Former Nalcor Energy president and CEO Ed Martin was asked about public opinion and public objections before finishing on the stand at the Muskrat Falls Inquiry this week.
The Crown corporation sought polling on the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric project pre-construction, he recalled under questioning, saying results showed more than 60 per cent of the public supported the power project.
He was asked by Caitlin Urquhart (representing Grand Riverkeeper Labrador and Labrador Land Protectors) about the differences in the support from Newfoundland, versus support in Labrador.
Martin said he couldn’t recall if poll results were divided that way.
After finishing in the hearing room and agreeing to take questions, he was asked more generally about public opinion then versus now. He said he’s not surprised by any change in opinions, given overruns, but there is a lack of voices now in support of the project.
“I was out there. I was out there talking about it, I was answering every question and I drove the concepts of what was happening. I talked about the good, I talked about the bad and I kept the balance going. And I believed that helped. And I think that’s important for the people to see,” Martin said.
“The government changed. And make no mistake, the new government certainly has not been supporting the project publicly. I mean, I’m just stating a fact. So when you take someone like myself out of the picture, not me, but the fact that I was out there presenting the project constantly, take a government then that’s turned negative on it and no one else out speaking for the project except for — I will call them ‘naysayers’ — people who are picking on certain negative pieces and continuing to pound on it. You don’t have to be a rocket scientist in public relations to know where that’s going,” he said.
“And then, frankly, the media picks it up and that’s all you report and it’s just a constant onslaught of negativity. You know, put it together. Run the numbers. You know what’s going to happen. And that is frustrating to me. Absolutely.”
Not a rude person
He was also asked what he thought about the rebuke from Commissioner Richard LeBlanc the day before, as LeBlanc stepped into a back and forth between Martin and lawyer Geoff Budden (representing the Muskrat Falls Concerned Citizens Coalition).
“Not much,” he said. “It is what it is. You know, things happen. I’m used to, I’ve been around a long time. I’m used to dealing with a lot of people who sometimes get excited about stuff. So I pretty much don’t let the heart rate get up and move on.”
LeBlanc suggested Martin was being rude, although Martin disagrees. He said he is not a rude person.
“But look, you know, the commissioner had a moment. That’s up to him. As I said, my heart rate is pretty level usually and I’ve been around a bit with that kind of stuff and it doesn’t bother me,” he said.
Martin suggested LeBlanc’s co-counsel have a view of how the project developed he doesn’t agree with, but said he remains in full support of the inquiry.
Martin is expected to be called in again during Phase 2 hearings, looking at cost overruns during construction.
There is one more week of hearings scheduled for Phase 1, focusing on the narrowing of power development options and the decision to sanction the Muskrat Falls project.
The Muskrat Falls Inquiry