Nfld. & Labrador

Ed Martin fires back at Nalcor CEO, Premier Dwight Ball

Former Nalcor CEO is speaking out, just days after barbs from Premier Dwight Ball and the man who currently holds his old job.

'Let me be clear: I did not receive this report in 2013 ... I never once ignored risk factors,' says Ed Martin

Former Nalcor CEO Ed Martin says a 2013 risk report 'was neither presented nor sent to me at Nalcor.' (CBC)

The former CEO of Nalcor refutes receiving a report detailing risks associated with the Muskrat Falls project when he was in the top job, while welcoming a review of the megaproject.

"Let me be clear: I did not receive this report in 2013 ... During my entire time as the CEO of Nalcor, I never once ignored risk factors and our team consistently worked to mitigate all risk factors," Ed Martin said in a statement released late Monday night.

"I simply cannot ignore these developments as they have a direct impact on the future of Newfoundland and Labrador. I am compelled to comment."

Martin's comments are in response to the announcement last Friday that the price tag of Muskrat Falls got another billion-dollar bump — up to $12.7 billion, including financing and other expenses. 

At a separate press conference that same day, Premier Dwight Ball called the project "poorly planned" and "reckless."

"It's shocking that the former CEO [Ed Martin] knew of these risks four years ago," Ball said, adding the response was to "do nothing."

Martin defends cost estimates

Nalcor CEO Stan Marshall also seemingly targeted Martin, during the update on the project.

"I'll say this: I think this project is a hell of a lot worse ... deal than the Upper Churchill," said Marshall on Friday. 

"Unfortunately, I have seen a lot of evidence … which suggests to me that intentionally or otherwise, the costs were significantly underestimated," he said.

Premier Dwight Ball and Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady blame the problems of the Muskrat Falls project on previous administrations who they say ignored the warning signs. (CBC)

But Martin defended how those costs were calculated.

"The initial estimates were compiled by internal expertise, supplemented by external experts, and then reviewed by several external experts, including Navigant and Manitoba Hydro. The federal government's independent engineer and the provincial government also understood the cost basis," he said in the statement.

Martin points to other projects in Newfoundland and Labrador that have seen cost overruns, including the Vale processing plant in Long Harbour. 

Supports review if it's 'clearly independent'

Martin said he backs a review of Muskrat Falls and Nalcor — with one caveat.

"I would support and fully cooperate with such an undertaking, provided it was clearly independent," he wrote. "It may be helpful ... to once again revisit the rationale for the project, the robustness of the processes."

Nalcor CEO Stan Marshall provided a scathing assessment of the Muskrat Falls project Friday. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

Martin said it's time for Ball and Marshall to focus on their own roles in the project.

"I suggest it is time to stop expressing lack of support for the project and instead, look forward," Martin said.

"Just as I accept as the former CEO what happened [during] my time at Nalcor, I believe the current CEO and the premier and minister of the day must also acknowledge what has taken place under their watch."

The Muskrat Falls hydroecltric project has employed up to 6,000 people at peak construction, and Martin says it is time to look forward when it comes to the project, amid heavy criticism. (Nalcor)

Martin continued to defend the project, while acknowledging rates will increase, which he said can be offset with mitigation measures.

"Rates should then stabilize and remain stable and predictable over time, for generations to come," he said.

Martin said, overall, the project continues to provide "thousands of jobs" and "significant economic growth."

"The best advice I could offer is the following: lead, follow or get out of the way," he said. 

With files from Rob Antle and Marilyn Boone