14 March 2011

Matthews appointment to offshore board kept under wraps until leak

Flip back to the provincial government news release archive for last December and there’s one thing you won’t see:  an announcement appointing Elizabeth Matthews to occupy a provincial seat on the offshore regulatory board.

That’s because they didn’t issue an announcement despite sending the federal government a letter advising the feds of the provincial appointment. You can find the letter online at the Official Opposition’s website.  They got it from the provincial natural resources department.

In the second paragraph of the letter, natural resources minister Shawn Skinner  also nominates Matthews as vice-chair of the offshore regulatory board. That’s something the federal government would have to agree to.  Apparently they did but only on the condition that the province accept a federal second vice-chair.

One huge difference between the two vice-chairs, incidentally is that the federal one actually was a senior policy advisor in a previous life.  The biographical sketch of Elizabeth Matthews was evidently written by someone in the latter stages of advanced pinochiosis.  For example, the bio sketch talks about a re-negotiation of the Atlantic Accord.  That never happened so it would be pretty hard for Matthews to have been involved in it at all, let alone at the level the writer claimed.

There’s a story in Saturday’s Telegram on this but sadly it isn’t online. The story includes some quotes from a bizarro news release Skinner issued on Friday, supposedly to correct information in the Liberal release that went out along with Skinner’s letter to the feds.

The bizarro thing is that he didn’t actually correct anything. Instead, Skinner confirmed what the Liberals said.  he also did a bit of a nose-puller when he claimed that the provincial government had to appoint Matthews to the board in order to nominate her as vice chair.

Think of that as being a chicken-and-egg version. Before now, the federal and provincial governments could successfully agree on an appointment as vice-chair before making an announcement.  The board seat was secondary.  In this case, the provincial government apparently tried to push Matthews forward with a seat on the board and then tried to cut the deal on the vice-chair’s job.

Surprise.  Surprise.

The feds didn’t play along and put forward their own nominee for a second spot in a “I’ll take yours but only if you take mine too” kinda deal.

Both bits of that – the provincial ploy and the federal counter - likely have a lot to do with the fact that Matthews is basically a patronage appointee with no relevant qualifications to take on the vice-chair’s job. She can’t really hold a candle to either the current or former chair and she’s outclassed experientially speaking by the guy she was supposedly replacing.  Had the provincial government opted for a meritorious appointment perhaps with an open competition they might have found one of several qualified women from the province to take the job.

Word of Matthews’ appointment leaked out about three or four weeks ago in the province’s oil community.  It caused a great deal of consternation.  A few weeks after word started to spread, CBC’s David Cochrane reported it.  He only gave the bare bones of the basic story though. Apparently CBC isn’t reporting the rest of these details as they’ve come to light.  It will be interesting to see if anyone adds new details to the story this week or if this is really the end of the story.

- srbp -