Why the new Nalcor CEO’s background matters

“The new CEO would be wise to encourage a strong Board of Directors, who are diversified, independent of partisanship, and skilled in visioning and implementation.”

The following letter was written prior to Thursday’s announcement by the premier that former Fortis President and CEO Stan Marshall was being appointed as Nalcor’s new CEO. 

As a resident living downstream from the Muskrat Falls development I care about the background of Nalcor’s new CEO.

I believe the successful individual needs certain key competencies. The first one is the whole concept around “Ecosystems Approaches to Health (EcoHealth)” that considers the connections between the environment, plants, animals and human health. The scientific research around the rise of methylmercury in Lake Melville, and the serious impacts on human health deserves immediate consideration by the new CEO. The CEO should also consider the mental health implications of this development project on people in our region.

Then there is leadership required around Indigenous affairs and reconciliation. There was a Duty to Consult, and the recent Daniels v. Canada Supreme Court decision has likely created a liability for Nalcor as a result of their handling of affairs with NunatuKavut. In a region like the Happy Valley—Goose Bay area, local knowledge would have highlighted the benefits of including all the Indigenous political organizations in the earliest stages of project planning.

Given the labour intensity of dam-making, the new CEO also needs to have a strong background in labour relations. The labour costs need to be reasonable and agreements that encourage local employment should be bare minimums that are ambitiously exceeded. From a strategic planning perspective, the more local employee and business capacity that are gained will inevitably serve the Crown Corporation and the region better in the long run.

A commitment to corporate social responsibility is another key attribute I would like from the new CEO. I would feel more confident about my tax-paying investments into Nalcor if the CEO embraced corporate social responsibility moving forward. When development happens in or adjacent to communities, there needs to be partnership and vision that ensures a healthy and symbiotic relationship, where both futures are enviable.

Finally, strength and creditability come from organizations with strong governance structures. The new CEO would be wise to encourage a strong Board of Directors, who are diversified, independent of partisanship, and skilled in visioning and implementation.

If the people of Lake Melville, Labrador, and Newfoundland were given a fair say in how their money was invested, I feel confident these values would be represented in Nalcor’s operations. The confrontational and dismissive approach to communications that has never acknowledged the thoughts, insights, or feelings of residents has eliminated pride of ownership in this company.

Whether it is a Crown Corporation or some of the world’s largest development proponents, these skills are needed when altering ecosystems during a time of intense climatic, environmental, and socio-economic change, and impacting communities in Canada’s multicultural North.

Jamie Snook, Mayor / Happy Valley–Goose Bay

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