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PAM FRAMPTON: Nalcor — a league of its own

This week at the Muskrat Falls inquiry, Nalcor Energy’s board of directors chairman Brendan Paddick called for people of the province to "put the jersey on" and support Nalcor Energy and its work. —
This week at the Muskrat Falls inquiry, Nalcor Energy’s board of directors chairman, Brendan Paddick, called for the people of the province to put a jersey on — in other words, support the corporation and its work. — 123RF Stock photo

Brendan Paddick’s speech at the Muskrat Falls Inquiry this week is sure to become woven into the fabric of our history.

Just as Peckford’s “Some day the sun will shine and have not will be no more,” Crosbie’s “I didn’t take the fish from the God damn water” and Dunderdale’s “Oh please. There’s no story here” have been etched in our collective psyche, Paddick’s “everybody put the jersey on” is destined to become a cultural catchphrase.

Now, we’ve seen key project players at the inquiry get testy at any whiff of criticism of Muskrat Falls — far be it for the public to point out that the cost of the project has more than doubled from start to not-quite-finished.

On Tuesday, Nalcor Energy’s chairman of the board of directors went one better.

Brendan Paddick
Brendan Paddick

Paddick seems to have the idea that Nalcor has become the scapegoat for anything that goes wrong in the province and called on the populace to get behind the beleaguered corporation.

“If it gets to the point where a transport truck blows over in Wreckhouse and that’s Nalcor’s fault, or it’s raining on May 24th weekend, that’s Nalcor’s fault, and nobody wants Nalcor to succeed for whatever reason — political reasons or special-interest groups or whatever — guess what? It’s not going to succeed,” he told Commissioner Richard LeBlanc, the latter displaying his characteristic sangfroid throughout Paddick’s impassioned soliloquy.

“If anything comes out of this commission, hopefully it’s just the chance to start over, and everybody put the jersey on, and want Nalcor to get back to what it used to be, which was a very respected part of the community…”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I haven’t heard anyone yet stub their toe or hammer their thumb or lose the 50-50 draw at work and curse Nalcor under their breath, but perhaps I’m travelling in the wrong circles.

Brendan Paddick’s speech at the Muskrat Falls Inquiry this week is sure to become woven into the fabric of our history.

To be fair, Paddick is a highly respected businessman who has given 2 1/2 years of his time and expertise as chair of Nalcor Energy’s board of directors, for zero pay. Clearly it’s a corporation he believes in or he wouldn’t be there.

But like Kathy Dunderdale, Tom Marshall, Danny Williams and others, he seems to believe we’re all supposed to be blindly bullish — trepidation and uncertainty be damned.

Surely Paddick can see that being skeptical of the Muskrat Falls project and critical of the huge costs overruns and schedule lags isn’t the same as not wanting Nalcor to succeed.

The corporation wasn’t transparent and didn’t deliver on its promises, and we’re expected to put on jerseys and hand out high-fives?

Perhaps Paddick doesn’t recall how the Nalcor officials and politicians who wanted Muskrat Falls built at any cost consistently criticized opponents of the project and dismissed legitimate concerns.

Here’s a snippet from The Telegram in August 2012, when then Finance Minister Tom Marshall was haughtily dismissing the claim by a group of lawyers that Muskrat Falls could bankrupt the province.
“I just want to assure people of the province that, as the minister of Finance, that quite simply they’re incorrect, and that the use of such inflammatory language in my view is irresponsible and borders on fear mongering,” Marshall said. “Especially when we don’t have the final cost numbers yet.” (Irony of ironies: he never got the final cost numbers).
“I just want to assure the people of the province that Premier (Kathy) Dunderdale and the cabinet, there is no way we would allow anything to happen that would jeopardize the accomplishments that we have made in the financial area,” he said.
In an interesting aside, Paddick told LeBlanc that Nalcor’s communications team has had market research conducted on its image, with the goal of “changing the narrative” when the time is right.

Well, they can’t change this narrative, because it doesn’t belong solely to them.

This is a disastrous collective chapter in our province, and no amount of reputation rehab, image makeovers or rebranding exercises will erase the sense of betrayal felt by taxpayers.

Pam Frampton is The Telegram’s managing editor. Email pamela.frampton@thetelegram.com. Twitter: pam_frampton


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