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Justice Richard LeBlanc says he sees relevance to inquiry, ability to have presented
Project director Paul Harrington did not want his rate of pay on the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project made public during proceedings at the ongoing inquiry examining the megaproject, but Commissioner Richard LeBlanc has decided the information is fair game.
“Mr. Harrington, I’m not disregarding your concern here, but I have come to the point in time where I believe the public interest here outweighs that privacy interest that you have in this particular case,” he said, while issuing a ruling on the matter mid-day Tuesday.
After back and forth at the inquiry hearing room in St. John’s, LeBlanc ruled in favour of disclosure, with unredacted copies of Nalcor Energy contracts with Fabcon Canada (2005-2006) and then Erimus Consulting — where Harrington is the named contracting consultant — entered into evidence.
They revealed Harrington was contracted through Erimus Consulting at a day rate of: $1,500 from Apr. 1, 2007 to March 31, 2009; $1,538 to March 2010; and $1,676.42 to March 31, 2011, with no further updates to the point of the project’s sanctioning.
His hourly rate increased from $166.66 per hour, up to $192.25 per hour in 2009-2010, up to $209.55 per hour as of his last contract available before sanctioning, while Harrington served as project director for the Muskrat Falls project.
Deputy project director Jason Kean had previously testified his company (Project Solutions Inc. with Kean the named consultant) was paid $1,100 to $1,200 a day.
Harrington had been fighting against the public release of his pay in a separate proceeding at the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador, tied to a CBC request under the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act, along with two other Nalcor Energy contractors, before it was raised as an issue for the inquiry.
But in a ruling mid-day Tuesday, LeBlanc said the outside proceedings are not a concern for him, including another ATIPPA-related proceeding involving the Newfoundland and Labrador Teacher’s Association. He rejected arguments against the release of information to the inquiry that were tied to the province’s ATIPPA legislation, saying the legislation doesn’t apply to the inquiry and its proceedings.
He also noted there were no related criminal proceedings, or civil cases specific to Harrington.
"If information is relevant to those (Inquiry) terms of reference, then the right to have a witness disclose exists and ATIPPA is not at play here," he said.
LeBlanc said his main concern was relevance.
“This is an investigation into a project that is a matter of public concern in this province,” he said on that point. “So when I look at the basis upon which Ms. O’Brien has set out why Commission counsel wish to ask this question, I have to say that it meets this relevancy test. In fact, I have no doubt that it does not.”
For now the inquiry is dealing with project work pre-sanctioning in 2012, so information now in evidence relates to that period. The post-sanction period of construction is being dealt with largely in the second phase of the inquiry, set to begin in early 2019.