If this were a different time, we would wonder why the Premier
chose a Liberal Party fundraiser to announce that he will now call a Judicial
Inquiry into the Muskrat Falls project – the very people the $12.7 billion “boondoggle” will least affect.
disclose one of the most important initiatives of his Administration to this group of peddlers, contractors and compradors that hung on Danny
his moment of conversion and what inspired him to do an about face.
constitutes the real issue. The larger object of our focus, now, must be getting
the right inquiry.
But first it is right to acknowledge the Anonymous Engineer whose
statement, eight months ago on this Blog read: “I could not put up with
falsifying information any more”. The former Nalcor engineer was speaking in reference to Nalcor’s fiddling with the
project estimates and the budget. He cracked open the wall of deceit which the
crown corporation had kept hidden until then.
story regarding Nalcor’s excessive use of hundreds of high-priced “embedded
contractors” and the secrecy afforded their huge pay packets by Nalcor, which added fuel to the
fire — winning the Premier’s attention.
help make the Inquiry an important and effective process; one that history will
confirm as fair, having been conducted thoroughly and with the employment of
First, the Premier must give his assurance he will not involve
senior officials of Nalcor in the drafting of the Inquiry’s mandate.
who believe that they are impervious. They will not relinquish those protections easily.
issue subpoenas and to have witnesses examined under Oath.
On the one hand, its specificity must be precise enough that
the presiding Judge does not get to omit consideration of critical issues.
a way that allows the proceedings to be disrupted with legal claims that
matters raised are outside the Inquiry’s mandate.
ensure that the Terms of Reference are all-encompassing.
filed on Nalcor’s and the Government’s computers (or elsewhere) so that they
are not lost… or wilfully destroyed.
SNC Lavalin in 2006, when the Company was given the task of front-end
engineering and the financial strategy to secure its development, SNC having
later secured the EPCM contract.
It must be permitted to conduct a Forensic Audit, the Judge having
sole authority to define the scope of the Audit.
In this respect, the public should bear in mind that every
single assumption — without exception — underpinning the Muskrat Falls project has
budget and cost estimates. The issues run from the excessive value given to
export power, to the forecasts that presaged growth in electricity demand on
the island that were wrong from the get-go. Then there is Nalcor’s unbridled
prediction about the price of oil.
Those issues, and how they were contrived, are individually
important. But they also relate to how Nalcor falsely concluded that the
“inter-connected” option had an advantage over the “isolated island” option by
Scotia were warranted, and why Nalcor proceeded with construction when the Nova
Scotia UARB had not signed off on the deal which Nalcor and Emera had
negotiated — leading to a supplemental agreement and more giveaways.
and Nalcor’s charade — one that continues — over the Water Management Agreement
(essential to coordinate production from two or more hydro dams on the same
river) which the Quebec Superior Court effectively struck down.
Station, whose certain decommissioning was heralded by Nalcor — and certain
Premiers — as justification for the province to proceed even without the
Federal Loan Guarantee. Now, at the urging of the Liberty Group, even Holyrood must
be maintained as a safeguard against the failure of any part of the 1100 km LIL
transmission line — which won’t come for free.
Unwrap any issue upon which the Muskrat Falls project was
predicated, and the public will discover a parcel of deceit adding gravitas to
the job of the Inquiry.
might want to relieve the compressed air that has kept aloft the patently
untrue — even ludicrous — claim that we were lucky to have been visited by
Nalcor’s group of “world class experts”.
While the Judge will want to assess issues related to the falsification
of the estimates, no one should doubt that a large part of the current $12.7
billion price tag is due to an unsuitable, incompetent project management team
— few of whom can claim experience in hydro project construction.
unwarranted influence, the public is due an explanation as to why so many of
the assertions made by former Nalcor CEO Ed Martin did not reflect the truth
about the financial state of the project and its schedule.
Equally, the public needs to know the origins of the SNC
Assessment Report, how it disappeared and reappeared. We need to hear from a
Judge the extent to which Nalcor was reckless, having ignored a litany of major
risks to the cost and schedule enumerated in the Report’s 24 pages.
sanction, the public has a right to know if Nalcor officials conspired in an
unsuccessful attempt to influence the outcome of the 2015 General Election.
As anyone can tell, unfettered scope must be the watchwords
for how we assess the mandate the Premier delivers to the Inquiry Judge… which
leads to the fourth condition precedent.
issues, each having enormous complexity, must be given adequate funding and
resources. The job will require forensic accountants, qualified engineers and
lawyers, and other professionals.
Some people will quibble about the Inquiry’s cost. Everyone
should be reminded that, when the final bill for Muskrat comes in, they will begin
to see what it means for our economy, as well as the personal cost it represents
— for everyone.
started, and how they were duped into giving the project their unwitting
If corruption is found to have underlain the sanction decision,
they will expect the guilty to be brought to justice.
that many will want to use the Inquiry as the basis for a new dialogue on how
we must change fundamental aspects of governance in this province.
For now, we should remain sceptical about the Inquiry, and
particularly the construction of its mandate. The Premier — not the public —
must take responsibility for our doubts as to his sincerity and the fullness of
And if he is true to the economic and the moral imperative
this Judicial Inquiry represents, then history, too, will reward him for his