Ball moves past Muskrat Falls decision

Looks to the future of Nalcor, progressive thinking to benefit this province, he tells Rotary in St. John’s

James McLeod jmcleod@thetelegram.com
Published on April 18, 2014
Liberal Leader Dwight Ball laid out in detail what he wants to change — and what he wants to stay the same — on Muskrat Falls and Nalcor at the Rotary Club of St. John’s luncheon on Thursday. — Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram

The deed is done. The eggs are scrambled. Muskrat Falls is getting built. Liberal Leader Dwight Ball said Thursday that as far as he’s concerned, the conversation needs to move on.

Ball’s address to the Rotary Club of St. John’s was an expedition into the regulatory structures of the province and inner governance systems at Nalcor,  accompanied with a detailed PowerPoint presentation.

Ball is critical of the way the Progressive Conservative government has run Nalcor, and how the Muskrat Falls project is coming together, but he’s very careful to focus on specific issues, not just blanket opposition.

“Quite frankly, I like Nalcor as a company and we want to see the benefits coming from Nalcor,” Ball said.

Similarly, in his speech he made it clear that he’s not interested in going back and fighting the Muskrat Falls sanctioning decision over again.

“The way I look at it, the decision’s made now and we’ve got to make sure that we do whatever it takes to make sure that all the parameters around this project work for us as a province. If not, we all lose,” he said.

Ball has been accused of defining himself mostly as a critic, opposing the government without offering his own vision for the government. The Rotary speech on Thursday offered a clear window into what, exactly, Ball would do with the Muskrat Falls file if he becomes premier.

For the most part, it’s a matter of tweaks and beefed up scrutiny, as opposed to a radical change in course.

When it comes to disclosure, for example, Ball said that a $750-million company like Nalcor should be issuing public reports quarterly as opposed to annually.

In fact, the government has recently announced that change will be happening, starting later this year.

Similarly, Ball is happy to get into detail about the corporate structure of Nalcor and how it needs to be improved.

“When you look at the lines of business that we have in Nalcor right now, it’s important that we have a board of directors with the technical expertise to actually do the proper governance,” he said.

“You always get your best CEOs when they are challenged by an effective board.”

Ball would similarly tweak the regulatory structure, by giving the Public Utilities Board a role in the process, and encouraging open access to the province’s electricity system.

“I just don’t like the idea of anything in business where you have a monopoly,” Ball said.

“Right now, if we truly want open access to our energy markets, well then, we have to make provisions for people to get involved.”

Similarly, people should expect more information on Muskrat Falls out of Ball’s government if he becomes the next premier.

In recent weeks, he has consistently dismissed Nalcor’s claims that they can’t release project information because it’s commercially sensitive.

During his speech, he waved around a page from a recent report Nalcor released that’s been almost completely blacked out, saying that kind of thing just wasn’t good enough.

But through it all, Ball made it clear that he’s not against the Muskrat Falls development and he doesn’t want to see it fail.

“If this project doesn’t work, we all lose,” he said.

“It’s no sense in standing here today and coming to the people looking for support to be the next premier of Newfoundland and Labrador to find yourself with a project that is really not going to be able to provide the benefits for the people of the province.”

jmcleod@thetelegram.com

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