Premier Kathy Dunderdale says it's up to the people of Newfoundland and Labrador, not her former boss, to decide her level of competence.
In an interview on Monday with CBC News, former premier Danny Williams appeared to call into question the capabilities of Dunderdale and other female ministers when he paid a compliment to his former communications director, Elizabeth Matthews.
When asked to respond to the statement so close to an election, Dunderdale said, "I've had people try to define me all my life. I reject it categorically."
Williams, who has had a rocky relationship with Dunderdale since he left office last December, described Matthews as more competent than the women in his own cabinet. Dunderdale had been deputy premier in Williams's government, as well as the minister of natural resources.
"I am who I am," said Dunderdale.
"People of this province will decide my capabilities and abilities as leader of this party and as premier of this province and I am very comfortable with that."
In a letter that Williams wrote on Dec. 2 — a day before he stepped down as premier — and obtained by CBC News, Williams offered Matthews a six-year position as a vice-chairperson with the C-NLOPB, which regulates the offshore oil industry.
Dunderdale has always insisted that the decision to hire Matthews was hers, and has maintained that Williams had no role in selecting his former communications director for a position with the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board.
Williams said Monday that the letter was put on file and not delivered.
Speaking with reporters Tuesday, Dunderdale said the letter was a draft and she had only been made aware of it after its release by CBC News.
"So as I have said in the past, Elizabeth Matthews was my nomination, I put her name forward because I thought she was extremely competent and capable of doing that particular job and nothing that came out yesterday changed that," Dunderdale said.
However, she said that Williams had suggested to her that Matthews be considered for the job.
Matthews withdrew herself from the competition last spring, amid a political furor over what Opposition politicians called patronage.
Meanwhile, Liberal Leader Kevin Aylward is concerned that Dunderdale and Natural Resources Minister Shawn Skinner misled media last spring on whose idea it was to select Matthews.
"The present premier and the present minister of natural resources had a responsibility to clarify what was occuring in the process and it appears that they put out information that doesn't appear to be the case," Aylward told reporters.
Aylward also pointed out what he calls the appearance of growing problems within the governing PC party.
"There seems to be a friction that seems to get created almost on a daily basis."