Nfld. & Labrador

An unrepentant Ed Martin goes on the attack in response to Muskrat Falls inquiry report

The man singled out for heavy criticism in the Muskrat Falls report, former Nalcor CEO Ed Martin, reacted strongly Wednesday to Justice Richard LeBlanc's final report.

Kathy Dunderdale, premier at time of project's sanctioning, says it's 'difficult' to read report

Former Nalcor CEO Ed Martin reacted strongly Wednesday to the release of the final report of the Muskrat Falls public inquiry. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

The man singled out for heavy criticism in the final report of the Muskrat Falls public inquiry is lashing out at the commission and the Supreme Court of Newfoundland and Labrador justice who oversaw the inquiry.

In a statement released Wednesday morning, former Nalcor CEO Ed Martin doubled-down on his defence of the controversial project, saying the benefits "continue to favour Muskrat Falls as the best option."

Martin also refused to take any responsibility or offer any apologies for a publicly funded project that is billions over budget, years behind schedule, and has left provincial and federal governments scrambling to avoid a skyrocketing of electricity rates.

Martin dismissed the $16-million inquiry, led by Justice Richard LeBlanc, who declared Muskrat a "misguided project" and found Martin largely to blame.

Martin says he's always conducted himself ethically, 'in the best interest of whatever project I was undertaking.' (Terry Roberts/CBC)

The former CEO said the inquiry took a "one-sided approach" that emphasized the negative aspects of the project, while limiting discussion about its merits.

"The problem with such a one-sided approach is that the outcome flows from an improper, weak foundation at the expense of a balanced perspective of the overall issues, merits and net benefits associated with such a significant investment in the future of Newfoundland and Labrador," Martin wrote.

Martin said a finding by the inquiry that Martin and others at Nalcor took "unprincipled steps" by failing to disclose vital information about cost and schedule estimates — and alternatives to Muskrat — to the provincial government and Nalcor's board of directors was "unfounded and should not be accepted."

In an interview later Wednesday, Martin said, "I've always conducted myself ethically in the best interest of whatever project I was undertaking. Did the same here, and feel very comfortable with that."

He added, "We always provided the necessary information for decision making in as reasonable a time as we could."

But the inquiry report, which takes direct aim at Martin throughout its 1,000-plus pages, is out there. So how does Martin plan to move forward?

"Same way as I've done every other day I've woken up here. I'm not going to explain it again. I'm 100 per cent comfortable with the decision."

Martin also dismissed the government's decision to refer to the report to the police.

"I'm not concerned about any criminal or civil litigation. This has all been handled properly. Same as it has for any other business I've been involved in."

Former CEO criticizes commissioner

In his statement, Martin also took aim at LeBlanc.

"When I took the stand, my expectations of a fair, open-minded and balanced approach to the inquiry were fully dashed, particularly when the commissioner himself abandoned professionalism and openly attacked me," Martin wrote of a December 2018 encounter while Martin was a witness at the inquiry.

The blow-up occurred after several long days of testimony by Martin, with LeBlanc slamming his fist onto his desk and accusing Martin of being rude and unco-operative.

"You're not being the witness here. You're trying to run the show. It's going to stop right now," LeBlanc yelled.

Martin said LeBlanc had made up his mind long before having heard all the evidence.

"The content, tone and direction of the report was already formed, thereby providing an indication of early bias and a harbinger of what was to come."

He criticized the commissioner and others involved with the inquiry for their "limited knowledge and experience with megaproject execution and related processes."

Premier Dwight Ball and Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady released the Muskrat Falls Inquiry report Tuesday afternoon in St. John's. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

This, he said, coupled with the pressure to complete the inquiry, "drove the approach of commission counsel, which focused on attempting to validate a series of negative hypotheses."

Martin also slammed commission lawyers, including Barry Learmonth, Kate O'Brien and Irene Muzychka.

"It became rapidly apparent that commission counsel were pursuing an aggressive validation of a series of negative hypotheses, moving from one to another as facts proved to not support the negative hypothesis of the moment."

Martin criticized what he described as "so-called" forensic audits by Grant Thornton, claiming there were "several factual errors and multiple instances of incomplete and incorrect summaries of key information that commission counsel utilized to pursue several negative hypotheses before being disproved."

I have always conducted myself professionally and diligently, treating people and my responsibilities with respect … driven by what I considered the most ethical approach.- Ed Martin

He also took issue with the evidence provided by various experts, with "any negative offerings clearly garnering favour and emphasis during the examination process."

In his statement, Martin defended his actions as Nalcor CEO.

"I have always conducted myself professionally and diligently, treating people and my responsibilities with respect … driven by what I considered the most ethical approach."

Martin said it is "incomprehensible," to suggest, for example, that he didn't inform the province or the Nalcor board of a $300-million increase in the capital cost estimate for Muskrat prior to the critical financial close milestone in late 2013.

Martin said evidence shows senior bureaucrats were aware and former premier Kathy Dunderdale was informed.

He also took exception to the way the report was presented, with no mention of the project's benefits in the executive summary, but buried "deep" in Volume 2 of the 1,100-page report, which he said he found "disconcerting."

In the future, Martin added, "On a per capita basis, Newfoundland and Labrador will be one of the wealthiest and well-positioned jurisdictions in the world."

Justice Richard LeBlanc, commissioner of the Muskrat Falls public inquiry, presented his hard-hitting report into the controversial hydroelectric project to the Department of Natural Resources on March 5. It was released publicly Tuesday. (Terry Roberts/CBC)

Meanwhile, Kathy Dunderdale, who was premier at the hydroelectric project's sanction and championed its benefits, said in a statement late Wednesday morning that every decision she made as an elected official "was through the lens of what was best for the people of Newfoundland and Labrador."

"I was, and continue to be, very satisfied that I personally kept this commitment given the information and analysis I was given," said Dunderdale, who added it's nonetheless "difficult" to read the report. 

Read more from CBC Newfoundland and Labrador

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Terry Roberts is a reporter with CBC Newfoundland and Labrador, and is based in St. John’s. He previously worked for The Telegram, The Compass and The Northern Pen newspapers during a career that began in 1991. He can be reached by email at: Terry.Roberts@cbc.ca.

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