Time for change at the top of Nalcor

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There is a urgent need to improve management at Nalcor Energy.

Although apparent for years to concerned observers throughout the province, the litany of damning facts independently underlined in two recent interim reports, by Liberty Consulting and the Board of Public Utilities (PUB), leave no doubt that the entire provincial population must now insist on radical reform.

Those reports clearly demonstrate the current Nalcor team does not have the competence necessary to conduct present operations at its subsidiary, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro.

The ongoing public debate over Nalcor’s worrisome Muskrat Falls subsidiary reflects the same problem.

In each case, basic errors very unlikely stem totally from individual missteps, but rather from an upper level want of the competence needed for planning and implementing the work to be performed.

As the same upper-level Nalcor team controls other subsidiaries including those running Upper Churchill (CFLCo) and our stakes in offshore oil operations — on both of which the entire future economic welfare of the province largely depends — delay and inaction in reform can no longer be risked.

Nonetheless, there is a problem. Time and again, ministers in recent administrations have officially stated they defer entirely to presently appointed top Nalcor officials in all matters of energy policy and legislative undertaking. This attitude is, of course, the exact reversal of recognized governance procedure, and almost certainly constitutes the root of the present problem.

Will whoever runs the incoming new administration do a corrective 180-degree about turn? Who knows? But early indications point to the contrary.

The answer? Possibly widespread pressure for a Royal Commission of Inquiry. Will the public speak up through their votes?

Dr. J.F. Collins

St. John’s

Organizations: Board of Public Utilities, Royal Commission of Inquiry

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador

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Recent comments

  • Geoff Chaulk
    June 23, 2014 - 07:46

    Agreed. The neglect identified by independent reviewers of Nalcor senior management, in relation to not maintaining infrastructure, has to date gone unaddressed. The Board needs to act to restore public confidence.

  • Drama Queen of Liberal Vote-Induction Machine
    June 20, 2014 - 02:47

    "no doubt that the entire provincial population must now insist on radical reform… …Royal Commission of Inquiry" 1. No doubt, Dr. Collins is aware of the former radical reforms by our mytho-socialist, Mr. Smallwood 2. Our Queen is as well Remember when Jerry Byrne was promoting, with excellent backing, the May 2nd vote for the lower Churchill – oh, that was years ago now. No one remembers that vote. Dr. Collins, didn't you realize that you have already voted on this matter, and you have no expertise to judge Nalcor. Muskrat Falls is democracy at work. Stop paying attention to votes, and invoking distanced Royalty and LOOK AFTER YOUR OWN COMMUNITIES, that goes for the rest of you democra-dummies! Dr. J, you may join us in the bay, we need talent, where we practice Almost Anarchy, same as it always was before any commission, and what it will again eventually be, post-democracy. We talk whats given, and do without the rest, or create it ourselves. The easiest way, to make government fade away, is to ignore their service, and mock their legislation and totally eviscerate the policy of ambitious morons. I suggest you worry about how YOUR community will endure, not government, or Nalcor. I am content to see Ed Martin totally arse-up Nalcor, or totally succeed. It is just too absurd, too far removed to too too much concern me. Why are you so on the go? Our government must be kept poor, for rural to survive. If this seems counter-intuitive, it is. Please don't tell us to vote. If you all want democracy - get the stakeholders together, at a table, and damn well have it, and leave the uninterested alone. Maurice will make money off of it, so yes, he is a stakeholder. My life gets richer the more self-sufficient we get; more government cuts, the better off we are. Voting is like feeding foxes. Nice, but ultimately cruel to them, and a shame to all. Look how habituated Danny Williams was made via handouts. What does the fox say, when you call him a white-collar welfare-addict? Reach down and paw at his bootstraps? My God, mythology runs your lives. Smallwood and Williams are not even ideologues, just imprologues. This is your life, not Canadian Idol. Live your life in a wide perimeter AROUND politics, not IN it. A political life is not a conservative or liberal life, not in any dictionary at all, at all. Everybody’s got to fight to be free. Not vote, or cry for the Queen to fix your rights-boo-boo. I am fully entertained by the stupidity of the over-motivated and hammer-tong educated. SEND US MORE!!

