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New Brunswick Government Downplays Energy Institute Resignation Over ‘Misrepresented Credentials’

The New Brunswick government is downplaying the fallout of Louis LaPierre's resignation from the province's Energy Institute after his admission that he had misrepresented some of his academic credentials.

CBC News reports that Energy Minister Craig Leonard "contends the ongoing controversy does not taint the work the former University of Moncton professor did for the government on the possible development of a shale gas industry in the province." LaPierre wrote a report called The Path Forward for the Energy Institute, which outlines the challenges faced by the province in establishing a foothold for the shale gas industry.

Despite New Brunswick Premier David Alward's statement from January 31 that LaPierre was "the right man" to be working on the shale gas industry because "Dr. LaPierre is an internationally-recognized scientist," Leonard is now asserting that science was never a part of LaPierre's job.

Leonard said that the situation is "incredibly unfortunate" but that "the reality is that the work that [LaPierre] did for the Energy Institute was based on his ability to bring these individuals who have this scientific knowledge together to deal with the issues we have in New Brunswick to address concerns."  

According to his report, The Path Forward, LaPierre was asked by the Office of the Premier and the Minister of Natural Resources to "solicit feedback on government's proposed regulations for the shale gas industry."

"The proposed regulations are critically important to building confidence among the public that Government is committed to developing the industry on a safe and sustainable basis," LaPierre wrote.

LaPierre announced that he was resigning on Thursday, two weeks after questions were raised about his credentials in a report by Radio-Canada. For years, LaPierre's biography has claimed he holds a PhD in ecology from the University of Maine.

Biographical notes issued by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency in August 2011, when the review panel for the proposed Marathon mine was announced, also listed a PhD in ecology from the University of Maine among his credentials.

The University of Maine confirmed that LaPierre has a master's degree in science education from them, but not a master's in ecology, nor a doctorate from the institution.

Spokeswoman Tamara Chumley told CBC that LaPierre does have a PhD from Walden University, in education, not science. LaPierre reportedly attributed the erroneous information to a "mixup" in his academic biography.

"Needless to say I was taken aback by the controversy, but I have now accepted that I played a role in bringing it about," LaPierre said in a statement to the Moncton Times & Transcript.

"Regardless, during the years, in documents and among various bios, I have misrepresented my academic credentials and have admitted the same to the Université de Moncton. I take full responsibility for my actions and offer a full apology for the embarrassment this situation has caused to so many that placed their trust in me."

LaPierre's statement said that he would be focusing on family and his health "in the wake of these revelations."

"To that end, I have tendered my resignation to the Minister of Energy and Mines as chair of the New Brunswick Energy Institute to ensure that the distraction of my credentials does not take away from the important work the institute has to do to move our province forward," he said.

LaPierre also reportedly resigned from a federal environmental review panel on Wednesday, for "medical reasons."

During a CBC political panel on Thursday, all four opposition parties commented on LaPierre's work on the controversial shale gas industry as problematic for the Alward government, in light of his resignation.

"The fact that he now acknowledges that he's misrepresented his academic credentials really does blow the confidence the public would have in anything the government has used Dr. LaPierre for," said Green Party Leader David Coon.

"The institute's credibility is definitely on the line," said Rick Doucet, Liberal critic for energy and mines.

"Anything that's been on shale gas that he has prepared must be peer reviewed before it can be used going forward," said NDP candidate Brian Duplessis.  

"It does undermine the whole process," said People's Alliance Leader Kris Austin. "How could it not?"

Energy Minister Craig Leonard said that the next step for the energy institute is to find a replacement for LaPierre. He accepted LaPierre's resignation in a statement issued on Thursday, and thanked him "for the work he has done in assisting the provincial government in establishing the institute."

Image Credit: Radio-Canada

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When those boxes of heavily redacted documents start to pile in, reporters at The Narwhal waste no time in looking for kernels of news that matter the most. Just ask our Prairies reporter Drew Anderson, who gleefully scanned through freedom of information files like a kid in a candy store, leading to pretty damning revelations in Alberta this spring. Long story short: the government wasn’t being forthright when it claimed its pause on new renewable energy projects wasn’t political. Just like that, our small team was again leading the charge on a pretty big story

In an oil-rich province like Alberta, that kind of reporting is crucial. But look at our investigative work on the Coastal GasLink pipeline to the west, or our Greenbelt reporting out in Ontario. They all highlight one thing: those with power over our shared natural world don’t want you to know how — or why — they call the shots. And we try to disrupt that.

Our journalism is powered by people just like you. We never take corporate ad dollars, or put this public-interest information behind a paywall. Here’s the thing: we need 300 new members to join this month to meet our budget. Will you join the pod of Narwhals that make a difference by helping us uncover some of the most important stories of our time?

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