McGrath hits back

James
James McLeod
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Defends himself against national association that says he’s ‘just plain wrong’ in Humber Valley Paving situation

Transportation Minister Nick McGrath spent yet another day batting back criticism over his handling of a controversial Labrador roadwork contract — this time from a national group representing insurance brokers and surety bond issuers.

Transportation Minister Nick McGrath. — Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram

he Liberals brought it up in the House of Assembly, with Liberal Leader Dwight Ball once again accusing the minister of cooking up a sweetheart deal for premier-designate Frank Coleman.

In a scathing news release, Surety Association Canada president Steven Ness said  McGrath’s explanation about the way he handled the contract with Humber Valley Paving doesn’t make sense.

“The minister’s comments about the surety bond process were completely irresponsible and just plain wrong,” Ness said in the release.

Humber Valley Paving was awarded a contract to pave a stretch of the Trans-Labrador Highway, but the work went off the rails after forest fires hit the region.

Coleman was one of the owners of Humber Valley Paving. He sold his stake in the company just days before jumping into politics.

Around the same time, Coleman’s son, Gene Coleman, called McGrath.

Following that conversation Humber Valley Paving was let out of the money-losing contract.

McGrath has said that by forcing the company to complete the work or calling the bonds, it would likely lead to a lengthy legal fight, and the roadwork wouldn’t get done on time or on budget.

But speaking to The Telegram he explained that as a form of insurance, surety bonds are in place for if a contractor abandons a project or defaults.

“It defies reason to suggest that you’re going to save money by not exercising (the bond),” Ness said. “It’s like if your house burns down, you’re not going to claim your fire insurance?”

McGrath said he believes that calling in those bonds would have led to a lengthy legal fight.

“Our experience with calling down bonds has not been a good experience,” he said. “I could go the legal route and say yes, I’m going to wait and take the chances; I still don’t have the work done.”

But Ness said it’s inaccurate to suggest that by calling a bond, the contract will be delayed or go over budget.

“Just to toss that comment out as he did was completely irresponsible,” he said. “That’s nothing to do with the surety bond process. The surety bonds are likely to minimize those delays because these are guys who have access to a lot of contractors who can get it done as expeditiously as possible.”

In the legislature, Ball led off question period by asking the government about what Ness was saying.

“I ask the premier: how can you claim that your government handled the situation properly when the national association says the minister’s comments were completely irresponsible and just plain wrong?” Ball asked

Premier Tom Marshall said that it’s not as simple as Ness makes it out to be. There were extenuating circumstances involving Labrador geography and other factors which made it better to just end the contract and re-tender the work.

Marshall has asked the auditor general to look at all of this and decide if there was any wrongdoing. He told reporters he wishes people would wait for that report to come out.

“The sad thing about what’s happening here is that information is being put out and it’s partially correct and it’s partially incorrect. Criticisms are taking place on this incorrect information,” he said. “Why don’t we wait for the correct facts to come out and then the people can decide?”

Organizations: Surety Association Canada

Geographic location: Humber Valley

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  • Fred
    May 28, 2014 - 14:06

    Why do we assume that the politician knows what he/she is talking about??? Seriously! We have a Justice Minister who is NOT a lawyer or has anything to do with the legal system. So why would we believe that the Transportation Minister has any idea about the bonds and implications??

  • W Bagg
    May 28, 2014 - 08:15

    I can't believe Marshall and the Govt changed the geography of Labrador after the contract was let. How unfair to HVP!

  • George
    May 28, 2014 - 05:56

    Hey McGrath, the statement, "Why don't we wait for the correct facts to come out..." is lucdicris, all facts are correct, there are no "correct facts" or wrong facts, just facts. Or "factual" information.

  • Charles
    May 28, 2014 - 05:37

    We don't ask much from our leaders. Just be honest with our people, is that asking to much?

  • Cashin Delaney
    May 28, 2014 - 02:14

    Steven Ness “said” McGrath’s explanation about the way he handled the contract with Humber Valley Paving “doesn’t make sense”. The proper form, for James, would be “Ness has indicated…” “Ness seems to be implying…” or, just put quotes around what you said, that he said? He did not say this doesn’t make sense James, for if he did, you would have most likely put a set of quotes around it, professionally and I am moderately confident that if Steven Ness was under oath, in court, with his right hand up, and led in questioning, he could MAKE SENSE of this affair, as that is his field of expertise. Stick to the quotes, to the "he said, he said" and practice professional objective journalism as Walter Lippman defines it, please. This is why you are so valuable to the province, for your unwavering professionalism. "completely irresponsible and just plain wrong" is something else than 'not making sense', James, please do not use Steven Ness as your personal Giant Peach! One question: What does this have to do with Abortion anyway? Aborting contracts. Pro-life, like Steven Ness, or pro-choice, like Frank&Gene; "partially correct and it’s partially incorrect. Criticisms are taking place on this incorrect information,” he said. “Why don’t we wait for the correct facts to come out and then the people can decide?” on what to do with this paving monster, says Tom Marshall. Here is some information that may help, or hinder the reader's analysis: "The Jains, a little-known Hindic religio-philosophical movement, managed to combine Von Neumann's maybe-logic (2500 years before he invented it) with Buddhist detachment and produced a 7-valued logic: "Maybe it is. Maybe it is not. Maybe it is and is not. Maybe it is indeterminate. Maybe it is and and it is indeterminate. Maybe it is not and it is indeterminate. Maybe it is and it is not and it is indeterminate." -p.16, op cit {Looking under back deck, checks under neighbours truck} Here Facts. Here Facts! Come on Facts. Come out of there Facts, come on. Here, come out and see the Locked-In-Ness monster and Dr. FrankenGene’s creation fight inside the new 60 meter concrete & asphalt roundabout dohyō in Paradise. “I’ve got -two lanes through paradise, -put my supper away tonight”. Eddie the Head, Eddie Munster, nor Eddie Money could disseminate what is going on here. It is spectacle in lieu of governance beyond any of these iconic entities. Maybe. Eddie Money has worked for Geico.

    • confused
      May 28, 2014 - 07:50

      huh Cashin Delaney says a lot of words but I think you just like to listen to your own words.