November 23, 2015
Publication source: iPolitics
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau should cancel 49 “future appointments” and early appointment renewals left behind by former Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government and introduce a transparent new appointments process, says NDP ethics critic Alexandre Boulerice.
“They have to look at the possibility of overturning those nominations,” Boulerice said in an interview. “Sometimes it may not be possible to do it but if it is possible to do it, perhaps they can make their own choice.”
“I think that the Liberal government, which promised us a lot of change, should also cease that practice and put in place a nomination system for those key posts that is public, transparent, independent and based on merit and not friendship.”
Green Party Leader Elizabeth May said the appointments were “incredible” and “galling.”
“I don’t remember ever hearing about advancing the reappointment of people whose terms aren’t over yet in advance of leaving office.”
However, May said the government should seek a legal opinion before it acts, because it may be difficult to cancel the appointments of those who were appointed “on good behaviour.”
“I would at least suspend the ones that haven’t taken effect yet so that they can be reviewed,” said May, adding it won’t help taxpayers if the government ends up embroiled in lawsuits from those who were reappointed early by Harper’s government.
The comments come after iPolitics revealed that Harper’s cabinet quietly stacked government agencies and crown corporations with dozens of “future appointments,” and early appointment renewals in the final weeks of its regime. While some had been due to come up for renewal in November and December, others were renewed up to a year in advance of when they had been scheduled to expire and made effective the date the appointees’ current term was due to end.
In the case of the National Energy Board, which regulates the construction of pipelines and the import of oil and natural gas, the move means the Trudeau government won’t be able to appoint anyone to the board for years.
Among the mandates Trudeau gave Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr was to “modernize the National Energy Board to ensure that its composition reflects regional views and has sufficient expertise in fields such as environmental science, community development and Indigenous traditional knowledge,” May pointed out Monday.
Some of those who were renewed early have deep roots in the Conservative Party. Bruce Hallsor whose appointment to the Prince Rupert Port Authority was renewed in May, effective when his current appointment expires in December, has been a longtime Conservative organizer. During the recent election, Hallsor arranged a campaign event for Harper that became controversial after uniformed Boy Scouts were used as backdrops – despite Scouts Canada’s policy against Scouts getting involved in political events.
Officials in Trudeau’s office have said little to date about the “future appointments” or whether the Liberal transition team was told about them, saying they are “assessing the situation.”
Olivier Duchesneau, a spokesman for Trudeau’s office, said the Liberals have already promised to change the way people are appointed to government positions.
“It is regrettable that, particularly over the last decade, government appointments have become synonymous with cynical backroom politics,” Duchesneau said.
“This is not a reflection of individual appointees, but rather of the opaque nature of the process surrounding their selection. Canadians voted for a different approach. That’s why we’ve committed to restoring Canadians’ faith in their government – in part by adopting a new government wide appointment process that is open and based on merit.”
Boulerice backs the idea of changing the appointment process.
“For us in the NDP, this is totally unacceptable. We don’t understand how people who have posts that reach their term in April or June next year can be renewed for three years, five years. It is really the Conservatives taking advantage of power to compensate their friends and make partisan nominations right up to the last minute.”
“For a long time the NDP has said we should have an independent process to be able to name people to these posts, which are important posts, but according to competence – not according to who you know in the apparatus of power.”
Boulerice said he is also concerned by the future appointment and early renewals on the National Energy Board, saying the Harper government appears to have tried to ensure that it represents the Conservative government’s view even after it was no longer in power.
“They tried to impose a straight jacket on the new government in place in Ottawa in order to favour their own friends and also their own ideology. We had a government for almost 10 years that was hooked on oil, they were a kind of oil junkies, and they tried to make sure that the National Energy Board continued in that same vein and with the same orientation.”
Conservative spokesperson Cory Hann said Sunday it will be up to Trudeau’s government to decide what to do.
“It will be up to the current government to determine if it wishes to overturn any appointments or re-appointments made by the previous government.”