08 August 2006

Ruelokke wins; government's actions called reprehensible, callous

Mr. Justice Raymond Halley handed down his ruling in the case Max Ruelokke was forced to bring against the Danny Williams government in an effort to have Williams and his cabinet live up to the law governing the offshore regulatory board.

Ruelokke won.

Halley's comments on the provincial cabinet's actions in the matter are scathing, calling Ruelokke's treatment at the hands of cabinet "reprehensible". Halley said "[o]n the whole, the Respondent has treated the Applicant with contempt
and disrespect." (p. 22)

Several new details of the case emerged in today's ruling, details that undermine the credibility of the government's campaign to install St. John's mayor Andy Wells in the job as head of the board regulating the offshore industry.

According to Mr. Justice Halley, before the hiring process was sent to a third party arbitration panel, federal natural resources minister John Efford offered to split the combined chairman of the board and chief executive officer job and send only the board chair position to the panel. Williams and the provincial government never took up Efford's offer despite subsequent claims they wanted to split the job in the interests of "good governance."
Minister Efford initially advised the Respondent that the federal government intended to submit only the position of Chair of the Board for mandatory arbitration.
It was at that point that the Respondent had an excellent opportunity to insist that both governments proceed under section 12 of the Act for the selection of the Chair and that Panel or another Panel be constituted under section 24 of the Act to select a different person to be the CEO of the Board. According to the Respondent, the good
governance of the Board was "“at stake"”.

Instead of proceeding with the selection of the Chair of the Board only as suggested by Minister Efford, the Respondent appears to have embraced the "“one person"” concept. In reply to Minister Efford'’s letter, the Respondent issued a press release on August 25, 2005 in which Minister Byrne announced that Dean MacDonald would be the province'’s representative on a Panel that would select one person to be both the Chair and CEO of the Board. (p. 9)
Halley also confirmed that the selection panel used Robertson Surette, the company hired to conduct the initial search for chairman/CEO to conduct the second arbitration panel. The initial approach by RobeSuretterrette was scuttled by Danny Williams bizarre and thus far unexplained efforts to foist Andy Wells on a process that was nearing completion.

Halley called Andy Wells unqualified and said "it was mischievous for the Respondent to continue to 'push' for his appointment [of Andy Wells] after the Panel had made its decision." Bond Papers reached the same conclusion on Wells' lack of qualification last July.

So far no one has been able to come up with a good explanation for the Premier's "mischief" beyond pique.

While Danny Williams said three weeks ago he would abide by Mr. Justice Halley's ruling, odds are good that Williams will opt to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court of Canada if need be.

The Premier was unavailable for comment today. Let's see what he does on this file next.

Anyone wanting a copy of the decision in pdf format can simply drop me an e-mail.