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Monday 7 November 2016


It is not difficult to figure out why Nalcor CEO Stan Marshall wasn’t invited by the Premier to sit in on the marathon session with aboriginal leaders. Evidently he would not have been helpful. Already he is dissing the importance of the methylmercury issue mere days after the protesters broke off their sit-in.

At the beginning of his tenure, Marshall appeared in front of the media to confirm that the Muskrat Falls project is a “boondoggle” and to say that he is trying to mitigate the impact of 21.4 cent KWh power on ratepayers. Otherwise, he has largely been mute.

Whether it was the protesters or something else that stirred him to consciousness is uncertain.

The Nalcor CEO used his two-day media blitz last week to largely dismiss the deal the politicians had constructed. He downplayed concerns about methylmercury and suggested the science would not require clearcutting and soil removal. Marshall may be right. But how is the expression of such views supposed to advance progress in establishing a relationship between the parties?

Nalcor CEO Stan Marshall
Nalcor ‘dropped the ball’ on many facets of its environmental obligations. Then, too, it has not established a trustworthy relationship with the three aboriginal groups, except for some Innu who are in love with their contracts.

Even Labrador municipal leaders were demanding a seat at the negotiating table methylmercury not being the only issue on their agenda.

Likely, Happy Valley-Goose Bay’s Mayor Snook is realizing his predecessor Leo Abbass, who held a seat on Nalcor’s Board of Directors, delivered little except acquiescence to a project that will leave the Town with a lot of inflation and a few maintenance positions.

In truth, Nalcor’s ham-fisted approach to legitimate local concerns is responsible for the invasion of the work site.

But Marshall wants to dump responsibility on the aboriginals anyway for costing what he has arbitrarily estimated at hundreds of millions of dollars in consequence of a couple of days of occupation. He gave no mention that the meeting was delayed for the convenience of the Premier, who was enjoying the comfort of sun and sand.

Neither did Marshall note that Nalcor senior management personnel had failed to get their asses to the work site from the very beginning where, if they were attitudinally inclined (which is doubtful), they might have developed a rapport with local and indigenous people, possibly easing frustrations before they were fomented. Instead, Nalcor management were afforded the convenience of being home by 5PM Gilbert Bennett, and his cohorts, content to watch the protests on the evening news!

When a Corporation has screwed up as badly as has Nalcor, the new CEO might wish to come to grips with the reality that his organization has not earned the right to be impatient.

Indeed, there are times especially if you have no good will to trade when issues have to play themselves out. Just because Stan Marshall has found “not one documented case that I'm aware of that flooding a reservoir has caused harm due to methylmercury” is completely irrelevant.

As much as Nalcor insists on controlling the agenda, it is sufficient for Marshall to be reminded that it was the Government not him, and not Gil Bennett that stepped in to give Nalcor back its site. Indeed, Marshall might want to remind us either of consultation or of oversight processes he has initiated as the new CEO. I can recall not one.

The Nalcor CEO also indicated that he wants to address the problem of low morale among Nalcor employees, due to public criticism of the Crown Corporation.

Does he think the declaration “they’re dedicated, very qualified” or “they are doing a good job” suffices as leadership, or that the admission of “boondoggle” and the admonition “that [it] should never have been started” serves as a palliative for a staff bewildered by the sheer stupidity of their bosses?

Did it not occur to him that a good many of those professionals would prefer not to be associated with a corporate leadership which contrived the basis for the single worst decision in the province’s history?

Does he not appreciate that they have to work under an overpaid management team who keep their jobs and display their entitlements behind multi-various private corporations in spite of having royally screwed up?

Has he forgotten that he has made no management changes to alter what is a dreadful status quo? That even the Executive V-P Gilbert Bennett, who has never managed anything even close to a mega construction project, is still allowed to inhabit a place crying out for experienced leadership?

Still, Marshall tells a CBC reporter, “criticism of the project should not be focused on Nalcor employees but the project itself”.

Who or what is the project if not Nalcor?

Once content to be Dunderdale’s international experts, Nalcor management now feel insecure having put this province in the poor house a $7.4 billion project now at $11.4 billion and counting. I’m sure the public will be very contrite for levying blame when their power bills rise at least twofold!

Marshall’s newest revelation, uttered last week, won’t exactly calm a public suspicious and cynical of Nalcor either.

Remember the Water Management Agreement?

Yes, that’s the one intended to maximize production from Muskrat Falls by trading power with the Upper Churchill in times of surplus/deficit.

Critics voiced extensive warnings that Nalcor ought to seek judicial clarity prior to sanction because the viability of Muskrat would be harmed without it that, without the WMA, control of Muskrat would effectively be handed over to Hydro Quebec, which controls water flows from the Upper Churchill.

Now recall Nalcor’s recent loss over the Upper Churchill Renewal Agreement in the Quebec Superior Court. And recall Nalcor’s insistence from the very beginning, and again in August, following the Court Decision that the Case and the WMA were totally unrelated.

Last week, Stan Marshall offered at least a partial correction to what was, from the outset, a bald-faced lie. Said he to NTV: “Would have been better if we had won. And there are some issues but with a minimal amount of cooperation from Hydro Quebec, which I fully expect to have, I think we can operate MF in the way it was designed to…”

Marshall was putting the best face he could on a much larger problem, without a shred of proof of the total impact and how it jibes with evidence it had filed with the PUB on the Water Management issue.

The Court Decision demands no cooperation from Hydro Quebec. HQ is likely to offer its “cooperation” for a price. But, without it, billions of dollars are being poured into a project that, at times, will need the unutilized recall power from the Upper Churchill and excess power from Island sources just to meet Nalcor’s Island requirements and its contractual obligations to Nova Scotia. These are the facts about which Stan Marshall ought to have spoken plainly.

Though Marshall cracked open the original deceit, he ought to have gone further and fired Gilbert Bennett as one of the key spokespersons for his handling of the issue. Instead, Marshall downplayed the problem, choosing not to expose or further embarrass his Executive V-P.

Notwithstanding such revelations, the media still doesn’t seem to understand that this is one reason on top of the many others that critics want to halt a fundamentally flawed project.

Perhaps Marshall thinks he is just doing his job. His role, ostensibly, is not to chastise or to fire senior managers whose judgement is deficient and who chose to roll the dice with the public purse.

Stan Marshall suggests “Nalcor won't be judged by the way the project began but by how it finishes”.

He is wrong.

Nalcor has established what it is. Marshall is merely trying to put lipstick on a pig. What constitutes a strong finish for a project headed for $15 billion anyway?

Unless Marshall wants all the people at Nalcor the innocent and the guilty to be judged unkindly, he will have to be less quiet, more decisive, and make this publicly-owned Corporation more accountable, and more honest too.The lies and deceit have to stop else at some future date, a Royal Commission will wring out the truth for him.

For the present, unless Stan Marshall can demonstrate the leadership many hoped he would bring to this outfit, he should gird himself for more protests in Labrador because he is impressing neither the aboriginal groups nor, for that matter, anyone on the Island.