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More missing notebooks bring government policy into question at Muskrat Falls inquiry

The six binders of documents that Ed Martin, former chief executive officer and president of Nalcor Energy, will refer to this week while he testifies at the Muskrat Falls Inquiry.
Binders of documents at the Muskrat Falls Inquiry. - SaltWire File Photo

Documents believed destroyed, despite commitments to preservation

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. —

The list of missing, likely destroyed, potentially valuable documentation for the Muskrat Falls Inquiry continues to grow.

A search for the notebooks of former deputy minister of Finance Donna Brewer has turned up nothing. In a two-page statement detailing the search, entered into evidence, it’s noted Brewer’s secretary at the time believes the former deputy reviewed all her files before leaving government. To the best of her memory, Brewer considered the notebooks “transient” documents, “because anything of value contained within those notebooks would have been transferred to an official government record.”

All “transient” documents were shredded when Brewer left.

Government lawyer Peter Ralph told a Commissioner Richard LeBlanc the approach would have been per a standing, government-wide policy.

LeBlanc said he was surprised the notebooks would have been destroyed. He highlighted the fact Brewer retired and left government only in October 2017, the month before the Muskrat Falls Inquiry was publicly announced on Nov. 20, 2017.

“This whole issue of government records is a problem for me,” he said.

He said again he was surprised the notes were destroyed.

“This inquiry didn’t happen just with a flick of a switch,” LeBlanc said.

Brewer was on the witness stand. She was asked if she was aware of the impending inquiry.

“Not that I recall. I can recall some discussions of a review, but my understanding when I left was there was some thoughts that it would wait until after the project was completed,” she said.

LeBlanc asked if anyone contacted her about documents, about her notes as she retired. “No,” she said.

Around the time of the announcement of an inquiry, Natural Resources Minister Siobhan Coady spoke about the importance of securing potentially relevant documentation. She was pressed, mainly in the context of documents being held by Nalcor Energy.

As The Telegram reported on Nov. 3, 2017, Coady had sent a letter back on July 24, 2017 to Nalcor Energy president and CEO Stan Marshall, reminding him of requirements under the province’s Management of Information Act (governing handling of government documents). Coady told Marshall to, “preserve all records created or received by Nalcor Energy as these constitute Crown property. This obligation extends to Nalcor’s officers and employees.”

But the issue with availability of potentially helpful evidence turned up closer to home.

To date, LeBlanc has already expressed disappointment over document management, after he learned the notebooks of former clerk of the executive council and current auditor general Julia Mullaley are nowhere to be found and believed destroyed. Ralph suggested Mullaley may have identified the notebooks she once carried everywhere as “transient” documents, and so they would have been destroyed, the same as Brewer’s.

The inquiry has also been left wanting when it comes to a search for notes of former deputy minister of Natural Resources Charles Bown.

Former premier Kathy Dunderdale was on the stand when she commented she had left any notes she kept behind upon leaving office, but there has been nothing entered into evidence suggesting anything was recovered.

LeBlanc said he will be looking more closely at the management of documents, before hearings conclude this summer and he files his final report by the end of the year.

Twitter: @TeleFitz


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