Former Nalcor Energy president and CEO Ed Martin says, if given the chance to start the Muskrat Falls project all over, he would have made a point to put more in writing.
Martin made the comments after being prompted for some personal reflection on fault by lawyer Tom Williams (representing a collection of former Progressive Conservative government members, not including former premier Kathy Dunderdale). Williams referenced finger-pointing throughout the inquiry hearings to date.
Martin said he would have relied less on general understanding of responsibilities, and reporting verbally versus on paper.
“I believe if I had my time back, and I fault myself for this, looking at what’s happened, is I would have documented those understandings in-depth,” he said.
“Not just a simple mandate. It would be a description of the things we’ve talked about here: how I was expected to act with all the officials over time, what levels of information sharing was expected. But all those things. And I’m good at documenting those things, so I should have, hearing what I’ve heard now.”
Martin testified he wouldn’t have stopped there and would have had it all signed off by a multitude of people, to assure it was all a shared understanding and could be passed from one government to the next, as time went on.
“I did document the overall rationale and benefits of this project. I did that,” he said.
Meetings with premier ‘intense’
Throughout the day, the former Nalcor CEO was questioned on a lengthy list of topics.
One was the $6.5-billion capital cost at the time of financial close. He was asked about a meeting with former premier Kathy Dunderdale, when he told her about the project’s cost going up, and why he couldn’t recall who was in the room.
He said other people would be in the room when he was called to meetings with the premier, but they didn’t typically speak much. A meeting with Dunderdale would usually be an “intense, one-on-one” back and forth, he said.
He didn’t recall the other people, he suggested, because he personally didn’t deal with them much.
He testified to having reviewed the business case for the project leading into the financial close. He said he informed the premier going ahead with the project in 2013 was still the best decision for the province. The ratepayers, he testified, were always top of mind.
He couldn’t recall any presentation to the entire cabinet on the change in capital cost before financial close.
“There was multiple presentations to cabinet. I just can’t recall making a presentation to cabinet on that particular piece,” he said.
Martin spent some time speaking highly of the capabilities of the board of directors, in its different iterations throughout his tenure.
Asked why he didn’t present information, such as internal project team forecasts, to the board of directors and then let them decide what should go to the government, rather than making the decision on what cost information goes to the board and to the government, he said he didn’t understand that thinking.
“I’d be abdicating accountability,” he said.