All posts tagged patronage

The Failure of the Throne Speech

Ian Bron and Allan Cutler

The following piece ran in the Hill Times on October 21, 2013.

We had hoped that that the Conservatives would commit to protecting Canadians values through the Throne Speech. We had watched and waited for improvements in existing laws already designed to protect these values. But we did not waste time in false hopes. There appeared to be something for everyone offered in the Throne Speech unless you are an advocate of truth, honesty and transparency in government. In fact, we did not witness anything that promotes openness and honesty in government. The following details some of the significant ‘lacks’.

1. A commitment to strengthen the Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActThe PSDPA came into force in early 2006, fulfilling a key Conservative promise. However, the seven years since have shown it to be wanting. The first commissioner, Christiane Ouimet, refused to seriously investigate any cases. Second, the PSDPA, and by extension the tribunal it created, is unlikely to protect any whistleblower, since the burden of proof to demonstrate reprisal is much too high. Whistleblowers also have no right of access to courts.

There are deep flaws including unwarranted secrecy and jurisdictional limits that allow public servants to avoid sanctions simply by resigning or finding a job outside of the public sector.… Read the rest

Does Canada need patronage?

Every now and then I come across a column or editorial that surprises me with its audacity. The one linked below is an excellent example. Written by Jordan Press, a Parliamentary journalist and self-acclaimed news literacy junkie, it builds a case on the merits of patronage in Canadian politics. He draws on experts in the field such as Donald Savoie and Robert Bothwell. In essence his argument boils down to one point: as long as merit still counts, then patronage helps keep our political system functioning smoothly.

Sadly, he misses two crucial points. First, he draws on the words of Sir John A. MacDonald. Now, I won’t deny that our political system is still stuck in the 19th Century – but I wouldn’t say that’s a good thing. 60% of Canadian voters are represented by about 45% of the seats in Parliament, which means they have about 5% of the control of government’s agenda. People know this, thus low voter turnout at elections.

Secondly, patronage is inherently, fundamentally corrupt. No ifs, ands or buts. If merit matters, then appointments can be made without it. Only when merit is not the main point is it needed. My favourite example of this is Sheila Copps’ defence of the appointment of Jean Pelletier as head of VIA Rail because he rode the train a lot.Read the rest

Government still mum on whether it will staff appointments commission

This story has been around for five years now. Back in 2006, just after Harper won his first minority, he started to fulfill his promise to create a public appointments commission. In theory, that would have ended (or at least weakened) the patronage system by having all public appointments go through a merit-based process.

But when he tried to appoint the first Commissioner – a businessman from the Alberta oil patch – the opposition cried foul. They felt the proposed appointee was a Tory loyalist and so rejected him. Put into a snit, Harper refused to try again, blaming the opposition parties. This reluctance to put his picks to a multi-party review process had the effect of convincing critics that he wanted to put in a lap dog.

But things have changed: the Conservatives now have their majority. Yet, while it is early days, they are declining to even reveal whether they plan to get the commission going even though they could put in anyone they wanted.

(And once again they are using the “we abused the system so people would demand a better one” argument.)

This has critics again speculating. Some, such as Duff Connacher of Democracy Watch, remain convinced that Harper will put in a lap dog.… Read the rest