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Sorry, but no.
Earlier this week, the chair of Nalcor Energy’s board, Brendan Paddick, delivered something of a plea for people working at Nalcor.
The public, he said, has to get behind the company and its workers, and recognize that they are doing their best to work for the people of this province — because that’s the only way the company will regain its stature.
I don’t doubt that.
But I don’t see myself in the cheering section anytime soon.
Because Nalcor doesn’t deserve it, and the performance by witnesses at the Muskrat Falls inquiry isn’t helping that.
“You know the first thing that happens when a hockey player — a professional, extremely well-paid jersey-wearing hockey player — makes a boneheaded play? They admit their mistake …”
During the periods where I’ve been able to watch the Muskrat Falls inquiry, I haven’t seen anything close to self-awareness by politicians, former politicians, senior Nalcor staff or senior bureaucrats.
The high-handedness, arrogance and unwillingness to take any sort of responsibility for the nightmare the Muskrat Falls project has become is near-unanimous.
No — it’s Astaldi’s fault. SNC-Lavalin’s fault. GE Grid Solution’s fault. General Cable’s fault.
The geo-technical consultant’s fault. If the inquiry was investigating who ate the last piece of pizza in the Nalcor lunchroom fridge, someone would be telling us that a contractor broke in suspended by ropes in the equivalent of Mission Impossible: Final Slice.
Paddick sees it differently.
“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,” Paddick told the inquiry.
OK, let’s take that apart a little.
First off, Paddick doesn’t seem to realize that he’s repeating the refrain that got us here — the hackneyed “you’re with us or against us” line from the all-too-recent past where our political leaders claimed anyone who dared to question the project was doing it for nefarious reasons. Remember? If you asked questions, you were a traitor.
But back to Paddick, who would like us all to put on, as he put it, Nalcor jerseys.
“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, and a very important part of the community,” he said.
“So I think if we can get there, so that everybody actually is cheering for you instead of trying to cut the legs out from under you, and people can go to work again, and people will put on their resumé that they worked at Nalcor, because right now they’re wondering if it’s better to have a two-year holiday in my resumé than put I worked at Nalcor. That’s where we’ve got to get.”
Let’s stick with Paddick’s sports analogy for a second.
You know the first thing that happens when a hockey player — a professional, extremely well-paid jersey-wearing hockey player — makes a boneheaded play? They admit their mistake, say they’ll do better in the future, and apologize to their teammates and to the jersey-wearing fans. And the fans — because they’re humans too and also make mistakes — still support them.
They don’t say, “I shot the puck over the glass and got a penalty and we lost the game because Astaldi made such a crappy stick.”
I don’t doubt the Crown corporation has scores of dedicated, hard-working employees whose morale has taken a serious hit. But they are well paid professionals — in some cases, extremely well paid, by this province’s standards — who we depended on to deliver a product that they repeatedly promised they and their superiors could deliver.
The puck was firmly on their stick before it went over the glass, and yet the Nalcor officials we’ve heard from are still maintaining the penalty was someone else’s fault. Anyone else’s fault.
I agree with Paddick — Nalcor is having a Rodney Dangerfield moment. It’s not getting any respect.
I respect people who own up when they’ve made a mistake, square their shoulders, explain, and say that they’ve learned from it.
Nalcor hasn’t earned it yet.
Not even close.
But if the performances at the inquiry continue in the same vein, it won’t.
Russell Wangersky’s column appears in 36 SaltWire newspapers and websites in Atlantic Canada. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org — Twitter: @wangersky.
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