recently broke the story that Nalcor had awarded a multimillion dollar Muskrat
Falls construction contract to a company from Quebec called Opron – controlled
by a well known Montreal construction figure – Mr Joe Borsellino.

Opron Construction showed up on Nalcor’s approved bidders list in
February 2013; the CBC story reported “the same month Giuseppe Borsellino testified
at Quebec’s Charbonneau commission that he and his cousin were
51 per cent owners of the firm.

Let’s go to
his appearance before the Charbonneau Commission into criminal activity in
Quebec’s construction industry:

“For two days, the construction boss
caught on video delivering cash to the headquarters of the Rizzuto crime family
has lurked in the back row of the Charbonneau inquiry, watching another witness,
Joe Borsellino, confess to bribing public officials while playing down links to
the mob.

Mr. Borsellino has proven a difficult
witness….. In one instance that angered commission counsel, he could not
remember depositing $1.8-million into a bank account until deposit slips were
Globe and Mail February 6, 2013

name has been mentioned…most notably by city of Montreal engineer Gilles
Surprenant, who alleged that the construction boss handed him tens of thousands
of dollars in illegal kickbacks.” – The Montreal Gazette

Energy placed…Opron Construction…on it bidders list. The company is now facing
more than a dozen lawsuits in Newfoundland and Labrador, for allegedly not
paying millions of dollars to subcontractors it hired to help do that work.
Those claims have not been proven in court.”- CBC NEWS June 4, 2015

Martin: “Opron’s work on the project in Labrador is complete, and to Nalcor’s
satisfaction…we did a thorough analysis…things that have happened elsewhere
can’t happen here.” – The Telegram June 4, 2015

No condition
is as demoralizing or as corrosive, in civil society, as corruption.

corruption can find no greater manifestation than that represented by organized

gangsters engage in the drug trade, in our construction industry, or in the
hallowed halls of government, where billions of dollars are doled out annually for projects and services, the impact of their dealings are deeply felt across
our institutions; it affects us on a personal level, too.

represents plenty of dirty laundry at the best of times. Legislation, like the
Public Tender Act, together with oversight agencies like the Office of the
Auditor General, have helped infuse our culture with a small layer of trust;
though we ought to know that trust is not shared everywhere.

there are very few places in the world where people expect integrity and
honesty to be the guide posts underpinning democratic government.

Our very own
history, and knowledge of ingrained corruption from Italy to China, and closer
to home, from Chicago to Montreal, should keep us mindful that only constant
vigilence of the public trust separates decent government from a crooked one.

While public
cynicism needs little fuel to foster the belief that politics is rotten, true
organized corruption is a big step up and like cancer when it takes hold, it
is difficult to root out.

So poor governance
is not just about excessive public spending, high taxation or weak leadership.

The greatest
risk occurs when politicians allow partisanship, greed, cronyism and nepotism
to degrade government oversight practices – providing the window of opportunity
through which organized corruption crawls in, as in when elected politicians or
senior public servants say – does it really matter who does the work as long as
it gets done?

It is
compounded when institutions like the Office of Auditor General won’t act
when verification of integrity is needed.

Society is placed
further at risk when Opposition Parties are unwilling to perform their
constitutionally mandated role.

This is the case, even more, when a supine media chases market share at the expense of persistent and
wise analysis, ever content they will not be challenged; although local CBC
does deserve credit for breaking the Opron/Borsellino story.

In any event,
it is a toxic mix.

response to news they had issued a $10-20 million Muskrat Falls contract to
Opron Construction has left many people bewildered.

Not since
the shooting death of Don Dunphy, by a member of the Premier’s security detail,
have so many individuals uttered studied concern that Nalcor is out of control.

If Ed Martin
and Gil Bennett, having courted sharks, think glib reasons for their choice
resonates with decent people, they display an incomparable level of ignorance
and disrespect for lawful society.  Their
justifications and self-aggrandizing clap trap exhibit nothing less than a
rejection of the values that underlie civil government.

