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LETTER: Apply the brakes on Nalcor’s search for a new CEO

Nalcor Energy chief executive officer Stan Marshall.
Nalcor Energy chief executive officer Stan Marshall. — Telegram file photo

I feel compelled to comment on a recent article by the Telegram’s David Maher “Help wanted: Nalcor seeks new CEO.”

First of all, I want to acknowledge the work of Stan Marshall and wish him well in his future endeavors, whatever they may be. Regardless of what you may think of Nalcor or the Muskrat Falls project, the fact of the matter is that Marshall had no involvement in any of the decisions or withholding of information leading up to the sanctioning of the project, and arguably did the best he could with a very challenging situation. Does that mean that we will all agree on every decision that he made in his time as CEO? Of course not. However, I think most would agree that he handled himself in a very competent and professional manner.

Has Marshall’s replacement already been unofficially selected?

With that said, regardless of the contract Marshall was able to negotiate with the government prior to his tenure as CEO, and despite government’s position that no conflict of interest exists, nobody will ever convince yours truly that it is in the public interest to allow the CEO of Nalcor (whoever that may be) to hold shares in Fortis. After all, the obvious business connection between these two entities is simply undeniable and the fact that previous CEO’s contract explicitly stated that he couldn’t hold shares is very telling.

Of course, I’ve been waiting since 2016 to get an answer from the auditor general as to whether this independent officer of the House of Assembly feels this arrangement represents a conflict of interest. That answer is supposed to be coming “soon,” although I’m not holding my breath.

That brings us to the revelation disclosed in Maher’s article that the current CEO of Fortis will be retiring at the end of this calendar year. Is this just a coincidence? Has Marshall’s replacement already been unofficially selected? If so, will the new CEO of Nalcor likewise be permitted to hold shares in Fortis? I guess we’ll have to stay tuned on that one.

Then there’s the big picture that needs to be considered. Why is government allowing for the solicitation of a new CEO of Nalcor at this time?

I mean, we are in a terrible financial mess as a province and awaiting recommendations from Moya Greene and her colleagues on how to dig our way out of what seems to be a bottomless pit. The oil and gas portfolio has been removed from Nalcor by our government under a new entity being “Oilco,” the Muskrat Falls project is nearing completion, and our hydro assets could easily be managed by either one of Nalcor, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro or in-house within the Department of Industry, Energy and Technology. Surely in this time of fiscal crisis, government can see the obvious overlap and duplication between all of these government entities and the opportunity to find much needed efficiencies.

I would therefore strongly suggest to Premier Andrew Furey and his government that they apply the brakes at Nalcor, await Greene’s report, and consider the big picture before signing up yet another executive to this $600,000 hobble.

Let’s have a public discussion and robust debate in the House of Assembly to determine the best and most cost-effective way to manage our hydro assets before proceeding any further.

I have a feeling the taxpayers will thank you for it.

Paul Lane, Independent MHA

District of Mount Pearl-Southlands


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