More conflict of interest questions from Opposition around Furey, wealthy friends

N.L. Premier Andrew Furey is facing more conflict-of-interest questions from his political opponents over his friendships. (Patrick Butler/CBC - image credit)
N.L. Premier Andrew Furey is facing more conflict-of-interest questions from his political opponents over his friendships. (Patrick Butler/CBC - image credit)

Premier Andrew Furey is again defending himself, and his friendships, against conflict of interest questions — this time about when, and why, one of his best friends quit as chair of Nalcor Energy.

Brendan Paddick was chair of the crown energy corporation until he resigned on March 24, about a week before the provincial government announced it was lifting its ban on land-based wind power.

Paddick is a board member of World GH2, a company looking to set up a massive wind-hydrogen plant in western Newfoundland — something that couldn't happen without the lifting of the moratorium.

Documents provided to CBC News by the Opposition PC Party show an hourlong cabinet meeting held on March 24, less than four hours before Paddick's resignation.

In the House of Assembly on Monday, Opposition leader Barry Petten asked what was talked about at the meeting, and what happened afterward.

"Did Brendan Paddick receive a heads-up about the lifting of the wind moratorium?" he said.

"What we're talking about today is conflict of interest and whether inside information was given to the proponent of a billion-dollar project," he said.

Furey, citing cabinet secrecy rules, wouldn't say whether the cabinet meeting included talk about wind power.

In his resignation letter, also provided to CBC by the PC Opposition, Paddick doesn't offer a reason for quitting, but he does point to a recommendation from Justice Richard Leblanc's Muskrat Falls inquiry report saying directors should be reasonably compensated for their work.

That didn't stop Petten from asking whether someone in cabinet leaked information.

"If they did maybe you need to bring the RCMP or RNC to investigate this further," he said, speaking to reporters later Monday.

"Maybe the commissioner of legislative standards should look into this."

This isn't the first time Furey has had to defend himself — and his friendships — against conflict of interest questions.

Last month, the premier was justifying his stay at a luxury lodge owned by his billionaire friend John Risley — the man trying to get the government to approve his wind-hydrogen plan.

Speaking to reporters Monday, Furey said there's no chance Paddick had advance notice the government would be lifting its wind moratorium.

"You can take two random dots at any point in time and try to draw a line to them," he said.

"That's fair, I suppose, for the Opposition to do, but it's not the case."

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