As the 1st anniversary of DARKNL approaches, we still suffer Ed Martin as Head of the Province’s energy agency. We need to ask: why?

Last January
the Liberty Consulting Group was
hired by the Public Utilities Board to investigate the reason for several days
of Island-wide power outages. An Interim Report, released in April 2014 contained a damming indictment of Nalcor’s leadership. 

It describes
wide ranging management, personnel, forecasting and operational issues.  Hydro had not even completed its 2013 summer maintenance
program. Replacement parts had not been procured or even sourced. Poor
forecasting methodologies led to an inadequacy of power generation.

Missing from
the Liberty Report was blame on cold weather or excessive power demand.

Nalcor had
not only mishandled the Province’s power assets; it had attempted to obscure
the real reasons for the failure.

conclusions led The Telegram to state succinctly: the Report does not describe
a group of “world-class” experts. It said “there’s nothing world-class about
this situation”. 

On December
17th, 2014 Liberty issued the pre-Muskrat Falls Final Report (an
investigation of the impact for the electrical system post-Muskrat
is now underway).  The document
affirms Liberty’s earlier conclusions and offers some additional observations. 
Chief among

·          Despite
having installed a new 120MW generator and made provision with industrial
customers to   
       come up with an additional 60MW, generation reserves will remain

Hydro has been using tools for short-term
forecasting which have proven unreliable in extreme weather conditions; Hydro
has made improvements but their effectiveness remains unproven. Liberty noted,
in its Interim Report, Hydro’s use of weather forecasting for planning purposes
was too optimistic as it had a 50% chance of being wrong in any one year.

reliability performance (2009-2013) has been below comparable Canadian

in Hydro’s governance: Liberty noted, in particular, that Hydro needs a chief
executive whose sole function is to manage the Utility. The Report also states
that improvement could be enhanced with the appointment of a competent Board of

The public
might expect that one charged with maintaining the Province’s electrical system
and having executed the job so poorly would have written a short note of
apology to the Premier and handed in his keys. The two actions might have been
followed by a discrete but deliberate exit. 

That CEO Ed Martin did nothing of
the kind, the Premier ought to have supplied the necessary push.

If the Public Utilities Board (PUB) had attempted to soften Liberty’s condemnation
of Nalcor’s management performance, one might be less inclined to assess
termination of Martin’s tenure as the appropriate penalty. But Liberty describes its reasons in
great detail; the PUB, an independent and semi-judicial tribunal, accepted the
Report without indicating the Consultant suffered an apprehension of bias or
that its conclusions are unreasonable or unsupported, based on the evidence.

DARKNL caused great public distress and discomfort. It
endangered the whole economy of the Province. Warming centers were opened to
provide for those who had no secondary heating source. Businesses closed and
people were unable to work. Corner Brook Paper and the Come By Chance Oil
Refinery curtailed operations in order to supply their own power capacity to
the provincial grid.
The President of the Newfoundland and
Labrador Association of Fire Services
reported on January 6, 2014 nine cases of carbon monoxide poisoning in the
eastern portion of the island since the power outages began; one of those cases
resulted in a death.”

By any measure, Nalcor’s management practices were catastrophic. 

Lack of confidence in Hydro has since motivated thousands to
install power generators at substantial personal expense.

How did Ed Martin respond to Liberty’s item by item exposition of Hydro’s management and operational failures?  He told the Telegram “he’s
generally pleased with the report”.  Last
April, following release of the Interim Report, he stated: “On a first
flipthrough, we generally agree with the recommendations and we’re pleased to
say that they do align with the recommendations that Hydro ourselves came out
with several weeks ago after we completed our internal report.”  So, Martin is pleased with an assessment he is
not up to his job?

This, of course, is another example of Martin’s disarming spin. Martin is media savvy. But DARKNL proves it
is not a good idea to have a PR man in charge of the Province’s electrical

Does Ed Martin think that the resignation of former Premier
Dunderdale adequately covers for his failed stewardship?

