16 August 2006

Danny's claims don't match the facts, Part 2

The first process to select a chairman and chief executive officer for the offshore regulatory was a group of public servants appointed by the federal and provincial governments, with Robertson Surette's St. John's office co-ordinating a selection process.

They used criteria approved by both governments that, among other things:

- required a single individual for a single position of chairman and CEO;

- included the criterion that the ideal candidate would have "extensive experience in the operational aspects of offshore petroleum activities..."

This process was interrupted at the point where approximately five candidates were selected for detailed interviews. Andy Wells was not on that list and, based on public information, had never previously been considered for the job.

As revealed in July 2005, the first process was interrupted in June 2005 when Danny Williams proposed it be scrapped and that Andy Wells be appointed to the single, combined position.

When Danny Williams claims he supported Andy Wells from the outset and that he was opposed to industry experience from the outset, his claims are directly opposite to the facts.

The second selection process was a committee, provided in the Atlantic Accord that was appointed by both the federal and provincial governments and chaired by well-known businessman Harry Steele. As agreed by both governments, the panel was given the mandate to select a single person.

Danny Williams claimed in an interview on Wednesday that:

When the panel came back and made a recommendation of Mr. Ruelokke, it was assured to me by the panel that there would be in fact be the recommendation, which did occur, that these two roles would be split. So therefore that Mr. Ruelokke could be the CEO and then of course Mr. Wells could step in as chairman of the board. That recommendation was not followed and therefore then I felt you know basically the process through which the panel had made the recommendation was flawed.
This could not have occurred, since the panel made no such decision. The Premier's memory is false or he is deliberately misrepresenting the situation.

As indicated in the statement of fact in the decision on Ruelokke v. Government of Newfoundland and Labrador and consistent with the evidence presented by both parties to the judge, the Steele panel made the appointment of a single individual for chairman and CEO as directed by the terms of reference established by the federal government and the provincial government.

The Premier is simply wrong when he refers to the Steele panel's decision as a "recommendation." Under the Accord provisions, the panel made a decision which was binding on both parties on the issue of who would fill the single job. Anything else it offered was an unsolicited and non-binding comment.

The first indication that the provincial government, i.e. Premier Williams, wanted to split the single job into two was in late December 2005, two weeks after the Steele panel reached its conclusion and fully six months after the Wells nomination had first been proposed.

When the panel offered an additional suggestion on splitting the job in two, it exceeded its mandate under the Accord implementation act and the wording of their comments in that regard are revealing:
During its discussions regarding the operation of the Board and in interviews
with candidates, the Panel concluded that in accordance with current board governance practices, the roles of Chair and Chief Executive Officer should be separated, with the Chair becoming a non-executive, part-time position. While this matter is outside the mandate of the Panel, we recommend that both governments consider taking this action.
Note that the panel clearly understood it was making a suggestion that was outside its mandate and as such it is distinctly different from what the Premier claimed.

Second, the recommendation is that the two orders of government should consider the approach of creating two jobs where one now exists. This suggests it was not a position the panel felt strongly about.

Third, this is a recommendation or suggestion. Under the Accord implementation act, the panel's choice of Ruelokke is binding on government. Williams' argument on this point was summarily dismissed by Mr. Justice Halley.

Fourthly, and most importantly, the Steele panel suggested the chairman position be reduced to a part-time, non-executive position. In other words, the chairman position under such an arrangement would be the lesser of the two positions in terms of influencing the board's overall operations. The reduced role of the part-time job would also be reflected in the salary which, as in the Nova Scotia board would be less than $15, 000 per year.

Again, as in so many instances on so many matters, the Premier's claims are at odds with the facts as already established.