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Thursday, 22 June 2017


When the Minister of Natural Resources, Siobhan Coady, released the report of the Muskrat Falls Oversight Committee last Friday the first in fifteen months she tried to leave the media, and the public, with the impression that a new impetus was at work in matters of oversight.

The Minister was not being honest.

Given the evidence that, both prior to sanction and afterwards, the MF project estimates were falsified, it is reasonable to think that the Minister would not want to be mired in the deceitful culture that has grown up around Nalcor and her Department. But the Minister demonstrates no such caution.

It is one thing to say, as she has, that the government has questions about the project estimates, as did the whistleblower engineer. But a verbal expression of concern, alone, is not enough.

One might expect that Coady would not only want to know the origins of the alleged deceitfulness, and who is responsible, but that she might set new standards of disclosure for her officials to follow.

She has shown no interest in doing any of those things.
Coady deserves no quarter, having already attempted to hide behind the fabrication that the Auditor-General is conducting an extensive review of Nalcor and Muskrat.

The public needs reminding that the Tory administration set up the current Oversight Committee, giving it a very limited role and no budget. It was a proposition that allowed Nalcor’s analysis and data to be reported unchallenged and that afforded Ed Martin's propaganda to proliferate as fact.

Did the new Liberal government act to correct this serious deficit, even after its sad financial state and management incompetence were revealed following the election? Hardly.

Indeed, the Government did nothing except release a single and then only an Interim - EY Report, last March. To this day it has failed to follow through with release of the promised final version.

Yet the Minister happily approved release of a press statement, allowing a series of false claims to cover for her sudden dumping of virtually the entire series of missing monthly reports onto the Committee’s web site. She even boasted that the “new format [is] designed to increase the amount of project information available while being easier to review”.

Even that assertion is not true.

Readers are given pages of stale exhibits, absent explanation or analysis.

The general public is expected to play civil engineer, performing observation and interpretation of data when the job of oversight includes making it comprehensible. It should describe progress and problems, conduct reviews of management successes and failures, advise how the data was obtained and offer opinion on its veracity, discuss the project’s safety record, critical path, including the cost and schedule. It should both review and be forward looking.

Most importantly given the history of deceit and falsification at Nalcor the Minister provides no confirmation what, if any, parts of the information were independently verified.

She does not even say if the reports were reviewed by the expanded Oversight Committee, or if even a scintilla of them justify elevation above the whitewash issued under the Tories.

That’s all bad enough. But in releasing those meaningless and outdated reports, Coady adds two false claims. First, she states:

“As a government, we have consistently questioned the decision-making process of the previous administration on this project.”

The Liberals have done no such thing. Indeed, the evidence points to their embrace of a Tory boondoggle, complete with its allegedly falsified underpinnings.

It is precisely this failure to act quickly and to do things differently that has upset many watchers of the MF project, as they see the full suite of rationalizations used by every Tory Premier from Williams to Davis fall like dominoes.  

Little wonder the whole province is asking as did this Blog recently Who is Ball Afraid of?

Secondly, Coady’s Press Release continued:

“Knowing why decisions were made as they were, what assumptions were used to justify the project, and why costs were not accurate must be clearly understood. The knowledge and expertise of the strengthened oversight committee further supports our commitment to increased accountability and transparency of the Muskrat Falls Project.”

This is pure pretention. There is no relationship between “why decisions were made… and what assumptions were used…” and the work of the Oversight Committee. None. Nada.

The Committee is prevented from engaging in this kind of inquiry. Not only does it not look back, it is robbed of the right to review current management or health and safety issues, among others matters deserving of constant oversight, as Hydro’s recent tragedy has confirmed.

Coady did not even say if only the previous Oversight Committee or also the newly enlarged one reviewed those reports. She provides no separation between either group a complete disservice to the new Committee Members unless, of course, she is content that the expanded one is as “fake” as the one Tom Marshall contrived.

Why Coady is deliberately misleading the public over these critical issues is puzzling.

Possibly, having gotten smoked out by Paul Lane and others, the Oversight Committee is the new scapegoat. I don’t know.

But Coady is skating on very thin ice. She does not handle untruths very well.

It is better that the Minister just stopped hiding.

She should call that forensic audit. In so doing, she will demonstrate at least some of the courage exhibited by the whistleblower.

Else, as in the case of the Premier, we might ask: who is she afraid of?