Thursday, 13 December 2018


A comeuppance for Ed Martin was as predictable as the certainty that Muskrat Falls would become a $12-15 billion project. But it took nearly three full days of evasion, obstruction and “attitude” from Martin for the Commissioner, Richard LeBlanc, to run out of patience. Less tolerant Judges might have reined in the former Nalcor CEO during the first hour of his examination by Commission Counsel, Kate O’Brien.  

Like a spoiled child beyond even coddling, this grown-up couldn’t discern that his behaviour, every bit as much as his decisions, were under a judicial microscope. Contrition was never an expectation.

Triggering the Judge to intervene late Wednesday afternoon was the cross-examination by Geoff Budden, lawyer for the Muskrat Falls Concerned Citizens Coalition (this scribe is one of the Coalition’s three interveners along with David Vardy and Ron Penney). But the moment was not his as much as it was Kate O’Brien’s. Budden had merely continued a line of questioning which Martin interpreted as a licence to obstruct and to void the Inquiry of the requirement of basic civility.

O’Brien had established her credentials from the very beginning, as had Co-Counsel, Barry Learmonth. The most ardent of cheerleaders for Muskrat could not be anything but impressed by their grasp of complex issues as much as by their research, articulation and relentless questioning of witnesses. No witness, including the most difficult, were spared especially when answers to fundamental questions were lost in confounding verbiage and segue.

Seemingly, long before he graced the Inquiry with his presence, Martin had decided that he would become either a recalcitrant witness or one that would confer on the proceedings disdain for the process and his brand of condescension and arrogance.

From the first moments of Swearing, Martin confirmed that he would concede nothing that suggested that he or his project team were responsible for the debacle under investigation. Allegations that his Project Director had attempted to change the conclusions of the Independent Project Review team were met with approval rather than disdain or even bewilderment. That he had not given the politicians a figure as to the potential for cost overruns – and that the public was not informed either – left him unbowed. 

Danny Williams’ lawyer actually sought for Martin more time to inform the Commissioner of the benefits of the Muskrat Falls project. That was just an hour earlier and Martin might have taken the Judge’s response as a clue when he stated that he was interested only in the facts of the project, not politics.

It wasn’t as if Martin had attempted to shed light on the decision-making processes and the doubtful 50-year forecasts – especially the Demand figures - that led to the choice of the Muskrat Falls option.  Neither was it the case that Martin willingly offered explanation for why far less risky options - offshore gas, Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) or power purchases from Hydro Quebec – were omitted under his arbitrary hand. Those issues simply got lost in Martin’s self-serving contextualization and tangents. Worse, they dripped – as one observer noted - with condescension and belligerence towards O’Brien.

By any standard Ed Martin’s was quite a performance, just not one that should be associated with professionalism or with the conduct expected of a senior official – even of one let go.

Whispers among the few seats occupying the Inquiry wondered if this was a case of misogyny at play in an open public forum. O’Brien took on the chin what the Judge referred to as Martin’s “attitude” throughout Monday and Tuesday and into Wednesday.  So, no one was surprised when after two and a half days of aggressive rudeness by Martin a breach could be discerned in LeBlanc’s normally inscrutable countenance.

The loud bang of Judge LeBlanc’s frustrated hand signified that he had endured enough of “this foolishness”.

The ferocity of his message possibly spoke to its postponement.  The Judge was clear, as this CBC transcription confirms: “I've had it Mr. Martin. You're not being the witness here. You're trying to run the show. It's going to stop right now. And if it doesn't stop, unfortunately I'm not going to be able to hear the rest of your story".  The Judge was not nearly finished lecturing the failed former CEO. "You are not responsive to the questions. You're actually being rude as far as I'm concerned and I don't want it anymore. I wouldn't put up with it in court, and I'm not going to put up with it here", LeBlanc continued, often wagging his forefinger in Martin’s direction.

It was a long overdue admonition for a brat who, long ago, needed to be reined in. This is the guy whom Williams and Dunderdale gave unfettered access to the public purse.  

Ed Martin's behaviour speaks to their judgement, too.