Nfld. & Labrador

Law protecting Nalcor contractor salary secrets will change, Dwight Ball says

Premier Dwight Ball says his government will move to increase transparency at Nalcor Energy, in the wake of a report by the province’s information and privacy commissioner.

Premier comments after release of report by information and privacy commissioner

Premier Dwight Ball told reporters Wednesday that changes to the legislation governing Nalcor Energy could be introduced as soon as the spring session of the House of Assembly. (Bruce Tilley/CBC)

Premier Dwight Ball says his government will move to increase transparency at Nalcor Energy, in the wake of a report by the province's information and privacy commissioner.

"This is a Crown corporation; this is public funds," Ball told reporters outside the House of Assembly on Wednesday.

"And I think the people of this province would have a right to know — they have a right to know — how their money is being spent."

In a report released earlier that day, open-records watchdog Donovan Molloy found that the law governing Nalcor overrides access-to-information legislation, putting the pay details for Muskrat Falls contractors off-limits to the public.

Ball said that needs to change.

"Of course, we want to see the similar rules that apply to government, that they would apply to corporations like Nalcor," the premier said.

He indicated that amendments could come before the legislature soon.

"We want to get this done as quickly as possible," Ball said.

"I would anticipate that this is something that we could get in place for the spring sitting. But I can't make that commitment right now, until we get more details on the information that's required."

'Bound by the legislation'

Nalcor declined comment on the commissioner's report, saying it had nothing to add to the response it provided to initial access-to-information requests about contractor compensation.

Earlier this year, CBC News and the Telegram had filed separate requests asking for information on payments made to contractors on the $12.7-billion Muskrat Falls project. The project is years behind schedule, billions over budget and Newfoundland and Labrador taxpayers are on the hook.

The powerhouse at the Muskrat Falls generation facility is pictured in this May 29, 2017, handout image. (Courtesy Nalcor Energy)

Two months ago, Nalcor CEO Stan Marshall told CBC News that the use of embedded contractors is common for projects like this one, with many of those workers in specialized fields like engineering or construction and project management.

Marshall stressed that the law, as currently written, required him to reject access-to-information requests on how much they are paid.

"It's not that I don't want to release some of this information," he told CBC News in an interview at the time.

"If it was up to me, I'd release it. But I'm bound by the legislation."


Rob Antle

CBC News

Rob Antle is producer for CBC's investigative unit in Newfoundland and Labrador.