C’mon Stan, Show a Little Class
By: Ryan Young
Nalcor CEO, Stan Marshall, announced last Friday that there would likely be ice damage to structures at Muskrat Falls this winter, and placed the blame squarely at the feet of protesters. According to Marshall, Nalcor simply “ran out of time” to install the ice boom needed to protect the site from the harsh Labrador weather, mainly due to the actions of protesters last October. Marshall’s blame game starts to lose credibility, however, when you consider that the land protectors only occupied the Muskrat site for four days. Even if you give him the full two-week disruption that he claims, that still does not account for why Nalcor was unable to get things done in time to avoid the winter freeze. Considering the track record of the work at the site, this latest delay seems par for the course.
The real culprit behind the delay is not the protests, but rather the leaky cofferdam. Without the cofferdam being fully functional, they are unable to raise water levels high enough to facilitate the installation of the boom. Despite Nalcor’s assurances that the cofferdam is not a serious issue, the fact that they have not been able to fix the problem suggests that it may be bigger than they are letting on. When you factor in Marshall’s deflective comments, in addition to the quickly advancing winter, all signs point to some very big problems at Muskrat Falls.
With the Nalcor CEO publicly blaming the people of Labrador and telling us to expect damage at the site, we should stop and take a closer look at what is really going on. Very little of the “progress” at Muskrat Falls has come easy, and none of it has come cheap. With so many issues in the process so far, it is not unreasonable to think that there may have been some serious flaws with either the cofferdam design or its construction. It must feel like another kick in the face to the people of Labrador from the big boot of Nalcor to be blamed for yet another failure in the construction process. With the cofferdam leaking and the project going even further behind schedule due to construction issues, is it any wonder that so many people are worried about the North Spur?
It s no secret that Nalcor has zero experience with large hydro developments. The head of the Lower Churchill project, Gilbert Bennett, came from Danny’s cable circle to oversee a project that would make or break our province. Ed Martin had no hydro experience either. He was a middle manager at Petro Canada before Danny tapped him for the top job at Nalcor. Now of course we have Stan Marshall in the CEO chair, with his decades of dam building experience, but Gil Bennett is still managing the project and the same contracts and designs are still in place that were there under Ed Martin. If someone like Stan had been there from the start, someone who knew how to build a dam, then maybe things might have turned out differently. As it stands now though, Stan Marshall is little more than a figurehead to appease the public and try to get a handle on some of the ballooning costs.
The cofferdam issue is just the latest in a long line of blunders that has led to this project being years behind schedule and billions over-budget. Marshall knows how bad things are with the project, but his corporate instincts tell him to shift the blame and drive the wedge. That tactic has been working well enough in Labrador for centuries, so why stop now? Maybe instead of giving him full autonomy, Dwight Ball could have included in his mandate a little bit of sensitivity towards the people who will have their lives irrecoverably changed by this project. After all of the issues that we have seen with the construction at Muskrat Falls, to see Marshall play off the first major blunder under his watch as the fault of a four-day protest is just plain embarrassing. Maybe someone should tell Dwight that it he is going to convince the folks in Labrador that he really cares about them, he might want to talk to Marshall about toning down the rhetoric and showing a little class.