On June 4,
2015 Gil Bennett told the St John’s CBC:

(a) rigorous process, Opron Construction was the best-value, compliant bidder
meeting all technical and commercial conditions of the contract to supply and
install the administrative buildings at Muskrat Falls site,”

Is this not
akin to hiring the services of Al Capone for crowd control and justifying the
arrangement this way: we did a deal with the mafia, but so what; it was a
straightforward business deal! They  did
a good job didn’t they?

comment has an air of familiarity. 
Justice Charbonneau accused Borsellino of trying to intimidate a
competitor, one newspaper reported. “Intimidation is not the word I would use,”
Mr. Borsellino said. “It’s business.”
Have Martin
and Bennett not opened the door to a group we simply do not want to see in our

Is this
their idea of acceptable business practice? Is this how business is to be done
in the new NL?

It is bad
enough that Nalcor is already not subject to the Public Tender Act, to
transparency rules, or to independent oversight. 

Must we also
ignore the possibility that the unfettered “licence” Nalcor has been given to
spend public money might result in the opportunity for politicians and senior
bureaucrats, unable to resist, as in Quebec, to line up for a share of side

Who out
there in Muskrat Land thinks it no harm to take the odd gift? Who is on for a
bit of “networking”  – that’s the word
used by Opron’s  Joe Borsellino to
describe to the Charbonneau Commission, according to a CBC story, why “he paid
for a $50,000 Italian vacation for the head of the Quebec construction union
and the former head of Montreal’s public works department and their wives” and
gave other gifts like “hockey tickets and expensive wine” to other officials. 

The truth is the thin veil of trust in government, that hangs by a thread, is being
allowed to wilt as these two men continue to head that Crown Corporation.

Had they
apologized for their error, had they said, even, that an honest error had been
made, and that steps had been taken to correct problems in the pre-qualification
process, we might have thought them capable of recognizing that the
public, and the whole Nalcor staff, need to know that the corporation is
guided by strong values; values to which strict adherence is demanded.

They did not
apparently possess that awareness.

They appear oblivious
to the fact that unwise politicians have placed a level of faith in them that
can find no parallel in the annals of NL government. The pair seem ignorant
they have compounded the obvious “moral hazard” ethical issues at Nalcor by
essentially arguing that dealing with Opron doesn’t matter- it’s business.

That is
unacceptable. It is unforgivable, too.

Martin and
Bennett should be unceremoniously marched out of the front door, if not for
Nalcor’s management gaffe in choosing Opron, then for the values they espoused
following the disclosure.

But, as
heads of Nalcor they remain; the government apparently oblivious that anything
is awry.

And this is
Mr Martin’s second offence – his acceptance of the under arrest SNC Lavalin CEO
Pierre Duhaime’s assurance that he has nothing to worry about at SNC Lavalin; that judgment having
already landed him in the Business Hall of Fame – “Too Blind to See”
And where is
Andrew Parsons, the Official Opposition critic for Justice?

Is he, like
Liberal Leader Dwight Ball, too preoccupied with the next election to worry
that a project supposedly supported by a majority of the population may,
unknown to that public, be infiltrated by unsavoury characters with mafia

Where is
Julia Mullaley, Clerk of the Executive Council, Chief of the Muskrat Falls
Oversight Committee? Having been given the mandate and having held herself out
as responsible for “oversight”, is she merely a stooge for Ed Martin?

“oversight” not include the sense of smell?

But even
those examples of egregious neglect cannot equate to the inability of the
Premier to show leadership.

He is a
former police officer, ostensibly a person who understands the influence of the
Al Capone’s of the world, the societal dregs whose only claim to fame is their
wanton disregard for the rule of law.

“I was
troubled by it” was the Premier’s only response.

No one
thought to ask if he was troubled enough to act or what, exactly, he has done
or intends to do.

Nearly two
weeks have passed. He has said, or apparently done, nothing more.

Premier. Some Cop.

Perhaps, for
him, as for Ed Martin and Gil Bennett, it’s all just business!
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.


If a Big Mac costs McDonalds $10 to produce and it is sold for $1.50, McDonalds will go out of business. They would not declare a profit!


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.


  1. Paul Davis and Darin King concerns me. I add Darin King to this list of people who is a concern and he is not new to the "doing a favour for a favour department" He is actually running the province and is responsible for influencing the likes of Paul Davis to write off 19 million dollar favours, for allowing pets to be given top jobs even though they are not qualified, jobs that are supposed to be at the heart of our justice system like the director of public prosecutions. It is amazing how people like King can continue to erode the people's rights and just not be questioned on it. Soon he will be qualified enough like Kevin O'Brien and will be able to join Harper and his dictatorship.