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LETTER: This is no Newfie joke and we aren’t laughing

Nalcor Headquarters in St. John’s. — Telegram file
Nalcor Headquarters in St. John’s. — Telegram file - SaltWire Network

In a recent media release covering the rate mitigation hearings, the CEO of Nalcor was reported as suggesting that we should ignore the recent Liberty Report which indicated that NL Hydro was top heavy and could be downsized with savings directed toward rate mitigation.  Apparently, to do so at this time would be a big “Newfie joke.” 

He was further reported as indicating there were opportunities on the horizon to sell power in Atlantic Canada as well as to our friends south of the border, and to be prepared for another hydro project in the near future. Specifically it was suggested that now that the muskrat, with its voracious appetite for public money, is getting full, it may be time to start feeding the hungry gull further down the river.  And while he suggested that the gull’s diet would consist of private dollars, this theory should probably fall under the category of “I’ll believe that when I see it.” 

The CEO was also reported as alluding to the fact that negotiations with our brothers and sisters in la belle Province regarding the Upper Churchill may already be underway, if only in the preliminary stages.

While there may well be some legitimate discussions to be had, opportunities to explore and benefits to derive, it is not the focus of this opinion piece. 

Instead, the issue I wish to address is one of trust or lack thereof.

If you reflect on everything that has occurred in recent years via that big blue building on Captain Whalen Drive, you can’t help but be cynical. Just think about it; first there was DarkNL which occurred as a result of a failure to do basic maintenance. 

Then there were revelations emanating from the Muskrat Falls Inquiry including lowballing of project costs and hiding of risk reports. There was also the controversial departure of the former CEO and the Nalcor Board of Directors. And of course more recently, the broken promise to conduct wetland capping in order to mitigate against methyl mercury contamination. 

And let’s not forget Nalcor’s continued reliance on the Energy Corporation Act to hide information beneath a veil of secrecy, aided and abetted by our provincial government who refuse to amend the legislation and provide the Privacy Commissioner the authority to determine what information should or should not be made public.

Fast forward to the present time and as previously noted, we have the CEO of Nalcor espousing revelations to the PUB about Quebec, New York, the Upper Churchill and Gull Island and as Nalcor’s only shareholder (while some have speculated) this is the first we have officially heard of it.  And to take that thought one step further, were it not for these rate mitigation hearings and Nalcor’s attempt to stave off those Liberty recommendations to downsize the executive suites at NL Hydro, we likely wouldn’t have heard about it at all. 

So with that said, I offer this feedback to the CEO and Board of Nalcor.  Before you decide to move forward on any new initiatives, you first need to secure the trust of your shareholders, that being the people of NL.  Believe me when I tell you that for many of those shareholders, the trust is long gone.

In order to achieve this, I offer the following suggestions:

• Ask the Minister of Natural Resources to amend the Energy Corporation Act.  Until then, release as much information as possible. Stop using commercial sensitivity as a blanket to deny every request, regardless of the reasonableness of same. 

• Provide regular updates to your shareholders.  We shouldn’t have to find out about your discussions with Quebec, Nova Scotia and New York through the back door.  We understand you can’t provide every detail, but give us an idea what’s going on at our corporation. 

• Purge the organization of all those that were directly involved in misleading the public, lowballing project costs and hiding risk reports as it relates to the Muskrat Falls project.

That would be a start and perhaps it could lead to a restoring of the public trust. 

This is no Newfie joke and we aren’t laughing.

Paul Lane, Independent MHA,
District of Mount Pearl-Southlands


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