ground. So what is Stan`s view: conservation and efficiency or more CO2.
    Winston Adams

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  12. Repost from previous blog entry:

    From Bloomberg: http://www.bloomberg.com/research/stocks/people/person.asp?personId=8092891&privcapId=875612

    "He (Stan) is a Member of the Law Society of Newfoundland and Labrador and a Registered Professional Engineer in the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Mr. Marshall holds a Bachelor of Applied Science Degree in Chemical Engineering from the University of Waterloo and Bachelor of Law at Dalhousie University."

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  13. Not sure if it is well known, but Fortis is a partner a LNG facitily in BC. Now natural gas is a contributor to CO2. On the other hand, it is much better than coal and oil burning. If is viewed as a intermediate necessary step to roll back fossil fuel use to more renewable energy. I guess Mr Marshall would take that position. LNG issues... I guess being a chemical engineer is a prime asset on that front, as well as on efficiency issues. Wish the 20 questions by the Telegram had put some of this to him. Meanwhile, Nfld Power has a dismal record for efficiency and conservation for the residential consumer here in Nfld. Does this reflect Stan`s priorities I wonder.
    Winston Adams

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  14. I have wondered why so many Nflders have not opposed Muskrat Falls, which is to cost about 10 billion dollars. Recently I wondered if most realize how much money 10 billion is. Now a dollar can buy a litre of gas, which in a compact car can take you 20 miles. It can pay for power for a 400 watt radiant heater for 24 hours, a full day.
    Now if one was to spread out 10 billion dollars end to end, starting in St Johns and heading west, would you get as far as Gander, or Toronto maybe, before running out of bills.
    My calculation shows that 10 billion would take you around the world 38 times, at the equator. Or to the moon and back twice.
    Someone wrote that we should view Muskrat Falls in terms of dollars generated and flowing down that river.
    Viewed from the cost in one dollar bills, lapped around the world 38 times, then more bills for interest stretching 1 and half times again around the world every year, year 1 , year 2 , year 3.....etc,.... and the fact we then intend to double the price of electricity to try and squeeze every Nflder to pay for this.... seems like voodoo economics to me. And I was surprised myself how far these bills stretched, very surprised. My point, does the average person, or many people realize how much money we are talking about, that we will have to pay back! $3000 bills per family is just the start. This almost pays the interest on the 10 billion, but nothing on the 10 billion repayment itself. I never studied economics, but I did a bit of math.
    Maybe I made a booboo, if someone can check the numbers.
    Winston Adams

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    1. To answer your question as to why more Newfoundlanders didn't oppose Muskrat Falls, information was hidden behind PC legislation pushed thru the House of Assembly by Dunderdale and her puppy Jerome Kennedy. Traitors all.

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  15. NEWS ALERT: Our consumer Advocate, Tom Johnson, has called for a rebate for mini-split heat pumps! (posted today on the PUB website).Now the Consumer Advocate, on issues of Rate of Return (profits ) that Nfld Power can make, may roll back thier request a little to save customers $25.00 a year on energy bills. Mini-split heat pumps can save customers $1000 or more dollars per year on energy bills , and also make dramatic reductions on winter peak demand, reducing possibility of rotating outages)
    Johnson does not say what amount of incentive. He does not indicate whether the HSPF ratings, as compared to Nova Scotia, is excessive, so to make them uneconomic here, making too few models suitable, and therefore to still limit the uptake of these.
    Question: Is Johnson sufficiently on side with the residential customer to warrant Uncle Gnarley`s approval, or should Johnson go!
    My take: a very small move forward for the consumer, which the power companies will kick and scream against, and hinder as far as possible. Too little and too late.
    Winston Adams

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  16. Former NS Energy Minister Andrew Younger says some interesting things in a recent blog.

    Before going on too far, it’s important to understand what is important to Newfoundland.

    Muskrat Falls is not. Surprised? Don’t be. And this other comment.

    As it currently stands Nova Scotia faces two primary risks with Stan Marshall’s musings in news reports that Muskrat Falls might not happen. These are the Force Majeure provisions and delays to the project. I’ve received a lot of feedback on the Force Majeure issue.

    http://www.blog.andrewyounger.ca/2016/04/will-muskrat-falls-concerns-spill-over.html




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  17. If MF is delayed, does it not make sense to still export surplus energy from the island to Nova Scotia. And if we aggressively installed heatpumps for heating here we would free up extra 320 MW in winter, and commercial and hot water upgrades with heat pumps would add to that.
    Winston Adams

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