Evidence that
the hammer should be brought down on Nalcor continues to pile up. 

Ed Martin’s
screening tool for contractors exhibits all the sophistication of Maxwell Smart; the bumbling
Agent 86 in “Get Smart”. The 1960s comedy series is more likely to offer insight into Nalcor’s behaviour and Ed Martin’s utterances than any other interpretation of a rational and competent outfit managing the province’s energy file.

As if the allegations in which SNC
Lavalin is embroiled were not serious enough, the Nalcor CEO gives us Joe Borsellino, the master of memory
tricks, who testified at the Charbonneau Commission Hearings into corruption
into Quebec’s construction industry.

Borsellino’s faulty
recall earned him disbelief from the presiding Madam Justice
Charbonneau though, according to a CBC story, he still “acknowledged contact
with organized crime.”

company, Ophron Construction, was given a contract valued in the “$10-20
million range”.

“CONTROL”, presumably, the intelligence agency to whom Maxwell Smart answers, or its nemesis
KAOS, is permitted to know the precise amount.

KAOS is not just metaphor. A well-known adage of the construction business
is “CHAOS causes cash”.  Engineering and construction firms thrive on chaos; they rely upon bad management, engineering design errors, and incompetently worded tender specs to fatten their margins. 

There is a lot of chaos infecting the Muskrat Falls project right now. 

Just as harmful, Nalcor’s information machine is constructed not to inform the public but to keep it in the dark; the public must not know that an organization bolstered by Danny Willliams and his three successors, including the current Premier, is fostering a program of deceit, evidence of which continues to grow. 

You know who will pay to straighten it out.

But, I

company is being sued by a large number of its sub-contractors who claim the
contractor did not pay them.

In media
interviews, Ed Martin suggested there is no evidence of any inappropriate
activity involving Opron. Opron’s work on the
project in Labrador is complete, and to Nalcor’s satisfaction, the Telegram
reported him saying.

That only means Opron has little reason to be dissatisfied with its sub-contractors and they ought to have been paid.

Asked by the
CBC why Opron wasn’t flagged by Nalcor, Martin said:

“…we did a
thorough analysis we didn’t see…the names of the shareholder company in our

As Maxwell
Smart would say: “missed it by that much”!

boasts an extensive “pre-qualification” process. Properly executed, it is a critical
role, especially on a megaproject where maintaining the schedule is paramount. 

“Pre-qualification” establishes the contractor’s work history, safety record, management skills,
financial strength, among a host of other corporate and human resource assets.

Not only is
the process important to the Owner, it is part of the due diligence owed sub-contractors,
too.  They expect the Owner to screen out contractors with weak financial
records, outstanding lawsuits, and especially any company under a cloud.  This Nalcor pre-qualification process was surely a failure.

So, when Ed
Martin tells reporters ‘we did a thorough analysis’ you hear a defensive, insecure man, not one conscious of his responsibility, or of the need that some house cleaning is long over due

Let’s listen, once more, to Ed Martin.

“In our
situation, there’s basically no opportunity for one person to make a decision.
You have to go, really, get through a series of levels and usually you’re
talking at least eight to 10 to 12 people that have to approve this before it
goes,” Ed Martin told the media. “…we know we have a very strong process…things
that have happened elsewhere
happen here

I don’t know if its ego or ignorance that best explains such a boast.

I do know these are not the words of a thoughtful CEO; one relied upon to guide a large organization, one who needs to be capable of letting his staff know such missteps will not be tolerated. 

People need to know this is not just about the smokescreen that envelopes a project dreadfully behind schedule and over budget; a project already badly mismanaged.  This is the language of one who will say anything to maintain a construct: the image of Nalcor as “experts”.

Is there perfection in the Vallard contract?.

A billion
dollar job for the Labrador Island Transmission Line awarded without even pretense
to public tendering; the “pre-qualification” process cancelled so that the
contract could be given one Company.

Did the transaction
involve a wink or a nod?

not. Why do we know?

Not because a process of selection was rigorously applied; certainly not one the public is permitted to scrutinize. 

We only know Vallard received that huge contract, on merit, because Ed
Martin says so.

Of the
Charbonneau Commission, Martin tells reporters: “We want to find out what went
on there and take the learnings, anything that’s there, and certainly apply
them here. If we can improve, we will”.

SNC Lavalin, the
chief engineering, technical and financial architect of the Muskrat Falls
project, is facing criminal
charges. Though not yet proven, they are associated with corruption and money laundering involving work in
Quebec, Libya, and Pakistan.In 2013, Vice-President Ben Aissa was in a Swiss Jail for his dealings with the Gaddafis. A Warrant was out for the arrest of Dr. Stephen Porter for corruption involving the Montreal Hospital construction.

When the news broke, in 2013, Jerome
Kennedy reported that he called Ed Martin to see if we had anything to worry

As if to imitate Maxwell Smart, Ed picked up the phone and called SNC-Lavalin Chief, Pierre Duhaime. 

Should we be worried, he asks Pierre?

Pierre told
Ed everything was fine.

A few weeks
later…. Duhaine was led away in handcuffs, too.

After SNC Lavalin, you don’t even monitor a publicly held inquiry into corruption from a place you are drawing a good many contractors and much of the materials, too?

You wind up with a Joe Borsellino and everything is perfectly fine? 

Nalcor clearly has no systems. Has it no integrity, too?

Dozens of
contracts are awarded without tender. 

There’s not even an independent oversight group
to monitor the process and ensure the public purse protected.

There is no deference paid to issues of transparency or public accountability.

How gullible are we, really?

Whether people want to be reminded or not, this situation involves them. The media and the public are sleep-walking as a giant train, out of control, heads towards the village.

At some point, more of you are going to have to take notice that you are watching that train and failing to arrest its arrival.

Do justifications like things that have happened elsewhere can’t happen here” sound like a CEO mindful that even at the best of times things go wrong, that people often don’t behave as they are expected

Real leadership at least acknowledges reality. 

When it doesn’t and you already know much about Muskrat is not going well, amidst a non-existent tender process, problems both on the site and at head office, and when, in common parlance, “absolute bullshit” replaces worthy, accurate, and honest explanations, it is time to take note.

There is an odour inside the blue building that is Nalcor. This Scene from “GET SMART” may convey a bit of what I am thinking:

Maxwell Smart walks
in to see “CONTROL” in shambles. He looks over and sees Bruce and Lloyd underneath
a table.

Smart asks: Bruce! Lloyd! What happened here…
and what is that ungodly smell?

Lloyd replies, Max’s that the smell of FEAR!
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?