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Change in the works to provide more info on Nalcor Energy contractors

Hydro Place in St. John’s, headquarters of Nalcor Energy and subsidiary Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro.
Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro’s headquarters in St. John’s. — Telegram file photo

If passed, Bill 19 would alter the Energy Corporation Act

The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador moving ahead with changes for Nalcor Energy, and is currently addressing a long-standing criticism about access to information at the corporation.

Bill 19 has been introduced at the House of Assembly and, if passed as presented, would assure basic information about independent contractors doing work for the corporation would no longer be protected as “commercially sensitive.”  

“Independent contractor” is specifically defined as a person retained under a contract to perform services for the corporation.

The Energy Corporation Act includes a list of explicitly protected information but, under Bill 19, it would no longer protect the name of an independent contractor, the position or function of an individual within a contracted business, or the total amount paid to an independent contractor by Nalcor Energy.

The Act would also be amended to include protection against liability for Nalcor Energy leaders, staff and government staff.

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Bill 19 — To amend the Energy Corporation Act

The Energy Corporation Act

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No clear answers on Nalcor contractors (September 2017)

“An action or proceeding does not lie or shall not be instituted or continued against the corporation, an officer, employee or agent of the corporation, the Crown or a minister, employee or agent of the Crown based on a cause of action arising from, resulting from or incidental to the disclosure of information in accordance with this Act,” the proposed amendment states.

The proposed changes come on the heels of public criticism over the lack of information available on embedded contractors, who bill millions of hours for work throughout the corporation, as The Telegram reported in 2017.

In response to questions Wednesday, a spokeswoman for Nalcor Energy said the Crown corporation was made aware "over the past few months" amendments were being developed.

"The department advised Nalcor of the overall policy intent but no input was requested or provided," she stated, on the change for independent contractors. "In anticipation of the amendments, Nalcor discussed with members of the Lower Churchill Project team that changes to the Energy Corporation Act were likely and that as a result, Nalcor would be required to release information related to independent contractors' remuneration which was previously deemed commercially sensitive information."

The bill has not yet had second reading, and would have to go through committee debate and a third reading before it could be passed and given royal assent. At this point, the government has a lot left on its plate in this session, with the House of Assembly scheduled to sit to the end of the month, but still with commitments to tackle as yet untabled cannabis legislation, among other bills.

(NOTE: Updated on the afternoon of May 24, to include a response to questions, from Nalcor Energy spokeswoman Deanne Fisher.)

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