When Premier Tom Marshall was asked about the independent review of the province’s accesss to information system, he smiled.
Premier Tom Marshall says Nalcor was modelled on Norway’s Statoil. “Oil companies can make massive amounts of wealth, and Nalcor is going to be part of that,” he said. — Photo by Keith Gosse/The Telegram
“I won’t be there then, so you’ll ask the new guy,” Marshall said.
Whoever the new guy is, when he takes over on July 5th, he’ll inherit a government and an economy deeply shaped by Marshall.
It’s not just the five months he’ll serve as premier; it’s also the six budgets he’s delivered since 2007 as finance minister, along with time spent in the departments of Natural Resources and Justice.
So, when the new guy takes over, what kind of economy, what kind of situation is he inheriting?
“The last 10 years have been phenomenal for our economy. I mean, there’s been such a major change. And when I think of the future, I get really excited. You know, looking in particular what can come out of what Nalcor is doing …,” he said. “I find a lot of people are critical, and yet Nalcor is the people’s company. It’s not a foreign company; it’s not a private company that’s motivated just to earn profits for its own shareholders.”
Marshall’s legacy in five months as premier will likely be the recent push for government transparency and accountability structures, but looking at the big picture, he says the legacy of 10 years of Tory government is Nalcor.
When Opposition Leader Dwight Ball sat down with The Telegram for a Horizons interview, he lamented that the oil boom hasn’t given birth to a mega-corporation of the kind that’s grown out of other Atlantic provinces — companies like Irving, McCain’s, or Sobeys.
But Marshall said the government has been deliberately building its own behemoth.
“It was done to copy Statoil — the Norwegian model — that we would build a state-owned company, owned by the people of the province, and they could invest in the oil and gas industry so we could be at the table and we could learn that business,” he said.
“Oil companies can make massive amounts of wealth, and Nalcor is going to be part of that.”
Marshall said projections for Nalcor mean hundreds of millions of dollars coming back into the provincial treasury in the coming decades.
“By 2025 it’ll be up to $700 million, $750 million per year,” Marshall said. “The revenues will come in, they’ll take care of their debt and the interest on their debt, and then it’ll come into the province that we can use, or the government of the day will be able to use it to lower rates; to put money in a heritage fund; to build schools, hospitals, long-term care facilities.”
All of this is fuelled by oil.
On election day in 2003, when the Tories won the government, the price of oil was US$29 per barrel. At the beginning of March, it was US$111.
And while Marshall said the government has being putting money into infrastructure, education and health care, there’s always a demand for more.
The tough part, according to Marshall, is that right now it’s still a deed half-done.
“We’re in the building stage, and we have to invest. But the next stage is that when this building is completed and then the revenues start coming in, that’s going to be so beneficial to the people of the province,” he said.
“A lot of people are saying, ‘Why are you putting money into Nalcor?’ Because they can say, ‘Why don’t you put it into a hospital now? Or why don’t you put it into a school?’”
If the poll numbers don’t turn around for the Tories, there’s a good chance the Liberals will win the next election.
“I guess every government has a life,” Marshall said.
“Our government, you know, came in under Premier (Danny) Williams. I can assure the people of the province we took very, very seriously what we’re doing. We worked extremely hard to make this happen, and obviously, you know, we would like to be there to take it to the next level as well.”
But Marshall also said in the final reckoning, he thinks people will be kind to the Tories.
“I think people are going to look at what we’ve done and compare it to what other governments have done. They’re going to look at our team and our leader and compare it to the other team and their leader,” he said.
“People always make the right choice, and we think when they make the comparison, they’re going to say this has been a good government.”