Hypocrisy, patronage and the cleansing power of transparency

Michel Samson is right on both counts. The Liberal MLA is right to acknowledge that last week’s collection of NDP appointees to various provincial agencies, boards and commissions is clearly a well qualified lot.

But he is right too to point out the unbecoming hypocrisy of a government that—while in opposition—railed so righteously against patronage picks.

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Last week’s 16 rubber-stamped, Grade-A choices include a former federal NDP MP, a former provincial NDP MLA, a former provincial NDP candidate, the father of a current NDP cabinet minister and a party donor. The government, Samson noted, had already appointed another former NDP MLA and the son of a former provincial and national leader to significant positions too.

But interestingly, neither Samson nor Chris D’Entremont—a Tory member of the Human Resources Committee, who also tut-tutted the NDP’s hypocrisy—appear to want the process changed.

Someday, they said without saying, it may be their turn to reward friends and punish enemies, and they don’t want their own plum-proffering proscribed. (Perhaps the real reason the NDP opposed the system in opposition was that, at the time, they couldn’t imagine becoming the government…)

Our appointments process is far better than it used to be—how could it not?—but it can still be improved.

These days, if you apply for any of dozens of now-publicly-advertised positions—from the Agricultural Marshlands Conservation Commission to the Crane Operators Appeal Board—your application is first vetted by a non-partisan committee of civil servants and lay appointees.

The names of those chosen to do the choosing are published on the government’s website.

Transparent.

Once the vetters come up with their list of qualified candidates, it is passed on to the minister responsible who gets to make the final choice.

Accountable.

But we never get to decide for ourselves if the minister has chosen the best qualified candidate because the other names on the short list aren’t made public.

Which is neither transparent nor accountable.

It would be a small change but making those names public would give us the information we need to make up our own minds about whether the best qualified candidate got the position.

Transparent. And accountable.

 

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Copyright 2011 Stephen Kimber, Website

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