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Thursday 28 May 2015


Ed Martin sent Gilbert Bennett to Paddy Daly’s VOCM Open Line Show, this week, to blame the Dome fiasco squarely on Astaldi.

But there was a time when all was la Dolce Vita between Nalcor and Astaldi.

As Nalcor VP Gil Bennett tells it, it seems none of the other international contractors had any original ideas for building Muskrat Falls in a Labrador winter.

Then came along Astaldi.

So, how did Astaldi beat out Canadian Company Aecon for the $1 billion plus Muskrat Falls project?

Well, back in 2013 it may have gone something like this:

Mr. Astaldi might have said to Ed Martin: “We can solve your problem, Mr. Martinelli…we Italians have come to defeat your Labrador winter. We know what we are doing.

But you have never worked in a Labrador winter, says Ed: how can you possibly know how cold it gets up there?

Now, Mr. Martinelli, says Mr. Astaldi, you do not know us Italians. You do not know Italy. We are the people of Michaelangelo, of Leonardo da Vinci, of Bartolini, of Donatello, and Castellani. Mr. Astaldi called out  the great Italian names in staccato fashion, as he raised his massive arms expansively. We are the most creative, the most brilliant minds in the whole world, Mr. Martinelli, he added.

For us, Winter is nothing.

But asks Ed: what possibly can you suggest that the other international bidders have not?  The great Canadian Company, AECON which has had much success enduring our nasty Canadian climate for years. They are also bidding.

Do you have a secret weapon to fight the wretched Labrador cold? 

But Edie, er, Mr. Martinelli, have you not heard of the very famous Italian legend, the legend of the Black Bird”?

Er…no, I confess, Mr. Astaldi I have not, says Ed, I know a good many Italian vacations spots; but no, no legends. Please, Sir, tell me quickly what it reveals. What does it say about the cold Labrador?

Let me keep the story short, Edie, for I know you are a busy man.

Mr. Astaldi lowered his face and placed it in the palms of his great Italian hands. He seemed to reflect for just a moment, determined to give relevance to the oft told Italian tale.  Then his great Sicilian voice could be heard.

‘Italian Legend tells the story of a clash that broke out between a Black Bird and the dreaded Winter‘, he began.

‘One year, a Black Bird decided to collect enough provisions so as to be able to survive for the entire month of January, without leaving its place of refuge.

‘Now, Edie, when the Black Bird came out from its nest and began to celebrate its victory over the great and all powerful Winter, Winter felt derided;  it grew furious and unleashed a brutal snowstorm with fierce winds for days that allowed an unbearable cold to descend; much like an average day in your beloved Labrador. The Black Bird stopped celebrating, Mr. Astaldi continued, and sought swift protection in its nest.

But Edie, my friend, the cold was too great, and perhaps, like working outside in the cold Labrador, the nest offered little protection.’ 

‘So, Mr. Martinelli, the bird hid in a chimney, and found shelter there. It survived, Edie. It survived the winter in that chimney. 

'That is why, today, the Black Bird is enormously important in Italian culture.’

I don’t understand says Ed Martin.  What has this to do with my problem; the damnable Labrador winter? I am thinking cement and steel and making up lost time. My project is already behind schedule, you know, and it has not even started.  The people will have my hide if we go many more billions over budget. You know how greedy contractors are…not you, of course, Mr. Astaldi.  

Please tell me, Sir: are you proposing….to build a chimney at Muskrat Falls?

Gosh, no, no Mr. Martinelli, on the Pope’s honor, no, no, no, says Mr. Astaldi.  

In the same way our legendary Italian Black Bird found a place to nest, Mr. Martinelli, we are going to build a shelter for your visionary and historic project. The great Italian builders will defeat the worse Labrador winter! 
It will be the Pieta of your great and wonderful Premier Danny Williams, the Colosseum of your very own mentor Madam Dunderdale, the Pantheon of your Constable, the now great and wonderful Premier Davis.

Mio Dio! shouts Ed Martin as he ‘high fives’ the brilliant Mr. Astaldi:  you Italians are geniuses!

Oh! Indeed, we are, said Mr. Astaldi and Edie, sand the best part: it will only cost you $120 million; such a small cost, eh, to build Muskrat Falls ….INDOORS!

Who, but men of industry like us, can value genius, Mr. Astaldi?

We are truly the finest specimens of our peoples, are we not, exclaims Edie. 

Edie says to Mr. Astaldi; I’ll tell you what: this scheme of yours; why don’t we call it something grand…something that speaks to the grandeur of the mind of Astaldi, that acknowledges the enormous trust which I am willing to store in the planning, and execution expertise of your great Company. 

It is the same confidence, Sir, that has been bestowed on me by not one, not two, not three, but by four recent Newfoundland and Labrador Premiers.  

Mr. Astaldi, all the Premiers acknowledge my own great genius, as a fine architect and builder of great projects for the Newfoundlanders and Labradorians; they know me for the visionary that I am.

What idea do you have in mind my valued and trusted friend?, Mr. Astaldi asks.
I suggest, says Edie, we will call it the ‘Blackbird Solution’.

Oh, Mr. Martinelli, exclaims Mr. Astaldi:  you are so modest.  It is so Italian…let us say, so very Astaldi; the people, back home, will be very proud.

You have many geniuses, Edie. 

I have noticed how you have handled those tough questions from the CBC, chuckled Mr. Astaldi…and they both laughed and laughed. 

Said Mr. Astaldi: I think, Edie, there might be a little Italian in you!

But, do we have a deal, Mr. Martinelli?

To which Ed responds: I don’t see any other Bidder with genius like the Blackbird Solution; worthy of the great Michelangelo.

It’s a deal Mr. Astaldi. We’ll build the great Muskrat Falls project….INDOORS…
the workers will be as warm as your Blackbird.

Adds Edie: and Muskrat Falls will be finished ahead of schedule!


Like that will ever happen, they both roared in unison.

And that was how the “Dome” was born.


Editor's Note:
Yes, there is an Italian Legend of the Blackbird and Winter. See 
Stories from the Italian winter: three days of the blackbird. It is a beautiful tale of triumph in the face of adversity. But, all legends contains elements of fairy tale. They depict how people see themselves; the best of a culture.  The tale spun by Ed Martin, Gil Bennett, and Derrick Dalley, that the Dome is Astaldi's cost, is not true either.  Some legends, like the tale of the Blackbird and Winter, survive, because they possess virtue.  Of course, there is nothing virtuous about deception, except in fairy tales.