Premier Kathy Dunderdale told reporters Wednesday she still supports Elizabeth Matthews as a candidate for the vice-chair of the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB).
But she also said she respects Matthews’ decision to withdraw her name from consideration.
The premier discussed the issue with reporters for the first time following the swearing in of the government’s newest MHA, Vaughn Granter, on Wednesday.
She stuck to her message throughout the scrum.
Dunderdale said there was never any intention to hide Matthews’ nomination, and said the news simply broke before the appointment process was complete.
“Any appointment to the chair or the vice-chair … of the CNLOPB is a two-step process and requires, first of all, an appointment to the board,” she said.
Dunderdale said while the first part of the process was done, the second part — Ottawa’s approval of the candidate — was not and that’s why no announcement was made before reporters got hold of the story.
“It was never, at any point, contemplated that Ms. Matthews would hold a directorship on the board. Her nomination was for vice-chair,” she said.
“The process wasn’t completed and, subsequently, as everyone knows, Ms. Matthews has withdrawn (her name),” added the premier.
When asked why the province didn’t reveal the appointment until after reporters broke the story, Dunderdale repeated the process wasn’t complete.
But she also said it wasn’t secret.
“An announcement … would have been made once the process was complete,” Dunderdale said.
“My experience of her, over 10 years of working with her, showed me she had extraordinary communication skills, she was a strategic thinker, she was very intelligent and articulate. These are great skills for any kind of an organization.” - Premier Kathy Dunderdale
The premier also said Matthews’ nomination came from her, not from former premier Danny Williams.
Matthews was Williams’ director of communications and she left the government after he resigned this fall.
When asked about the optics that it was a patronage appointment, Dunderdale said Matthews was qualified.
“My experience of her, over 10 years of working with her, showed me she had extraordinary communication skills, she was a strategic thinker, she was very intelligent and articulate. These are great skills for any kind of an organization,” she said.
Dunderdale said the order-in-council naming Matthews to the board was sent prematurely, and should have been held until after Ottawa confirmed the appointment.
She also said the CNLOPB wasn’t notified because the process wasn’t complete.
Reporters asked the premier whether the appointment may have been more controversial if announced in December — when the order-in-council was given — as it was only weeks after Williams and Matthews’ respective resignations.
Dunderdale said she had no problem with a public debate over the appropriateness of Matthews for the job.
She suggested the reaction and debate which followed was something the province was ready for. But she said the province felt it could articulate its side of the story to the public as to why Matthews was a good fit for the job.