03 December 2005

Bond right about Wells

Way back in July, when Andy Wells first leaked the story that Danny Williams had put him up as a propspective chair of the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Board, the Bond Papers pointed out the guy wouldn't be getting job.

After months of speculation but other people, turns out the Bond Papers got it right.

Read the story below by Terry Roberts, at The Telegram. It is again reprinted in full, below so that an electronic version won't disappear.

Max Ruelokke is eminently qualified for the job in so many ways. He's the calibre of candidate Andy was up against and, while Andy is good for a lot of other things, in this case, the man was outclassed by every single name that has been mentioned.

Including Leslie Galway, who, oddly, Premier Wells felt didn't have the stuff to run the province's offshore regulator for more cash than she is currently making running his rump of a department.

Then in one of the most bizarre of appointment suggestsions - before Joan Cleary to run Bull Arm - the premier touted Andy Wells to run the offshore board. The goal was simple, according to Danny Williams: to get more benefits for this province from the offshore, with Andy Wells to fight for those benefits through the offshore board.

The problem with the premier's argument was equally simple: as Danny Williams himself admitted later on, the offshore board doesn't negotiate or otherwise set local benefits. Danny does.

So here we are, all the months later, on the eve of the Prime Minister's visit to St. John's and someone leaks the decision apparently reached by panel appointed to find a new chair for the offshore board.

How curious. I wonder who'll be looking for time in the PM's agenda for Monday?

Count on this issue to come up tomorrow at a forum sponsored by CBC Radio's The Current, in which the Mayor of Sin Jawn's is a panelist...

Saturday, December 3, 2005
Wells comes up dry
By Terry Roberts - The Telegram

Left - Andy Wells

It appears there won'’t be a shakeup at St. John'’s City Hall after all.

After months of speculation and controversy, The Telegram has learned that Mayor Andy Wells has been passed over for the position of chairman and chief executive officer of the federal-provincial board that regulates the province'’s offshore oil and gas industry.

In a surprising twist, a joint selection panel led by prominent businessman Harry Steele has instead offered the post to Max Ruelokke, a former deputy minister of mines and energy with the provincial government in the 1990s.

Sources say Wells, who was publicly endorsed by Premier Danny Williams for the job, has been offered the position of vice-chairman.

It'’s not clear whether he will accept the secondary role with the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB), but there'’s speculation the decision may touch off another row between the federal and provincial governments.

The premier'’s spokeswoman, Elizabeth Matthews, said Williams would not be commenting while the selection process was ongoing.

But sources say Williams is fuming over the decision and may confront Prime Minister Paul Martin on the issue during his campaign visit to St. John'’s Monday.

If so, it would be reminiscent of 2004, when Williams battled Ottawa over changes to the Atlantic Accord oil revenue sharing agreement.

After months of bitter negotiations, the dispute ended with the federal government agreeing to pay $2 billion in upfront money to the province.

It'’s believed Ruelokke, who has worked in the private sector since leaving government in 1998, was a compromise between Rex Gibbons, the federal government'’s choice for the job, and Wells, who was favoured by the province.

Gibbons has a Ph.D in geology and served as a Liberal MHA for the district of St. John'’s West from 1989 to '’97.

He is a former minister of mines and energy and was once the province'’s representative on the CNLOPB.

Ruelokke, a civil engineer and Grand Bank native, ran the Marystown Shipyard and the Bull Arm fabrication site, and comes with an intimate knowledge of this province'’s oil and gas industry.

He is currently the general manager of East Coast operations for AMEC Oil and Gas Ltd., an English company that provides engineering, procurement and construction management services to offshore oil and gas projects.

Neither Wells nor Ruelokke would confirm anything when contacted Friday.

"“I have no comment,"” said Wells, who planned to resign as mayor if given the job, which pays roughly $200,000 annually.

Wells has served on city council since 1977, and was re-elected to his third term as mayor on Sept. 27.

He has often been critical of various oil companies over their level of investment in the province, and his nomination for the job is said to have been strongly opposed by those in the industry.

Ruelokke acknowledged he was interviewed for the job this week, but sounded surprised to hear he was a leading candidate when contacted by The Telegram Friday morning.

"“I assumed I was one of a number of people who had interviews and didn'’t make any assumptions beyond that, really,"” said Ruelokke, who chaired an offshore petroleum engineering task force established by the former Liberal provincial government in 1998.

The process of selecting a new chair and CEO began making headlines last July after it was revealed that Wells was the province'’s first choice for the job.

Then-natural resources minister John Efford quickly weighed in, saying Wells did not make the short list of an independent head-hunting firm that had been seeking out potential candidates.

Both sides eventually agreed to appoint a joint selection committee.

Steele, chairman of Newfoundland Capital Corp. Ltd., was joined on the committee by a pair of government appointees - — Wayne Thistle for the Government of Canada and Dean MacDonald for the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Steele was the mutual choice of Thistle and MacDonald.

It'’s not known how many candidates made the short list, but several interviews took place last week.

Ruelokke said if he were given the job, politics would not play a role.

"“'I'’ve never been involved in organized politics in my life,"” he said.