Dwight Ball defends staff actions in poster controversy
Premier makes comments in wake of CBC story revealing aide's email to MUN about 'Resign' signs
Premier Dwight Ball is defending his office's role in the handling of a controversy involving critical posters plastered on light poles near Confederation Building earlier this month.
The premier's director of communications, Nancy O'Connor, wrote Memorial University on June 5 to ask who was responsible for light poles on campus, and whether the posters could be removed.
Those signs, which had the word "Resign" superimposed on a picture of Ball, had been put on poles along Prince Philip Drive the night before.
CBC News obtained O'Connor's email to the university through access to information.
The premier told reporters Thursday morning that O'Connor was just doing her job.
"She simply made the call," Ball said. "That would be expected from someone working in the premier's office, or a director of communications. Simply, to get some clarification on what the policy was around those posters. She made that."
Ball said he found out about the email "after the fact."
And the premier stressed that O'Connor did not take any action to have the signs removed, after hearing back from MUN that the light poles did not fall in the university's jurisdiction.
'Clearly we were not involved'
Within 24 hours, other posters near Confederation Building were torn down by a private contractor hired by an unnamed government official.
Ball told the legislature at the time that no one from his office was involved in that decision.
The premier stood by that response Thursday.
There was no direction given from the premier's office in any way, shape or form.- Premier Dwight Ball
"The question was about taking down the posters, and clearly we were not involved in the premier's office in taking down those posters," Ball told reporters.
"There was no direction given from the premier's office in any way, shape or form."
Ball said the decision to remove the posters was an operational one, taken by staff in the Department of Transportation and Works.
And the premier stressed that people in his office had no other involvement in discussions around removing posters before they were torn down.
"This is it," Ball said. "That was the only involvement."
'Just really disturbing'
But the Opposition Tories are taking issue with the email sent by the premier's director of communications.
"It's just really disturbing that the premier and this government continues to be getting caught not telling the full truth," Progressive Conservative MHA Steve Kent said Thursday.
"And the only way we get truth is through [access to information] requests."
Kent said the latest controversy is part of "an alarming pattern of deceit" with the Liberal government.
"We're also seeing that the premier's office doesn't even have the ability to manage the simple issues," he said.
"The public confidence in this government continues to be eroded because we're not getting the truth."