Proof was not what was holding up Transportation and Works Minister Nick McGrath from resigning over the Humber Valley Paving affair; but another shoe has dropped.
The Minister confirmed, on Wednesday, that the contract for road work in Labrador, from which Humber Valley Paving was released, will neither be completed on time nor on budget. In fact, the Minister confirms the additional cost, to the public purse, is $1.5 million.
We do not have details as to whether that figure is accurate but the admission, alone, is large enough to invoke bewilderment that the Minister did not use the opportunity, in front of the media, to accept responsibility and resign.
I guess Mr. McGrath is not that kind of Minister.McGrath trotted out his officials in advance of the news conference to brief the media “stressing”, according to The Telegram, “that disruptions in the paving schedule was an “act of God” due to forest fires”.
To defend his decision, the Minister again attempted to rely on the unsustainable.
Readers will remember that McGrath advanced the forest fire justification when the HVP issue first broke; it barely played for an hour when someone reminded him the fires had blocked the road for only 2.5 days, and that he had already awarded HVP a one year Contract extension in consequence of the fires.
The Government could have levied the Company tens of thousands of dollars in penalties, as it consistently and contractually demands from other Companies that cause project delays, but it did not in the case of HVP.
For over a year HVP failed to invoke ‘force majeure’ (a clause common to most contracts) presumably because it had no such case to advance. Indeed, even had the Company possessed justification to declare force majeure such clauses often "do not excuse a party's non- performance entirely, but only suspends it for the duration of the force majeure". But the Company didn’t just want a break. It wanted relief.
McGrath made other claims, too, none of which held up to scrutiny.
Indeed, yesterday’s revelation was a complete vindication of the President of Surety Canada, a group representing Bonding Agencies, who reminded McGrath that any change of Contractor would cause delay, but that the purpose of the Bonds was to ensure that the taxpayers of the Province were saved additional cost by HVP’s failure to perform the work.
As if to leave no doubt about McGrath’s intervention, the Official called McGrath “irresponsible” and stated, according to the Telegram, "he doesn't know what he's talking about..."
The claims of Mr. McGrath are all on the record. The only consistency that holds is that he has successfully demolished the underpinnings of each one.
Nick McGrath is not a credible Minister. Every contractor in the Province (and just about everyone else) who is either knowledgeable or who has participated in the Public Tendering system believes he has not told the truth; they believe he has dishonoured his Ministry. In Parliamentary Government we are all aware of the price a Minister expects to pay for having failed in his duty.
The Nick McGrath story does not end there.
While Tom Marshall hopes, within a few weeks, to escape from ultimate responsibility for the HVP affair, he should know that the stench will follow him.
That the public is asked to bear the cost of a $1.5 million favour for a political friend is offensive enough. But that Premier Marshall supported the decision and likely was a party to it, though he denies culpability, will constitute an unfortunate legacy for such a briefly tenured Premier.
This Blogger does not frequently get phone calls from former senior Cabinet Ministers of the Moores and Peckford Governments but, occasionally, the voice of exasperation is heard over the wires as to how badly the current lot are making a mess of things.
One recent phone call echoed much of what I had written about Tom Marshall in May in a piece entitled “POLITICAL COVER-UP OR DYSFUNCTIONAL GOVERNMENT“. “You know perfectly well, Des”, stated the former senior Minister, “Nick McGrath did not make that call on his own”.
While much was said, much went unsaid in that conversation; we both knew that decisions of this magnitude fell well outside the ambit of a single Minister, even a capable one, which Nick McGrath is not.
As it stands the very person who has acknowledged having personally benefited from the decision is getting ready to head the Government.
A $1.5 million favour is a pretty rich advance for one seeking public service.Her Majesty will not be amused.