19 July 2005

Let process pick a Mercedes

Despite what Premier Danny Williams might want people to believe about the job as chair of the federal-provincial offshore board, here are a few facts that get in the way of the neat little story he fobbed off on CBC news.

1. The process isn't finished. The premier told CBC news that he rejected the short list. The problem is he shouldn't have seen a short list; the candidates hadn't been interviewed when he started pushing Andy Wells last week.

An e-mail came my way just before I went on holidays documenting the process to date; so far there was no list for the Premier to reject. He is pushing Andy Wells before letting the head-hunters finish their job.

2. What about a woman, Danny? Even if by some chance the selection process was finished, I'd still like to know why Danny is pushing Andy Wells and not a senior executive with bags of offshore knowledge like ..say.. Leslie Galway? If for some reason she wasn't on the list of five slated for interviews, the Prem took a strange step by passing over Leslie in favour of Andy.

Why did the Prem take Leslie out of the CNLOPB process? Or if she was omitted already, why didn't he just put her right back in?

3. Under the Atlantic Accord, the real one signed in 1985, the feds and the province must use an open, competitive process to find a chief executive officer. That's blank and white. If Danny wants to live by the agreement as he claimed during the revenue dispute then he should do so now by sticking to clause 16.

Danny Williams is trying a closed, secretive process instead. If Andy hadn't blabbed, we never would have known. In the process underway, we know that there is little or no room for political interference. We won't see some candidate flung up by one party or another like this was a banana republic: the most qualified person will get the job.

The Accord process is pretty specific:

- an open and transparent process, first and foremost.

- alternatively, an agreed-upon candidate.

- if all else fails, an arbitration process is described which takes the hands of both governments out of the job of finding a chief executive officer.

The Premier's attempt at political interference/patronage simply isn't allowed under the Real Atlantic Accord.

4. The Board doesn't negotiate local benefits. The Prem claims he wants Wells so that Wells can fight for added benefits for the province (What did I tell you he'd say?)

The offshore board regulates and manages exploration, development and production offshore. It doesn't set local benefits. Those things are negotiated by the provincial and federal governments. And here's the ace up the province's sleeve: under the real Accord, the provincial energy minister - namely Ed Byrne - can reject a development application. Even if the offshore board accepts a plan the province doesn't like, Ed Byrne can veto the whole thing.

He has that legal power and don't let anyone tell you differently.

Danny Williams doesn't need Andy Wells at the offshore board to negotiate a better benefits deal with the oil companies. That's Danny's job and he has all the power he needs.

So the question still remains: what is Danny up to?

- The process set out in the Atlantic Accord isn't finished.
- Even if it was, there is a specific means established for selecting a chairman for the offshore Board: Williams is ignoring both the spirit and the letter of the Accord without any reason.
- Why did the Prem take Leslie Galway out of the running for CEO to make room for Andy?
- The Prem already has all the power he needs to negotiate increased industrial benefits for the province. Why is he pushing the nonsense that he needs Andy to help out?

Maybe we could actually let the process - the legal process, free of political interference actually work as the real accord provides. If we take political games out of the offshore, the people of the province might actually get a highly qualified person to run the board - say a Mercedes, a BMW or a Volvo of a CEO.

I don't know about you, but I am getting a little tired of the fiats.