Charles Bown was a key witness during the first phase of the Muskrat Falls Inquiry and on Friday afternoon he was also part of a shuffle within the senior ranks of the public service.
Premier Dwight Ball says there is no relationship between the two.
Bown is the new deputy minister of Tourism, Culture, Industry and Innovation (TCII).
For that post, he will be leaving his role as chief executive with Cabinet Secretariat, responsible for the “Major Projects and Initiatives Unit.” He was appointed there in 2016, expected to oversee progress of major government initiatives with implications for provincial finances and long-term economic development.
It was a wide-reaching post, where Bown was reporting to the Clerk of the Executive Council. But the premier said his decision on the new move is not a demotion.
“I’ve worked really closely with Charles and I have confidence in him and he’ll do a great job at TCII,” he told reporters, taking questions during a news conference on an unrelated topic.
Ball was explicitly asked if the move had anything to do with the civil servant’s time at the Muskrat Falls Inquiry in early December. Bown had been working with the Department of Natural Resources at the time key decisions were made by the former Progressive Conservative government leadership on advancing the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric power project.
The premier said the shuffle this week was “not at all” a reaction to the inquiry testimony.
“This was not a response to any submissions that he would have made at the inquiry at all. These were days in the past. You know different leaders, different mandates, and for us the work that Charles has done speaks for itself within government and he’ll continue on that work now with TCII,” he said.
Ball was asked about Bown’s current position, given no replacement was named. The premier suggested the responsibilities would be moving with Bown into TCII, starting Feb. 1, suggesting a structural change.
The premier’s changes to the senior public service also included the appointments of: Linda Ross as deputy minister responsible for the Women’s Policy Office; Fiona Langor as deputy minister of Advanced Education, Skills, and Labour; Susan Walsh as deputy minister responsible for Children, Seniors and Social Development; Karen Stone as deputy minister at Health and Community Services; John Abbott as special advisor for “Health in all policies;” Donna Ballard as special adviser, legislative review; David Heffernan as chief information officer under executive council and Ted Lomond as deputy minister in Natural Resources.