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Labrador activist puzzled by internal Nalcor email

Jim Learning.
Jim Learning. - SaltWire File Photo

It suggested the handling of a vigil at Muskrat Falls put Crown corporation in ‘positive light’; he remembers things differently

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

Documents being put into evidence at the Muskrat Falls Inquiry have, in a few cases, offered new views on previously reported events during the hydroelectric development.

One such case is a “vigil walk” by members of the grassroots Labrador Land Protectors onto the North Spur in 2015. The North Spur juts into the Churchill River at Muskrat Falls and now makes up part of the dam project.

Evidence at the ongoing inquiry includes an email apparently from Nalcor Energy project director Paul Harrington to several recipients, including vice-president Gilbert Bennett and Mark Turpin.

Turpin was a manager on the North Spur construction and stabilization works and testified this week, acknowledging the email. It was largely a pat on the back for his work.

The email was re-used — attached by Turpin to a letter he later penned and sent to then-Nalcor CEO Stan Marshall — to give evidence of his own credibility.

In the email, Harrington credits Turpin with good work and improved productivity in his area.

“The handling of the Jim Learning vigil and site intrusion was very well handled and Nalcor came out of that in a very positive light. So well done in that regard,” Harrington stated at one point.

The Labradorian reported on the vigil walk at the time.

“I don’t want anything to look positive on Nalcor." — Jim Learning

About 20 people took part on July 18, 2015, according to the file report. The individuals in the group, including Learning, had different reasons for taking part. Some wanted to silently protest

A group of people from Happy Valley-Goose Bay took part in a ‘vigil walk’ to the North Spur at the Muskrat Falls site on July 18, to pay tribute to Muskrat Falls before construction of the hydroelectric project is complete.
A group of people from Happy Valley-Goose Bay took part in a ‘vigil walk’ to the North Spur at the Muskrat Falls site on July 18, to pay tribute to Muskrat Falls before construction of the hydroelectric project is complete.

the megaproject, while others just wanted to see the water at Muskrat Falls one last time.

Nalcor had asked the participants to take a bus to pre-approved locations, given the site is restricted, but they declined.

A member of the Labrador Land Protectors, Denise Cole, told The Labradorian a letter had been sent to Learning beforehand, specifically requesting that the event not happen at all, due to safety concerns. If it did happen, the request was that a bus be used to reach the identified locations.

Cole said the group was followed by site security, and the RCMP filmed it all, with no confrontations.

At the time, Bennett told The Labradorian the walk forced a shutdown of construction on the North Spur. He said the people taking part in the walk were advised they were trespassing. He called the event a “significant disruption” that drove up the cost of the project.

But the handling of the event was credited as being by the book internally, with Harrington noting that the company “came out of that in a very positive light.”

Learning was shown the email while the Muskrat Falls Inquiry hearings were still in Happy Valley-Goose Bay, earlier this year. He said the vigil event was “nothing but confrontation” from the point of view of participants.

“That’s very puzzling,” he said of the internal exchange.

Learning then revealed the ongoing divide between the corporation and members of the Labrador Land Protectors, who fundamentally don’t want the new hydroelectric dam.

“I don’t want anything to look positive on Nalcor,” he said.

Twitter: @TeleFitz


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