20 June 2012

No stinkin’ knowledge required #nlpoli

Say one thing for Kathy Dunderdale, she tells it just like it is.

In response to questions about the qualifications of four people the provincial government recently appointed to the board of directors at Nalcor, the Premier said they didn’t need to know anything about electricity, oil and gas or any of those other things that the provincial energy corporation is doing. 

Their job didn’t involve knowing anything.

What they needed was something called “broad experience”.  That’s what the Premier said in the House of Assembly on Monday

“The board’s job is not to plan the project.  Their function is to guide the policy, to oversee the work, to make sure to practice due diligence.”

That’s a quote from the Telegram story on the appointments that appeared on Tuesday, sadly not online.

Now that’s an interesting idea.  It sounds wonderfully egalitarian and democratic.  But in her own way, the premier was basically confirming what SRBP said on Tuesday:  the board doesn’t matter because the board doesn’t control Nalcor. 

The cabinet does.

That’s about the only way you could equate a beer distributor with a former cabinet minister like John Ottenheimer or an investment tycoon like Dean MacDonald.  They all bring something to the table, says the Premier.

And indeed they do.

Some bring more than others.

But again, that isn’t important, at least in the provincial case because the Nalcor board doesn’t do anything. 

To get a sense of the difference between Nalcor and a typical federal Crown corporation look at the Treasury Board description of what a director does.  One of the responsibilities is to approve:

the annual operating and capital budgets, major new project proposals and borrowing requests. The annual budgets outline planned performance and the proposed allocation of the available resources among the competing priorities. Major new project proposals may include investments (e.g. the initiation of new capital projects or acquisitions) and divestitures (e.g. the sale of assets or the spinning-off of non-core business activities). Each major new project proposal may demand significant involvement of the board.

Approving major projects.

Like, say, Muskrat Falls.

Well, not in Newfoundland and Labrador.

As you can find it in the Throne Speech, delivered in early March:

Later this year, My Government will make its sanction decision.

The Premier made it clear in early April in the House of Assembly who would decide on Muskrat Falls:

…nevertheless my responsibility as Premier is to make sure that all the information that is available to us is made available to the people of the Province before we go to the sanction decision. [Emphasis added]

And here’s natural resources minister Jerome Kennedy in the House of Assembly on April 26:

What we have to do is put money in the Budget in order to allow – if we sanction the project – that we can proceed, not lose a construction year. [Emphasis added]

So with nothing to do, the members of the Nalcor board don’t need any qualifications of any kind. The Premier was absolutely clear about it, even if she didn’t put it quite as bluntly as your humble e-scribbler does.

All you had to do was pay attention to what she said.