03 June 2016

What's next for Nalco? #nlpoli

Just so that everyone is clear on this, it has taken Dwight Ball every single day from May 23 until June 2 to admit that he knew Ed Martin had received a severance payment on his departure from Nalcor despite the fact that Martin has supposedly resigned.

In effect,  Dwight Ball - as the chief representative of the only shareholder in Nalcor  - approved of the severance with his silence.  The same thing went for natural resources minister Siobhan Coady.

What's more, Ball reminded us all again that whatever happened with respect to Martin's contract was solely at the discretion of the Nalcor board, which has since resigned.


So what exactly has Dwight Ball's knickers in such a bunch?


What has all the fuss been about?

Whatever has been going on inside Dwight Ball's head,  this crisis has been a good guide to some serious issues that need handling pretty quickly.

The most obvious one is within Ball's office.  The man is evidently swamped with the job.  Ball needs to change his own approach to the job and he needs to change up some folks in his office. CBC's David Cochrane has already reported that Greg Mercer is coming on board.  That's a good start.  Mercer has the experience, the connections,  and the reputation to get the job done.  The thing is,  Mercer is closer to chief of staff material than a straight-up replacement for Tim Murphy.  On top of Mercer, Ball needs to look at some staff reassignments and getting some folks with political chops and lots of judgement and experience.   There are lots of things Dwight could do.

As far as Nalcor is concerned,  Ball could take a hard look at how he wants to run the place.  The Nalcor legislation creates a funny situation where the Shareholder appoints the board and the Shareholder appoints the chief executive but the board gets to decide what to pay the chief executive. And if you follow Dwight's way of thinking, the chief executive can negotiate his departure with the Shareholder but the Shareholder doesn't need to convey his wishes to the board so that the Shareholder's will is carried out.

In the larger sense,  this Martin episode has highlighted the ongoing problem with Nalcor.  It is a  monstrosity that has been operating without clear policy direction and without sound and accountable management for too long.  All that Coady and Ball did in this episode is run along with the mess that was there rather than start to fix it.  That's how they got caught in the absolutely pathetic situation of meeting with Ed Martin on Tuesday and then sending him out the door in a snowstorm because he wanted it that way, rather than determining the time and place of his departure.  Ed Martin set the agenda and Ball and Coady followed along.  Talk about a fundamentally unacceptable management arrangement for any corporation, public or private.

Well, now Dwight and Siobhan can add that to their list of things to do.  The immediate problem is gone because they have Stan Marshall.  They do need to get a proper board in place soon and a major project for the next year or so would be an overhaul of the legislation governing the corporation.

That assumes, of course, that we are done with this whole Martin Severance Crisis.

Frankly, the way things are in Newfoundland and Labrador politics these days you can never be sure where things are going from one day to the next.