Would a Nalcor under another name smell the same?

Stan Marshall answered reporters’ questions on June 10 at his last press conference. (Sherry Vivian / CBC)

Juliet, Shakespeare’s tragic teenager, knew all about how toxic a name can be.

“Why are you Romeo? Juliet said in the room named after the two cursed lovers. Many people think that Juliet at this point is looking for Romeo, but she is actually wondering Why, not where; this is why Romeo must be a Montague, the hated family and the sworn enemy of the Capulets of Juliet.

“O, be another name! Juliette screams in anguish. Then, in a line that has delighted word-makers for centuries, she says, “What we call a rose by any other name would smell just as good.”

If anything has had a bad smell in Newfoundland and Labrador lately, it’s Nalcor.

The very future of the crown corporation and, yes, its name have become political points in recent months. Moya Greene and the Prime Minister’s Economic Stimulus Team have recommended shutting down Nalcor and placing it under the control of its main subsidiary, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro.

Nalcor Energy, founded in Danny Williams’ day as an umbrella for a variety of agencies to develop and market hydropower, oil and other energies, has been politically toxic for years, at least since the Muskrat Falls megaproject derailed.

Marshall came out of retirement in 2016 to take over Nalcor, including overseeing construction of the over-budgeted Muskrat Falls megaproject. (Nalcor Energy)

The names affair – not to mention the issue of regaining public trust – came to my mind when I saw Stan Marshall, the outgoing CEO of Nalcor, make his final remarks a little more ago. of a week. His final comments were about what will happen next, not just to Nalcor, but what Newfoundland and Labrador is doing with its hydroelectric assets and potential. He also spoke about the risk and what it will take to move forward with confidence,

“Names are not important”

Tuesday, Marshall retired… again. Marshall’s first retirement came in late 2014 after leading Fortis, the publicly traded parent company of Newfoundland Power, for nearly two decades. Marshall stepped forward once more to the breach, to borrow another phrase from Shakespeare, early 2016, at the request of former Prime Minister Dwight Ball. Marshall’s main task: to fix Muskrat Falls. After two months of work, Marshall called him as many saw him: Muskrat Falls was a mess.

Days before metaphorically tidying up his desk, Marshall spoke to reporters, arguing widely for the development of Gull Island, the much-sought-after project on the lower Churchill River which, if it did develop, would produce more of the double the production of Muskrat. Falls.

WATCH | Stan Marshall says talent is far more important than the name that replaces Nalcor:

Coming out of retirement to take over a struggling Nalcor Energy, Stan Marshall answered journalists’ questions during his last public appearance. 4:32

Marshall has made it clear that what matters is not Nalcor’s name, but rather the people who run the company and their qualifications.

“Names don’t matter,” Marshall told CBC’s Carolyn Stokes. “Corporate structures will change with changing circumstances… So if you change your name, that’s fine; change your business structure, that’s good. But you’d better get the expertise. The problem we had in Newfoundland, we got terrible advice on our hydro things.

In Marshall’s eyes, Nalcor and Hydro have in recent years recruited the talent not only to develop Gull Island, but also to lead the interests of NL. across a number of tricky perspectives, including the Atlantic Loop Project which could involve the Lower Churchill, the Maritimes, the Federal Government and, most sensitive of all, Quebec, which has had a history to say the least eventful with Newfoundland and Labrador thanks to the contract of Upper Churchill.

“We have to have those skills here in Newfoundland if we are going to deal properly with the upper Churchill, if we are to properly deal with any kind of rate mitigation measures taken, if we are to deal with Atlantic loops and Gull Island developments, you will need that expertise, ”Marshall said.

“If you don’t, you’ll end up in the same place you had in the past, and [with] disasters that we have had in the past. “

Now is Gull Island time?

While Marshall is keen on Gull Island – “now is the time to do it,” he said – two of Nalcor’s most outspoken critics argue not to speed up development.

“We cannot be a financial partner in the development of Gull Island. We just can’t afford to take any more risks, ”said former Deputy Minister Ron Penney, who appeared on CBC Radio. Crosstalk Thursday with his retired civil servant colleague David Vardy.

David Vardy, left, and Ron Penney testified in 2018 during the Muskrat Falls inquiry. (Terry Roberts / CBC)

With Newfoundland and Labrador without fiscal wiggle room – thanks in large part to Muskrat Falls’ $ 13 billion burden – Gull Island is simply not achievable, Vardy said.

“If we had done this project 10 or 12 years ago, it could have been very different. But in the current environment and with the projections we have for 2030, the outlook does not look very attractive.”

Penney and Vardy pointed out a number of factors against development, besides the fact that the province is fundamentally bankrupt. On the one hand, Gull Island’s development economy has changed dramatically in the years since its last comprehensive review. Energy markets have changed, particularly in the United States, where energy is expected to be exported, and kilowatt-hour rates are much lower than expected.

Private financing could be an option, but it puts Newfoundland and Labrador in a corner to negotiate equity and royalties.

And then there is Quebec, which is only too aware that 2041 – the year in which the Upper Churchill contract, which enriches Hydro-Quebec while handing over misery to the NL treasury – finally runs out.

Churchill Falls was the first hydroelectric project developed in Labrador. The Muskrat Falls project is nearing completion, while the larger Lower Churchill project planned at Gull Island is still undeveloped. (SRC)

“Obviously, it will have to be an export market and it will have to go through Quebec,” said Penney. “Whether we like it or not, we are going to have to deal with Quebec and they are going to have to be involved in this project in one way or another, for it to be transmitted successfully.”

Marshall also believes that negotiating with Quebec is necessary. Nor is he intimidated by Newfoundland and Labrador’s history with Quebec.

“Get over it,” he said.

“Don’t worry about the mistakes you’ve made in the past. The important thing is to have the right people. You don’t want to repeat those mistakes, but you can’t walk around saying, well, we did. a mess of that.… If we don’t have the confidence to develop our own resources to deal with this, we have to deal with our neighbors, our customers. ”

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