Process incomplete

Dave Bartlett
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Dunderdale said Matthews’ appointment wasn’t kept secret

Premier Kathy Dunderdale

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 Matthews has withdrawn (her name),” added the premier.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.

Organizations: CNLOPB, Canada-Newfoundland, Offshore Petroleum Board

Geographic location: Ottawa

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Recent comments

  • James S
    March 17, 2011 - 14:20

    Can anyone actually tell us what Ms. Matthews qualifications are? The debate seems less on her qualifications and more on the Conservatives saying she is capable while the opposition says she does not have the credentials. Does Ms. matthews have an MBA or law degree of graduate studies in public relations? This story/debate is well short of facts.

  • Fintip
    March 17, 2011 - 11:55

    A directorship and the vice-chair of the board of CNOPB are two entirely separate appointments. The former requires no federal approval and hence Ms. Mathews de facto became a director with the issuance of the Order in Council irrespective whem she was advised of the appointment (her acceptance having already been a precondition for consideration). The absence of any public announcement of that fact was unquestionably to avoid the very public controversary we now have. It might well have jeopardized her chances for confirmation as vice-chair, which does indeed require the concurrence of the federal government. Mr. Skinner fell into the common political trap of issuing a denial when the truth would have been far less damaging than the eventual revelation that it was a lie. Having stood back from the controversary for several days, Premier Dunderdale had ample opportunity to see the trap and to take steps to avoid it. Instead of setting the record straight and mildly rebuking Skinner in the process, she chose to close ranks and, in effect, compounded the problem. I think she is less in need of a new communications director than a director of ethics (the secondbeing rarely embodied in the first). It does reflect well on Dunderdale that she accepted ownership of the problem. The fact that her precedessor may have orchestrated the appointment does not alter the fact that the responsibility - and accountability - rests with her. I even think it commendable that she defended Ms.Mathews even if I believe, as no doubt does a great majority of the public, that she was not the best qualified person and that her nomination was down to patronage and partianship. That said, I could have far more readily accepted Mathew's initial appointment as director, at least within the context that political appointments - however distasteful in principle - are a reality of our political system and are tolerable when the appointee has at least some measure of credibility and competence commensurate with the importance of the position. Frankly what really boggles the mind is that Ms. Mathews didn't simply agree to withdraw herself from consideration for the vice-chair position but stay on as director. Dunderdale could have nominated one of the other provincial reps on the board for vice-chair or alternatively, since the vice-chair position is optional under the legislation, deferred any nomination until she was sure her candidate could pass public muster. Incidentally, the federal government does restrict former senior civil servants from appointment to boards for a period of one year if they have had a significant involvement with that board during their employ. It is not clear whether this would include the CNOPB. As well, our politicans and ex-politicans might take note of the recent report of B.C.'s Conflict Commissioner, Paul Fraser, advocating far more attention to the potential conflicts associated with their post-political business activities. The debacle of Ms. Mathews failed appointment is an inauspicious start for Dunderdale. The mistake however it is not of a magnitude that would cause me to lose faith in her as a premier. Like many others, however, I will be looking for assurances that it is a 'one-off' and that we can look forward to honest, competent, forthright governance in the years ahead.

  • joe
    March 17, 2011 - 11:18

    AGAIN - SHE HAS NO SAFETY BACKGROUND! Am I the only one missing that point? But then, if we were to look at qualofocations, we could look at some of our ministers, like the Minister of Tourism. This stinks and yet as a province we put up with it. We are worse than they are. And anyone who thinks it is not DANNY'S appt is out to lunch.

  • Ed. A.
    March 17, 2011 - 10:49

    corruption is the downfall of all political parties especially when the leaders decide who the next leader will be. the voters should have the right to pick their leaders not have someone picked by the few insiders of the party who is only feathering their own nest. Danny Williams may be the best Premier NL ever had, but Premier Dunderdale will be the worst unless (god forbid) Yvonne Jones gets elected Premier.

  • james
    March 17, 2011 - 09:27

    where do you think dunderdale has been for the last couple of weeks ,getting tips from williams on how to handle handel the press

  • anne
    March 17, 2011 - 09:12

    I was so happy to see Premier Williams leave as I thought very highly of Kathy Dunderdale and was excited to see what she would bring to the table. I was very disappointed with her interview on CBC yesterday, all she had to say was they made a mistake and she should have apologized for sending Mr. Skinner out to do her work which he did very inadequately. I wonder if we will ever see honest politicans again or is that a thing of the past.

  • Patrick
    March 17, 2011 - 09:05

    We know she has experience. How about her education background.

  • matt
    March 17, 2011 - 08:54

    The Liberals are busy this morning!! I guess this is the new strategy...Craig Westcott must be busy too!! Maybe he should look in the mirror. Its a done deal...lets get on with getting someone else for the CNLOPB. I hear Brad Cabana is available...haha.

