Nalcor Energy president and CEO Stan Marshall took reporters on a tour of the Soldiers Pond converter and terminal station in June 2018, as part of a larger, celebratory corporate event.
The site, about 40 minutes from St. John’s, was built as part of the Muskrat Falls Project and the event was to officially mark the flow of power over the Labrador-Island Link, even over budget and behind schedule.
There was a party tent, a barbecue. People who had worked on the line were being bused in.
And elsewhere, according to new evidence at the Muskrat Falls Inquiry, project director Paul Harrington was fuming.
“I am reminded of the novel by George Orwell 1984 where history was rewritten to suit the political agenda,” he wrote to Nik Argirov, who worked under the banner of the Independent Engineer (the engineer was MWH, who subcontracted to Argirov and his team).
He was adding to another email earlier in the day to Argirov, saying it was “surprising” certain members of the project team hadn’t been invited to the big party, saying he didn’t mean himself but others.
“Revisionism is alive and well with John MacIsaac where Darren Debourke and Jason Kean become non-persons and everything they did was forgotten and all the credit is taken by folks who didn’t do the heavy lifting. Shame on Nalcor,” Harrington wrote.
It wasn’t the first time he had confided in the Independent Engineer, as opposed to other managers with Nalcor Energy or anyone with the provincial government, as reflected in emails now in evidence at the Inquiry.
Two years earlier, in July 2016, Harrington criticized Marshall’s reorganization of the Muskrat Falls Project. The change came after Marshall took over that April, with the exit of former Nalcor Energy president and CEO Ed Martin. Marshall told the public the project would now be split — one team and senior manager focused on continued construction and getting to generation of power at Muskrat Falls, with a second focused on the new transmission lines and moving power on the Labrador-Island Link.
“Despite my best efforts to try and head this off it seems that they are going to break up the independent project team and that will be rolled out next week or the week after,” Harrington wrote to Argirov.
“I was not consulted about how the organization should look neither were any of the managers. This was cooked up by Gilbert and John MacIsaac,” he stated, referring to Nalcor’s project lead Gilbert Bennett and for a second time to MacIsaac, Nalcor’s new executive vice-president responsible for power supply — promoted the month prior from the role of president at Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, promoted to the newly created role by Marshall (MacIsaac was in the news earlier this year, when he left the Crown corporation).
“Gilbert came to talk with me on this yesterday but it was already a done deal and I was not going to be caught giving that as a validation of their work so I politely declined and told Gilbert he has to take responsibility of the consequences of this and the way it was done,” Harrington wrote in his email.
“The team are disheartened and demotivated as a result of the lack of respect shown to me and others, I really worry about the impact this will have and I don’t think the P75 cost will cover it,” he stated, referring to a probability factor for in cost estimates.
On Tuesday, the day’s hearing for the ongoing public inquiry was focused on Argirov, who was called to the witness stand. But the emails entered into evidence raise new questions for Harrington and changes to the project under Marshall.
For his part, Argirov testified he never replied to Harrington’s “1984” email. “That’s his sentiment,” he said of Harrington’s criticisms.
Harrington testified during the first phase of the inquiry, in 2018. His testimony at that time was focused on events up to the project’s sanctioning at the end of 2012. He is scheduled to be called again on June 3, to speak to events during construction.
The witness schedule is subject to change.
NOTE: This is an updated version, to provide additional context to the project's bifurcation in 2016, and testimony on email from Nik Argirov.