Premier David Alward remains confident in the expertise of the man heading the province's shale gas institute despite questions about Louis LaPierre's academic credentials.
Speaking Thursday for the first time about the controversy, Alward said he's waiting to hear what the respected environmental academic has to say when he returns from an overseas vacation.
'Certainly I have confidence in that history and the work that he has done.' —Premier David Alward
"I believe we owe that to him, to be able to do that," said Alward.
"And then we will respond once we know what the situation is."
Alward paid respect to LaPierre's distinguished career as an environmental academic.
"What I can say is Dr. LaPierre has built a very strong history and legacy of work with communities, bringing communities together on very difficult issues," said Alward.
"Certainly I have confidence in that history and the work that he has done."
Earlier this year, Alward appointed LaPierre to head the province's new shale gas institute dealing with the potential development of a shale gas industry in the province.
Alward said Thursday that LaPierre "has demonstrated significant capability" through the history of his work in environmental science, and cited LaPierre's work with the institute as an example.
"He has brought together a very impressive list of scientists from across North America, and that's a very positive thing," said Alward.
"But again, he has questions that he needs to answer and we'll await for him to respond to those and we'll have more to say at that point in time."
Questions have swirled about LaPierre's academic credentials since Sept. 4., when Radio-Canada reported LaPierre did not have a PhD from the University of Maine, as has been stated in his academic biography over the years.
LaPierre told Radio-Canada that his professor moved to Minnesota. He said his 1985 PhD was in assocation with the University of Maine and Walden University in Minnesota.
However, the Maine university stated it never had an agreement for co-operation with Walden.
The Minnesota University has since confirmed it granted a PhD to LaPierre. However, it was in the field of education, not a science-based doctorate.
- LaPierre has PhD in education, not science, university says
- Academic credentials need greater scrutiny, expert says
- Shale gas report rules out moratorium
LaPierre, a professor emeritus at University of Moncton and a member of the Order of Canada, has had a distingushed career based in ecology and environmental science.
Last year, he led the provincial government's public consultation on the possibility of developing a shale gas industry in New Brunswick. He subsequently accepted Alward's invitation to lead the shale gas institute the province created, on LaPierre's recommendation, and carry out scientific reviews on the safety of extracting shale gas through hydraulic fracturing.
Alwards comments Thursday came on the heels of similar concerns being expressed by Liberal MLA Victor Boudreau.
"Obviously, we need to get to the bottom of this," said Boudreau.
"Obviously, the university needs to look into this and we do need to hear Mr. LaPierre's side of the story."
The University of Moncton's vice-president academic is examining LaPierre's academic credentials and is expected to report this week.
The university said the first it heard of any questions about LaPierre's academic biography was late on Sept. 4.
LaPierre has been on an overseas trip since the questions about his credentials surfaced.