    June 19, 2014 - 15:46

    Dr. Collins continues to be an unwavering voice for accountability and transparency on the Muskrat file. Noteworthy is that government's recent pledge of openness was careful to exempt NALCOR and government from ever having to answer the pressing, tough questions that continue to haunt this project. Like Collins, I believe a Royal Commission is the only mechanism that could properly address these concerns. I share his doubts that it will happen under a new PC administration. There are only two candidates at this point - the substantial John Ottenheimer and woefully insubstantial Steve Kent. Assuming Tories are not all crazy and they dump Kent in favour of Ottenheimer, then an interesting question arises. As a member of the Williams cabinet until 2007, and as chairman of both NALCOR Energy and NL Hydro until 2011, Ottenheimer bears significant responsibility for Muskrat. In announcing his candidacy for the leadership he has said nothing to suggest that he has any disagreement with the evolution of this project. Ottenheimer was present throughout the systematic dismantling of laws and regulations that had previously made Hydro, and latterly NALCOR, public accountable. Indeed, it was under Ottenheimer's signature that a rather bland Strategic Plan /Accountability and Transparency report was issued for both corporations in 2011 - just prior to his quitting to run unsuccessfully for the Harper Conservatives on the south coast. So whatever skeletons are in the Muskrat closet, we can safely assume they'll remain there under an Ottenheimer administration. Sadly I believe the same might be true when it comes to the Liberal government that will invariably replace the Tories. Yes Ball has been critical of the secrecy surrounding the project. He has said however that there is essentially nothing his government could or would do to stop it or drastically change it. That might well be the case, but when it comes to giving the public an honest, independent look at what went down, Ball is no more likely to open that closet than Ottenheimer. Bear in mind that his top lieutenant, Cathy Bennett, was a director of Hydro and succeeded Ottenheimer as Chairman of NALCOR Energy. She is an unabashed Muskrat booster - a fact many feel contributed to her poor showing in the Liberal leadership race. So, like the Upper Churchill, Muskrat is likely to remain an enigma for historians to solve. And their chore will not be easy. We can assume that, like Ontario's gas plant fiasco, files critical to making sense of the decision making process will not be there when historians and researchers go looking for them. To be clear, Muskrat is not necessarily destined to fail - at least in the conventional sense - despite the remarkable risks that have been assumed by the crown and the horrendous economics associated with it. Unquestionably however it will place an enormous burden on the ratepayers and taxpayers of this province. How large and how long that burden lasts depends on several factors - among them the benchmark price of oil, the extent of project cost over-runs, and the performance of the North American economy. If the price of oil rises, for example, to $150/barrel and remains there for decades (something unexpected), it might well mitigate the damage Muskrat could otherwise wreak on our economy. That would not retroactively alter the fact that our government acted in a most arrogant, irresponsible fashion when it chose to roll the dice on this massive public expenditure. It would simply mean that luck - blind, dumb luck - had saved us all from being drowned in a sea of debt.

  • Ron Tizzard
    June 19, 2014 - 13:04

    Maurice, I agree with your sentiments totally.

    • Maurice E. Adams
      June 19, 2014 - 14:33

      Thank you Ron. Good to see you and people like Dr. Collins continuing to speak out on this critically important issue.

  • Maurice E. Adams
    June 19, 2014 - 07:10

    Agree wholeheartedly --- and have been calling for Ed Martin to be fired for quite some time now. Nalcor (not our elected government) has become the province's policy -maker. In short, a government unto itself. Nalcor is driven by hubrus, self-interest, visions/delusions of grandeur --- all paid for (and to be paid for) by NL ratepayers. It will cost NL ratepayers an average of $700 million per year every year for the next 50 years for Muskrat so that Nalcor can get revenues from Nova Scotians that will be miniscule -- about 1/10th of what NL ratepayers will pay. Time to put a stop, not only to Muskrat, but to elevating an incompetent bureaucrat to the position of proxy premier and policy maker.