Nfld. & Labrador

Did Ed Martin see report detailing Muskrat Falls risks? Premier says yes, he says no

There are disputed claims over whether former Nalcor CEO Ed Martin saw a report in 2013 detailing potential cost overruns and delays to the project, warnings that proved to be accurate.
SNC Lavalin told Dwight Ball that a report raising concerns about Muskrat Falls was discussed at a meeting with former CEO Ed Martin, a report Martin insists he's never seen (Cal Tobin/CBC)

There are disputed claims over whether former Nalcor CEO Ed Martin saw a report in 2013 detailing potential cost overruns and delays to the project, warnings that proved to be accurate.

In a written statement Monday Martin insisted he never saw the report, but premier Dwight Ball says SNC-Lavalin, which produced the report, has a very different story.

"There was a meeting, and the CEO was in the room when this report was discussed," Ball told reporters Tuesday.

He said that information came from officials at SNC-Lavalin, the company hired to do engineering, procurement and construction management at Muskrat Falls.

Louis-Antoine Paquin, a media relations spokesperson for SNC-Lavalin, told CBC News that "we produced a report, in 2013, and that we've attempted to hand it over to Nalcor."

It's not clear why it wasn't successfully handed over, and Paquin wouldn't clarify, saying it is up to Nalcor to explain.

A spokesperson for Nalcor said new CEO Stan Marshall was out of the office Tuesday and wasn't able to immediately answer the question.

Ed Martin, former CEO of Nalcor, says he didn't see a report warning of a potential $2.4 billion cost overrun of Muskrat Falls project, but says he knew about all the issues (CBC)

Marshall heard about the report from SNC-Lavalin engineers, Ball said, and when he looked for the report at Nalcor he couldn't find a copy.

He asked for a copy from SNC-Lavalin, and passed it on to the premier who made it public late last week.

The report warns that many aspects of the Muskrat Falls project were at "very high" risk of costing more and that the project could fall behind schedule.

It cites a potential for a $2.4-billion cost overrun. The project is currently almost $4 billion over budget — not including financing costs.

In a statement Martin insisted "I did not receive this report in 2013; it is an internal SNC Lavalin document that was neither presented nor sent to me at Nalcor."

Martin, reviewing the report now, said it didn't tell him anything new, that he was aware of the issues at the time and there were plans in place to deal with them.

"At that point he could have stopped the project of these massive cost overruns," said Ball.

"Today he felt he addressed the risk but with almost $4 billion over the original price tag, I would question, I would question his statement and ask the people of this province if they agree."

Documents secured for coming investigation

On Tuesday the premier insisted there will be some thorough review of the project, to learn how costs got so high and whether the proper planning and assumptions were made early on.

"It is not a matter of if, it is a matter of when this public review of this project occurs. Whether it's six days or six months, is whenever. As soon as the critical construction phase is complete it will happen," Ball said.

He doesn't know whether this will be a forensic audit or a full public inquiry.

Ball repeated that the review can't happen now because it would distract Nalcor from the work of executing the project, potentially driving up costs further and creating more delays.

Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady said some very preliminary work has been done to secure any documents needed for a review.


Peter Cowan

CBC News

Peter Cowan is a St. John's-based reporter with CBC News.