Liberals question Nalcor’s $100,000 signage

Steve
Steve Bartlett
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The entrance to Nalcor Energy on Hydro Place, off Columbus Drive in St. John’s, is marked by a sign that the Liberals say cost too much. — Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

Nalcor spent almost $100,000 on headquarter signage, and the Opposition believes that’s a signal of how unaccountable the Crown corporation is becoming.

“There’s no private company in this province that would spend that kind of money on new signs,” says Liberal critic Marshall Dean.

“They’re acting like a big, private corporation, but unlike a private company that has to earn its income, Nalcor has the luxury of being able to always turn a profit (as a government-owned utility).”

Documents obtained by The Telegram indicate the province’s energy corporation paid $98,000 for roof, entrance and roadway signs at Hydro Place, off Columbus Drive in St. John’s.

The sum was part of the nearly $325,000 Nalcor spent on branding and signage between 2008 and 2010.

While Dean suggests the signs signal excess, Nalcor’s manager of corporate communications says that was the lowest price from a tender call.

“We went to the local marketplace as we did with brand development,” says Dawn Dalley.

“I can’t tell you whether I was up in Calgary or Toronto I would have gotten that any less expensively.”

She adds it was important to mark the building with signage and Nalcor was cost conscious in doing so.

“An example of how we tried to moderate this: our plan was to put another sign up on Williams Drive, around the other side of the building, and when we got the prices back, we went, ‘You know what, we probably don’t need that.’ ”

But going to tender and being prudent are not the only important factors to Dean.

“Due diligence is one thing, but is it necessary to spend that amount of money?” he asks. “They could tender for a $1-million sign, but that doesn’t make it right.”

Regarding the money pumped into branding, Dalley points out Nalcor was a new company at the time and needed a name, brand and the standard things involved with establishing corporate identity. Again, she says its approach was responsible.

“We went to market and did some research before we started this exercise, and to be frank, we thought it would be much more. … We looked at other like-minded companies that had similar experience. The mid-range was around half-a-million dollars. So what we did — and I think we did it — we tried very hard to be very moderate in our approach, very modest in how we did it. We did a lot of stuff internally.”

She adds Nalcor also pressed the marketing company to be as prudent as possible.

Dalley notes the brand has received positive feedback and she believes Nalcor got good value for its money.

Nonetheless, Dean says, Nalcor seems to be a company where money doesn’t seem to be a problem.

He wonders what other expenditures there are to question and notes the Liberals are concerned about the difficulty in getting such information from the Crown corporation.

“What else is there that we don’t know? We’ve been calling on government to open the books of Nalcor. Let the auditor general in. Let’s see exactly where they are spending money. There’s probably a much larger debate there.”

sbartlett@thetelegram.com

Twitter: bartlett_steve

Organizations: The Telegram, Hydro Place

Geographic location: Calgary, Toronto

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  • Joe
    July 17, 2011 - 08:20

    People. Nalcor is running itself like a private corporation. That is a good thing! The number looks big to everyday folks like us because most of us don't make the much in a year. Nalcor is a multi-billon dollar organization that needs signs. The price is more than reasonable. When you run it like public utility you end with the mess that they have in New Brunswick - the province's credit rating was down-graded because of it's heavy debt load - 40% of which is from NB Power. Nova Scotia let its utility run like a private company and now it's booming - see www.emera.com. Let's let Nalcor help us all make the best of our vast natural resources.

    • David
      July 17, 2011 - 09:03

      ....The price is more than reasonable.....well, you got that right. That "sign" is worth $30 or 35 thousand TOPS, and they paid $100K. As far as telling me or anyone else we aren't familiar enough with big numbers, or that we lack understanding of money, your disgusting, patronizing assessment sounds as though your sense of 'value' comes straight out of Confederation Building.

  • Richard
    July 16, 2011 - 13:39

    I was going to switch to the competition, but Nalcor's slick advertising won me over.

  • Political Watcher
    July 16, 2011 - 09:00

    Sure that's nothing; the City of Mount Pearl spent almost $250,000.00 installing two signs on the Pitts Highway. Talk about unaccountability. We re-branded when Kent took over as mayor and now again when Simms took over; they act like need to personalize everything yet cut services to it's residents.

    • MountPearlResident
      July 16, 2011 - 12:19

      What services have been cut in Mount Pearl? I haven't noticed any.......

  • John Smith
    July 16, 2011 - 08:47

    Good to know the Marshall is on the job watching out for us. Give me a break. Is this the best the pathetic liberals can do? With everything going on in the province the braintrust at the opposition decides that the signs that went to tender for NALCOR will be what they deem of great importance. What a joke the liberal party has become.

  • bill
    July 16, 2011 - 08:23

    Is there anything else for the opposition to complain about? Maybe we should look at all the private companies that the government gives money too, and see how they spend that money. Maybe someone should ask Marshall Dean about that. So did we want someone to go over and paint a sign for Nalcor. We have to be professional...i would hope that they had good signage. And like everything else the prices have gone up. Maybe the opposition should be looking at more important things. If this is what they are paying Craig Westcott for, maybe they should look at their spending habits!

  • troy
    July 16, 2011 - 08:14

    OMG..the liberals about a sign know a SIGN give it up ...

  • bern
    July 16, 2011 - 08:08

    Someone needs to get a life and something valid to bitch about!!

  • Trevor
    July 16, 2011 - 07:55

    I think that any government owned company that is bringing in money to the governement should be able to spend any money neccesary. Especially someone getting the province as much as Nalcor is bringing in. Most governent departments spend more money than they generate. If Nalcor wasn't doing it's job, a lot more departments would have a lot less money to spend. Advertising and brand awareness are key requirements for any company to turn a profit. It's no different for Nalcor.

    • W McLean
      July 16, 2011 - 12:20

      How much money is Nalcor "bringing in"?

  • David
    July 16, 2011 - 07:37

    Unaccountable? A Crown Corporation? Never! Seriously, if anyone ever wanted to document how quickly a massive financial windfall could get squandered away with absolutely notihng to show for it (other than some extremely good paying jobs for the political lackies who are handed them) then keep your eyes on Nalcor.....this kind of grand, ill-conceived, technically- and financially-incompetent, capital-incinerating entity is the post-Confederation history of our province in a nutshell. There isn't one sane taxpaywer in this province who believes for one second that Nalcor will achieve anything but to rid us of our collective wealth. Ho hum, another day in paradise..