10 April 2006

Feds speak on offshore board appointment

Three days of coverage from The Telegram last week on the ongoing saga of Max Ruelokke.

You may recall he was picked to head up the board regulating oil and gas development offshore Newfoundland.

The provincial government is still pushing for St. John's Mayor Andy Wells. Originally, the province wanted Wells to be chairman and chief executive officer. When that didn't fly, they suggested the Nova Scotia approach, where their board is run by two people.

The part-time chair pulls in about 10K a year for her part-time efforts, although Andy Wells apparently believes the job pays almost as much as he currently sucks down for belittling people at City Hall.

Anyway, The Telly finally got a spokesman for federal natural resources minister Gary Lunn who said - after approval from the very highest of highest levels- that Ruelokke is in without Andy. We can say from the highest of high levels because the story has been all over town for weeks, right down to the response from the Prime Minister when he was briefed on the whole thing and the fact Ruelokke was supposed to start work the last week of March:
"There was an arbitration process that happened, the results of that process are final and binding and both levels of government are in a position where they will have to respect that," [Emma] Welford told The Telegram Friday.

Welford said Ruelokke's appointment will be made official "very,very soon."

"We wish him all the success in his new position," she added.
Overturning the decision made by the arbitration panel would require changes to federal legislation, a process that could take several months if not years. Premier Danny Williams has never explained why he is pushing Wells for the job.

Provincial natural resources minister Ed Byrne recently said: "It is our position that we would like to see the mayor involved in some capacity, particularly if the position was split, we'd like to see him as chair."

Byrne was not asked why the provincial government has not appointed Wells to the vacant provincial seat on the board giving Wells the ability to be "involved in some capacity." The provincial appointment has been available since before Danny Williams first spoke publicly about appointing Wells.

In the meantime, the ministerial co-ordination e-mail in effect in Ottawa doesn't seem to be working. Better known as the gag order, it required every cabinet minister in Stephen Harper's administration to have his or her public comments vetted by the Prime Minister's Office.

After Emma told the Telly what - wait for it - the Prime Minister had approved, federal fish minister Loyola Hearn was telling VOCM something different:
Federal Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn says he suspects an official announcement on the new chair for the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board will be made sooner rather than later. Max Ruelokke is waiting to take on the post, having apparently been selected by an arbitration panel. Hearn says he would think with the conversations he's had on the matter, the announcement will come very soon. Hearn says a change in legislation to divide the position of CEO and chairman, is a possibility if the two governments agree on that.
Loyola's comments are basically the same as what he said last week on this file, except for a decisions being made sooner rather than later. Looks like Loyola needs to read more memoranda or have his staff deliver better briefings.

Maybe Loyola is just out of the loop on this one altogether.

After all, he apparently told VOCM legislation would be a possibility if the position at the offshore board were split into two jobs. Had he been in the know, Loyola would have known legislative change would be mandatory: that's the only way to vacate the decision made by the arbitration panel under the Atlantic Accord implementation acts.