Dunderdale certainly was an unwise political leader whose
missteps, including the handling of DARKNL, prompted her downfall. But,
objectively, Ed Martin and his management team have been found wanting by a
group of professionals far removed from the conflicted social and financial
relationships that prevail in Newfoundland and Labrador. States Liberty:

“Hydro needs a single executive under which it can
consolidate the principal functions associated with delivering utility service.”
The Group adds
new, full-time Hydro executive needs to be in place soon; a leader with proven,
top level utility executive experience would be a first choice.”

What else does Liberty say? 
The Group states: “…utility holding company governance would call for…expanding the range of skills and experience among the directors on Hydro’s
board, using a
assessment of needs that correspond to the nature of Hydro’s operations…”

In other words, the capabilities of the current Board do not
match with those required by a utility, like NL Hydro.
This is not a group able to see
Martin out the door.

Where is the political leadership, as this second Report is
released?  We hear only the plaintiff cry
of another Premier who will not lead. Davis sulks “we haven’t been able to catch a break”!

Such missed opportunity!

As for the public, the outrage over DARKNL still resounds; the
correct response by the political leadership to Ed Martin’s failed leadership still eludes.

Who will tell Ed Martin his time to go has long passed?

Hashtag #Ed Martin has to go.  

That should work! 
Des Sullivan
Des Sullivan
St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada Uncle Gnarley is hosted by Des Sullivan, of St. John's. He is a businessman engaged over three decades in real estate management and development companies and in retail. He is currently a Director of Dorset Investments Limited and Donovan Holdings Limited. During his early career he served as Executive Assistant to Premier's Frank D. Moores (1975-1979) and Brian Peckford (1979-1985). He also served as a Part-Time Board Member on the Canada-Newfoundland Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (C-NLOPB). Uncle Gnarley appears on the masthead representing serious and unambiguous positions on NL politics and public policy. Uncle Gnarley is a fiscal conservative possessing distinctly liberal values and a non-partisan persusasion. Those values and opinions underlie this writer's views on NL's politics, economy and society. Uncle Gnarley publishes Monday mornings and more often when events warrant.


Bill left public life shortly after the signing of the Atlantic Accord and became a member of the Court of Appeal until his retirement in 2003. During his time on the court he was involved in a number of successful appeals which overturned wrongful convictions, for which he was recognized by Innocence Canada. Bill had a special place in his heart for the underdog.

Churchill Falls Explainer (Coles Notes version)

If CFLCo is required to maximize its profit, then CFLCo should sell its electricity to the highest bidder(s) on the most advantageous terms available.


This is the most important set of negotiations we have engaged in since the Atlantic Accord and Hibernia. Despite being a small jurisdiction we proved to be smart and nimble enough to negotiate good deals on both. They have stood the test of time and have resulted in billions of dollars in royalties and created an industry which represents over a quarter of our economy. Will we prove to be smart and nimble enough to do the same with the Upper Churchill?


  1. For the life of me I can't understand why the NL Media continually and consistently treat Ed Martin with such kid gloves. Does he threaten to withdraw Nalcor ad $ if tough questions are asked? Here & Now had an interview with him before the New Year that might as well included the inquiry "Do you like puppies" it was so weak.
    It boggles the mind that such blatent continued incompetence goes unchallenged. How can we trust the media when they go out of their way to kiss the arse of those in power?

  2. The NL TV and radio media are showing way too much deference to Ed Martin and refuse to ask him pointed questions or fail to do their homework and don't know what to ask him when it comes to both DarkNL or to the Muskrat falls project. Whether this is deliberate or not, they have failed to tackle Ed Martin and the government and are allowing Mr. Martin to spread what is essentially propaganda couched as fact.

    In my opinion, Mr. Martin should have been fired long ago but he performs such a valuable propaganda service for the government that they don't dare. When the truth emerges, both Mr. Martin and the current administration will be found badly wanting but the cost will be borne by the people of the province.

    In addition to DarkNl we will experience Depression NL, thanks to the profligate approach taken by Ed Martin, Danny Williams and his puppeteers.