I received some comments in an email from a person who served at a senior level
both in government and international industry.  I was
pleased that he was maintaining a watchful eye on the Muskrat Falls project,
especially the plethora of self-justifying utterances from the Nalcor CEO.   Likely, he had read Ed Martin’s remarks to
reporters during a scrum on July 14th, too; and felt nauseous along with many others.
Certainly he had heard enough.

following formed part of his narrative:

“In the course of a
large project in which I was involved many years ago, the (concept of)
“Six phases of a big project” was brought forward to keep us from
becoming too cocky.
In the years which
followed, I have found this reference to be both useful and often true.

I recently retrieved
the document from Wikipedia believing it well worth sharing…”  
The 6 Phases are:

           1.        Enthusiasm
           2.        Disillusionment
           3.        Panic and Hysteria
           4.        Search for the guilty
           5.        Punishment for the innocent, and
           6.        Praise and honor for the non-participants

That writer’s facetious portrayal of the drama now unfolding on the lower Churchill River may seem a cynical take on a serious and
risk-laden business; but the abysmal performance history of mega projects
throughout the world confirms that no amount of scepticism is adequate. In the case of Muskrat Falls, a seriously deficient management team, a plethora of unwarranted assumptions, and the dreaded words “schedule slippage”, serve only to narrow the most optimistic side of limited expectation.

The email writer understands the inherent tendency of
all large projects to descend into chaos.  The challenge of even the strongest management is to steer a steady course, to invite rather than eschew independent review; to seek out the best expertise available. 

He knows that’s the current condition of the Muskrat Falls project; his sense of frustration with Ed Martin and Gilbert Bennett is palpable.

The writer notes that “the Six Phases…” has been reprinted in slightly different variations in
any number of project management books, as a cautionary tale.

His interpretation of how they apply to Nalcor and Muskrat runs like this: “At this stage of
the Muskrat project, I would guess that the public is entering stage 2 – “Disillusionment”.

Within Nalcor, I
would think that they are quietly entering stage 3 – “Panic and Hysteria”, a
condition which will rapidly spread to the general population.

continued: Especially with an election
looming, we will rapidly proceed to stages 4&5 which are, respectively,
“Hunt for the Guilty” and “Punishment of the Innocent”.

The final stage –
“”Reward for the uninvolved” may take longer to emerge, probably when
a “white knight” comes forward to acquire the assets at a fire sale

latter comment is an enormous condemnation of the folly, and of those who inspired it, for it implies failure on a massive scale. The full implications are
almost too great to contemplate. 

But the writer does not pull punches; he has never allowed himself the luxury.

the private sector, excuses and obfuscation won’t work when failure threatens a
company’s viability and shareholders’ equity.  

As David Vardy described in a recent post on this Blog in reference to the project: there is no equity; Muskrat is just a mountain of debt and only one captive group is expected to pay it all back.

Little wonder the former official asks rhetorically:

are the likely nominees for a “Wall of Shame”?
will the appropriate punishments be?
will it end? 

are tantalizing questions; but mostly, they are disconcerting.

has followed the Muskrat narrative, and watched as Premier Dunderdale sanctioned
the project based upon contrived fundamentals.

watches, now, as continuing schedule slippage, overruns, bogus
oversight, and the urgency to keep the deepening problem under wraps lest it becomes an issue in the general

Nalcor Ed Martin hold back the truth for another 3 months? 

Can Premier Paul Davis continue to feign ignorance of an economic and technical debacle?  
Liberal Leader Dwight Ball even understand what he and the Liberal Party have
been supporting these past three years?

Will the media eventually acknowledge most of them have been willfully complicit, mostly by their ignorance? 

Muskrat boosters, like Dr. Wade Locke, are now on the media citing a revisionist economic narrative for the province, and not an optimistic one. With oil at about one-third the price used to to justify Muskrat, sweaty palms replace ill-considered advice; the luck has run out.

Of course, Nalcor may have reached Stage 3 – “Panic and Hysteria”, as the writer suggests, but, unfortunately, the public has some distance to go.

When they do, four Premiers, their boosters and shills, both inside and outside Nalcor, had better hope the public plans only to punish the innocent.
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. I have just heard a joke, which is apparently all the rage on the MF construction site.

    "What's the difference between Astaldi and a Beaver?

    A Beaver knows how to build a dam!"

    I laughed, until I thought about it. Such a simple and yet damming joke. How could Astaldi, with no Canadian experience, no cold weather experience, be even provided the opportunity to Bid on this project, yet alone be awarded. As you look at the construction on site they are at least 1 year behind… and barrelling in on another winter.

    Is it no wonder that Nalcor awarded the North and South Dams to Pennecon.

    By not awarding the second phase to the most logical company (the one doing the powerhouse and spillway) they are tactically acknowledging that the initial award to Astaldi was a mistake.

    It is time for Nalcor to be fully transparent on both schedule and cost.

    Like cold weather construction, Nalcor also struggle with that most basic concept.