Ball taps Marshall to fix Nalcor
New energy boss has Conception Bay North roots
Stan Marshall said last Thursday that he never liked the Muskrat Falls project, and he didn’t want the job of leading Nalcor Energy, but he did it out of a sense of duty.
After a tumultuous 24 hours for the government-owned Crown corporation, Premier Dwight Ball announced Thursday Marshall, the longtime president and CEO of Fortis Inc., is now taking over as CEO of Nalcor Energy.
“This is not a job I wanted; this is a job I had to do,” Marshall said.
Marshall — who grew up in Freshwater and attended high school in Carbonear — takes over Nalcor at a time when it’s mired in controversy, mostly surrounding the beleaguered Muskrat Falls project, which is behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget.
He said he’s never been a fan of the hydroelectric project, which would see a dam in Labrador supply power to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia.
“I am deeply troubled by the current status, and I’m clearly not alone in that regard. The people of the province must be confident that Nalcor is doing the right things,” he said.
“Clearly the project is behind schedule and over budget. When these things get off track, it’s a very poor sign. They tend to go from bad to worse.”
Marshall said that even at its conception, when it was supposed to be a $5 billion project, he though the whole thing was the wrong choice. Now, due to cost overruns, the project is expected to cost more like $10 billion.
It was a turbulent week for Nalcor Energy. Ed Martin, who served as president and CEO for more than a decade, abruptly announced last Wednesday that he was quitting to spend more time with his family.
Both Martin and Ball insisted the sudden departure had nothing to do with a highly critical section of last weeks’ budget speech, where Finance Minister Cathy Bennett said spending at the crown agency is out of control.
Despite the protestations from Ball and Martin that there was no ill-will on either side, a few hours after Martin quit, news leaked out that the entire Nalcor board of directors abruptly quit, too.
Ball said he sat down and had a conversation with Marshall Monday, and nobody else was pursued for the job.
During last year’s election campaign, Ball made political hay of the idea to “take the politics out of government appointments” by setting up an Independent Appointments Commission, but after five months in office, the Liberals haven’t done that yet.
Ball said in the absence of the appointments commission, Marshall’s resume should be enough to beat back at any perception of patronage.
“I think his résumé speaks for itself,” Ball said. “The success that he’s had speaks for itself. No one would question his leadership.”
Marshall was president and CEO of Fortis Inc. for 18 years, and worked at the company for 35 years.
He grew the company from assets of less than $1 billion in 1996 to more than $18 billion in 2014 when he announced his retirement. Marshall said that he still owns shares with Fortis Inc., a company that has business dealings with Nalcor Energy though its subsidiary, Newfoundland Power.
But Marshall said he doesn’t believe there’s a conflict of interest.
“I think that Nalcor has a lot of serious problems. Newfoundland Power is not one of them,” he said. “When I was president and CEO I steered that company loyally; I intend to do the same for Nalcor and for the people of this province.”
Opposition politicians could find no fault in Marshall as the new leader of Nalcor, although both the NDP and Tories said that the hiring process leaves something to be desired, after all the Liberal rhetoric about independence and non-partisanship.
Tory MHA Keith Hutchings also said he’s concerned about the future of Nalcor. Under the Tories, Nalcor was supposed to become a massive, profitable energy company, like Statoil is for Norway.
“It’s a broad-based investment - the equity investment, certainly, in the oil fields - that will provide revenues for the province for generations to come,” Hutchings said.
“This is the legacy fund for decades to come.”
Ed Martin announced his resignation last Wednesday as CEO of Nalcor Energy. Martin held the position since 2005.