The Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) has regularly fielded criticism of board appointments as patronage positions and claims of board members being unqualified, because they do not have a history in the oil industry.
Objections have been raised as appointments are first revealed — such as in the case of former provincial government communications manager Elizabeth Matthews, who ultimately turned down an appointment following such criticism.
That said, it is true board members have typically not come out of the oil and gas industry.
Reg Anstey, for example, had retired from his position as president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour just days before being appointed to the CNLOPB.
“It’s something new and different. Obviously, there’s a lot to learn here,” Anstey told The Telegram in November 2008, following his appointment.
David Wells and Conrad Sullivan were appointed in June 2010 — Wells with a background in project management and business and Sullivan in the fishing industry.
The board’s acting chair, Ed Drover, is a financial adviser by trade, with a background that extends into real estate and tourism.
Yet, as acting CEO Max Ruelokke told The Telegram this week, board members are also briefed by CNLOPB staff before board discussions and the decisions — affecting safety, environmental protection and benefits — are made.
The Penashue campaign
Recently, a controversy has circled around an existing board member.
On Oct. 17, the MP for St. John’s East, NDP member Jack Harris, stood in the House of Commons and criticized Reg Bowers, appointed to the board in December 2011.
“He proved unable to competently run a local election campaign within the rules, but Reg Bowers was still so well regarded by the prime minister that he was awarded with a plum appointment to the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board,” Harris said.
Bowers has ties with businesses and charities active in Labrador, but also led the campaign of now-MP Peter Penashue, during the last federal election.
That campaign is being investigated by Elections Canada, following complaints of illegal overspending, acceptance of corporate discounts on airfare and corporate contributions disguised as donations from private individuals.
In a letter to constituents posted on his website earlier this week, Penashue stated he was unaware of any impropriety in relation to campaign finances and suggested the responsibility for any rule breaking, if it has taken place, would lay with Bowers.
Bowers, meanwhile, has told the Toronto Star misinformation is circulating in regards to the campaign.
“We were not aware of this matter (of campaign spending) at the time of the appointment to the CNLOPB,” stated an email from federal Minister of Natural Resources Joe Oliver in response to questions from The Telegram this week.
“This matter is between the new official agent (for the campaign) and Elections Canada.”