All posts tagged Public Appointments Commission

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

Stating the obvious – public appointments process called a “fiction”

In an offshoot of the story about Dimitri Soudas’ pressure on the Port of Montreal to hire a favoured candidate (which I blogged on April 23rd), the former chair of the Old Port of Montreal called the appointments process a fiction. That is, the process is controlled by politicians and their minions.

This is no surprise. Merit-based appointments have always been very rare in Canadian government at any level – even, some would say, when it comes to judges.

Stephen Harper promised to fix this problem at the federal level with the creation of an independent Public Appointments Commission. The commission was created all right, but fell into bureaucratic purgatory when the opposition parties balked at his first appointee (they said he was a Tory partisan).

This is interesting because it shows that even so-called independent offices can be corrupted – simply by ensuring the person heading them is a political loyalist (to whichever side) or suitably pliable. The Liberals were just as good at it as the Conservatives, by the way. And, looking in NDP-governed provinces, things have been much the same there as well.

That’s why I like minority governments: the odds of a partisan individual heading up in charge of any given agency is just a little smaller.… Read the rest

A very telling denial in Soudas controversy

The latest election controversy is that of allegations that Stephen Harper’s chief of staff, Dimitri Soudas, interfered with the appointment of Montreal Port Authority’s new president.

According to some, Soudas tried to lean on the MPA’s board to appoint someone they like – and who was well connected with one Tony Accurso, who is knee deep in the construction scandals in Quebec. There’s even audio evidence of a meeting discussing how to get the favoured man in.

“He’s the boss of Quebec, the real boss of Quebec,” Accurso seems to have said in reference to Soudas’ influence. I’m sure Quebecers will appreciate that sentiment.

Luckily, this effort failed and the board, bolstered by some ministers’ support, actually picked the person they thought best qualified.

Harper has now gone on record saying that it is normal for the government to promote its favoured candidate. That may be true, but it’s hardly transparent or merit-based. In fact, this is precisely the thing voters were fed up with when the Liberals got kicked out. (One of my favourites is Sheila Copps touting Jean Pelletier as a great candidate to head Via Rail because he was well connected and had ridden a lot of trains.)

Harper should be promising to finally get the Public Appointments Commission up and running, not pretending that patronage appointments should be accepted because they’re “normal.”

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Ministers intervened after Harper spokesman lobbied Montreal Port Authority
The Globe and Mail, April 19, 2011
Summary: Stephen Harper’s top two ministers in Quebec intervened on behalf of the Montreal Port Authority after they were told the Prime Minister’s spokesman, Dimitri Soudas, was interfering with the board’s efforts to appoint a new president, The Globe and Mail has learned.… Read the rest