A personal friend of Premier Andrew Furey has quit as head of a secretly formed committee tasked with analyzing the Churchill River's potential for hydro energy.
Brendan Paddick, a close advisor to the premier and fellow founder of the Dollar A Day Foundation, was quietly appointed earlier this year as head of what the government calls the Churchill River energy analysis team.
The provincial government did not tell the public the committee existed, or that it was being chaired by Paddick. The information was uncovered by news organization allNewfoundlandLabrador.com in mid-June, as part of their reporting on decisions behind made behind closed doors by the Furey government.
Following the revelation of the committee's existence, the provincial government said the group is looking at hydro opportunities on the Churchill River, including forecasting electricity prices and energy trends, and potential capital costs associated with new developments.
Paddick's appointment to the position drew criticism at the time from opposition politicians, who said it was an instance of Furey giving a personal friend an opportunity behind closed doors.
PC Opposition leader David Brazil said at the time he wanted the provincial government to be more open about Paddick's role, to make sure there isn't a conflict of interest.
Furey responded with a statement defending Paddick's position on the panel, citing his role as the former chair of Nalcor Energy and his position on the province's rate mitigation committee.
On Thursday afternoon, five weeks after Paddick's appointment was revealed, the government issued a press release saying he has resigned.
Not hiding: Parsons
Speaking to CBC News later Thursday, Energy Minister Andrew Parsons said Paddick's resignation letter arrived in the department this week, but he hasn't yet talked to him about why he quit.
Parsons said the government hadn't been trying to hide the committee.
"I can honestly tell you that I have not given any thought to the optics, or anything of this in the sense that there certainly wasn't any intent for the information not to be there," he said.
"My last concern is about optics. My biggest concern is about the future and doing what we can to ensure that some of the issues that we've dealt with in the past are not something that, you know, the next generation's going to have to deal with."
On Thursday, Brazil said she still wants to know why the committee wasn't made public at all.
"Why was this one particularly held back [from the public] for months and months? That to me is secrecy," he said, adding there was no "rational reason" the government wouldn't announce the formation of the committee.
"They could not give an explanation, they couldn't give it to the media," he said. "That tells me, that speaks of secretiveness."
Brazil said he has no issues with Paddick's relationship with Furey, but his party's concern was that Paddick has interests in other energy-based businesses.
"That may dictate that there's a major conflict of interest here by him being involved in any of these committees," he said.
"We didn't get a clear explanation as to why he had stepped down.… That makes me wary, it makes me suspicious and I know the people of this province want people, particularly government, to be upfront with them."
The government statement said Jennifer Williams, the president and CEO of N.L. Hydro, will take over as team lead.
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