to Brendan Paddick, cable guru and Nalcor Board Chair, testifying at the
Muskrat Falls Inquiry two weeks ago, constituted one of those “pinch me”
moments when people esteemed for their successes, broad range of business and
life experience, simply disappoint.
That is not to dismiss or diminish Mr.
Paddick’s accomplishments. Indeed, he may well be an inspiration to
entrepreneurs seeking to discover the dimensions of their business acumen. And, it is right to acknowledge his and the Board Member’s pro bono service which, while poor public policy, especially on heavily demanding Boards, still carries the obligation of their best work.
live in in a post-megaproject era, a time when a fiscally-challenged NL society
reluctantly comes to grips with the trepidation of financial insecurity. The
Crown Corporation of which Mr. Paddick is Chair has played an integral role in fomenting
that condition, a fact not fully quantified at this stage and, for that reason,
not the full spectre of mitigation costs either.
|Nalcor Board Chair, Brendan Paddick|
addition, Mr. Paddick’s arrival before the Commissioner occurs not at the start
but very nearly the end of nine months of gripping and often disturbing
testimony. The Commission has heard evidence of how the Nalcor Board and the
Government were kept ignorant of cost overruns, including during project
sanction and “Financial Close” when it was possible to re-think the scheme.
has heard testimony of interference in independent reviews and analysis — all
of which have been held out as benchmarks of approval by Nalcor and by an
intellectually-impoverished government (equally as deceptive in its
disclosures) — when they ought to have been judged a debasement of both ethical
and best practices.
most fundamentally, we have heard of a thoroughly concocted business case, godawful
management decisions including the composition of the project management team, the
choice of contractors, secrecy under the aegis of “commercial sensitivity” and
a self-aggrandizing leadership willing to be reckless.
testimony is not related to some third-world despotic regime but to the body
corporate Brendan Paddick now serves.
What would you lose losing Nalcor? (Part I)
Why we should dismantle Nalcor (Part II)
indisputable facts — often repeated — ought to have influenced Paddick’s
appraisal of all matters Nalcor and, hence, his narrative on the Witness Stand .
the role of Chair is merely an opportunity for ego to compete with nonsense,
then his suggestion of Nalcor as a ‘downtrodden organization’ that should be
returned, ostensibly, to its former unearned glory makes as much sense as does his
suggestion that “everyone put the jersey on.” The troubling part is that that very
idea requires the acceptance and support of a corruptible paradigm in which
less-than-admirable ethics and mind-numbingly stupid business practices are not
just condoned but applauded.
addition — and Mr. Paddick seems to forget this most obvious fact — even when fans
“put the jersey on” and engage in the testosterone-driven hoopla of fraternities,
whether in the Raptors’ boardroom or in other such corporations (public and
private) — the noise of fandom is banished to the exigencies of the balance
sheet, to oversight, to best practices and, of course, to the future if, in the
case of a publicly-owned Corporation like Nalcor, the Government warrants it such
any such context, however, the Chair is not expected to be a cheerleader. They
are a mentor — to the Board Members and to the CEO — providing leadership that
is weighed with wisdom, reflection, and guidance. The Chair will, when asked,
provide advice to the Government, too, preferably the kind laden with
experience, focussed within a public policy framework, and with the knowledge
that that their election to high office confers on those politicians far more
responsibility than it does wisdom. The public, by and large, expects no less.
it gets to the point where a transport truck blows over in Wreckhouse and
that’s Nalcor’s fault, or it’s raining on May 24th weekend, that’s Nalcor’s
fault, and nobody wants Nalcor to succeed for whatever reason… guess what? It’s
not going to succeed,” Mr. Paddick told Commissioner Richard LeBlanc in what
must have seemed a huge distortion of the public distrust of Nalcor and a cringeworthy
moment for him.
for anyone — especially the Chair of the Nalcor Board — to suggest that Nalcor’s
woes are the product of simple-minded or negative thoughts exposes a shallowness
of comprehension best characterized as subterranean in its judiciousness.
particular, Paddick’s assertion of the requirement for Nalcor’s success is that
everyone has to want it to work, speaks to a fundamental misunderstanding of how
wealth is created — including the essential requirement of accountability for
other people’s money, and prudent behaviours that invite oversight rather than repudiate
it, as Nalcor has done. Besides, so far, Nalcor has created nothing, unless we
include the Muskrat debacle.
Nalcor reports annual earnings, every asset it holds has either been
transferred from another government-owned entity or government has given it
taxpayers’ money (equity) for the purpose. In short, Nalcor has performed more
poorly what could have been performed by a Government Department. It has
engaged in capital destruction on a massive scale, which will manifest when responsible
auditors transfer to the “Net Debt” of the province much of the amount
currently classified as “self-supporting”.
the Inquiry, Mr. Paddick spoke of “image” studies being undertaken by Nalcor’s communications
team and of “changing the narrative, when the time was right.” Those comments
are as unfortunate as they are sad. The very idea that the image and reputation
of a Crown Corporation whose management decisions have devastated the public
Treasury can be remediated with a new logo — and possibly a new jersey — isn’t
funny, though I don’t think it was meant to be. It does, however, reflect a misunderstanding
of why Nalcor employees are dispirited, along with everyone else.
this is a crossroads time in Newfoundland and Labrador. Because of Nalcor’s failure
to consider essential risk/reward consequences in the mandate it was given,
every member of the public will be need to be a policy wonk soon, all of the
too bad that someone of Paddick’s experience is not engaged in helping make
that public policy road easier. Playing Chair — rather than cheerleader — would
have been a better place for him to begin.