  • Kathy Blunderdale at it again
    March 17, 2011 - 08:51

    What an unflattering picture! lol

  • Dave from Mt Pearl
    March 17, 2011 - 08:43

    Oh my I thought Kathy was a bigger person than that.How could she, a supposedly knowledgable person not know that this reeks of a stench that is so bad even a teenager would smell it.It was a pure case of putting a person in there because she felt we owed her something,not the case.We paid Matthews a good salary which no doubt she earned,however having lost a family member to the offshore in a disaster i cannot feel she was the one.How much better would it be to have a communication specialist tell us a spin of BS about such a disaster.I am sorry but I feel myself that these communication people are over paid people who are good at speaking in circles and God knows we have enough of them as MHA's right now.How someone can speak for ten minutes and say nothing astounds me.Everyone in the inner circle knew of this appointment and yet nada a word.All denied it and tried making up excuses for it,This type of governance has to stop.It should make for a very interesting election and might I add that I am a Tory and have been for quite some time although there have been times i voted for NDP but not because of the Kings declaration to do vote anything but conservative,it was my own choice which is what democracy is all about.

  • Keith
    March 17, 2011 - 08:34

    Another spin doctor, granted not as smooth as Danny but she got her lessons from the best. Wheter the process was complete or not we have better qualified people to handle this position, not a pc cronie who will do as she is told. We need to let this government know that it can't just do what it feels like and then after the fact let the people know. They are drawing a fine line in dictatorship, as we will tell you after it is done and the hell with your complaints. Patronage at its best.

  • apple
    March 17, 2011 - 08:22

    And pigs can fly too.

  • Will our Premier cut out Pork Barrelling
    March 17, 2011 - 07:50

    Let us put the pertinent question to our Premier right here, right now and see if we can get an answer; and let us ask every potential candidate who comes to our door in October what their opinion is on Political Patronage. We can guide ourselves accordingly when we have the knowledge of how they feel about getting patronage from the pork barrel for themselves, while shafting the rest of us, and we need an answer from the Opposition, as well. The Opposition ruled with the same corrupt template over the years and no doubt they will do it again unless we, the Newfoundland and Labrador electorate make sure it comes to an end. The politicians will not make that decision, it will have to be the Newfoundland and Labrador electorate. Political Patronage is part of the reason that our province has not moved forward over the past 62 years to receive parity with the rest of Canada, our politicians were focused on what was best for them. They had no time left for looking after their electorate. It should have been a cinch to have built a vibrant economy in our province given our fine endowment of natural resources and our great strategic location, but when one is focused on him/herself, then there is no time left to do what they were elected for, that is to do their utmost for their electorate and their province. Besides I have a gut feeling that some of our natural resource base was traded off in a way that saw those politicians fare very well. Why else would our resources have ended up with some of the other provinces being the primary beneficiaries? I will repeat the question - Premier Dunderdale are you going to make your new government honest and accountable, with your very first step to attaining that goal being to cut out the corrupt action of doling out Patronage Appointments?

  • robroy
    March 17, 2011 - 07:46

    All ready we are hearing people from the latest bi-election stammering . I can see the cracks in the pc party . The party couldn't repair itself after the high tale of danny. And looks like what he thought was going to be his legacey will cost the nl governemnt a fortune. they tory times are hard times you haven't seen anything yet

  • Brad Cabana
    March 17, 2011 - 07:31

    On Monday Skinner was telling reporters, and therefore the people, that it was all a communications failure and that he was launching an investigation into why Ms Matthews wasn't informed of her appointment. On Tuesday Ms Matthews admitted she was informed in January. On Wednesday Ms Dunderdale came out stating it wasn't a communications break down, but a deliberate strategy to keep the appointment and nomination quiet. Then she says they weren't trying to keep it secret. So which one is misleading the public: Skinner, Dunderdale, Matthews or all three? Either way, atleast one of these three is. Shame it took a leak to the press, and Opposition office for all this to come out.

    • jennifer
      March 17, 2011 - 11:54

      Wow...Cabana your forces investigative skills are becoming useful!! Now just keep checking back through the years to see what other BIG appointments were made during your NEW parties time in power. You should have been around during the Tobin years if you wanted to see patronage at its best. What is the big deal? A person was offered an appointment and decided not to take it! Who cares when she was offered the position or who else knew about it? Maybe Craig Westcott would be better off spending his time at better things in the opposition office. I guess he is still trying to get back at Danny. Thank god we all see through what is going on. I wonder what skeletons are in your Guess we will find out in due time!

  • Scott Free
    March 17, 2011 - 07:06

    yes Kathy, I believe you too; just like I believe Skinner. This corruption, deceit and lies has to STOP! Does anyone in politics understand that the public is sick of this kind of unjustifiable patronage? And for the Tory koolaid slurpers...I mean for all parties. The Liberals were masters at it too; they were bold and upfront with their handouts to supporters; the Tories, both provincially and federally, try to be a little more coy and hide it. That secret society known as the Conservative Party thrives on it. And, the only reason the NDP hasn't done it, is because they haven't yet had the opportunity. Flagrant political patronage and porkbarreling has to STOP! Advancement has to be based on merit, experience, education and knowledge; period; mMale or female, and not based on who you know and what favours you do for them in return for cushy appointments. If Ms. Matthews, or anyone else for that matter, were applying for a technical position on the CNLOPB, or anywhere else, they would require specific qualifications, experience and education; what makes you think a VP can be appointed without any? It has to STOP!