Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the
round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're
not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify
them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change
things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the
crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that
they can change the world, are the ones who do.

Steve Jobs
US computer engineer & industrialist (1955 - 2011)

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Political Appointments Commission DOA

It's hard to know for certain if Dwight Ball thinks people in this province are really stupid, or that because he's new to the reins of power people will blindly trust his moves, or what, but his first attempt at democratic reform is bordering on hilarious. During the last election Ball campaigned on taking the politics out of political appointments. In this province appointments have been used to reward political friends from the highest directorships to the kids raking the lawns in the parks. Patronage here isn't an art form, it's a way of life. That's common in Atlantic Canada give the historical lack of industry and jobs here.

However, to trot Bill 1 out as some sort of democratic reform is just plain insulting to the intelligence. For starters, the five unpaid members of the Commission are appointed by Cabinet. In other words, they are political appointments and the discussion surrounding their appointments will be secret as Cabinet Confidence requires. That's the poison pill. Now, if the Commission was appointed by a group of MHAs from all three parties, in an open forum, that might be something more along the lines of independent - as long as the choices had to be made unanimous consent. Given our system of government, that's probably as independent as it could get. Then, once the 3 MHAs had chosen the Commission it could be ratified by the House of Assembly, and given the status of Officers of the Legislature - like the Auditor General for example. That might grant them some immunity from political push back on appointments.

The next fatal flaw is that the contenders for the specific appointment will be kept secret and only the chosen appointee will be published. Well, in the private sector some privacy for human resources may be necessary, but they're called political appointments for a reason. They're political. They're public by nature. If a potential appointee has a problem with public scrutiny of their application, then perhaps they're not meant for public service. In any case, as the discredited PC Opposition has already pointed out, the Commission, appointed by Cabinet, may just put appoint whomever they like and cloak it in the secrecy of the Commission process. In other words, the Commission acts as a front for the Cabinet giving them someone to take the flak while they appoint who they wish. Good examples of this are health boards. They make the decisions, but those decisions are largely dictated by the government funds transferred to them. So, they become the fall guys - not the government.

Finally, the Minister in charge of the department that the appointee is going to decides from the "three finalists" who will be appointed. Well, that's just straight politics. The Premier says that the Minister must have the final say. That's not true at all. The Commission, once properly constituted, could have that say and the Minister can respect the apolitical decision. It's out of his hands. There is nothing unlawful or unethical about that. In fact, it takes away some of the ministerial accountability which may reduce the stress of his/her job. A Ministerial appointment is a political appointment, period in Canada. To say it is otherwise is to open yourself up to ridicule. And that's exactly what the Liberals have done with Bill 1.

The Liberals were already on the tightrope of credibility when they suddenly changed their tune on layoffs, P3's in health care, and the HST. They will quite literally fall from that tightrope when the budget is announced. Furthermore, this attempt to "depoliticize" the appointment process is quite frankly laughable. Literally, that's all you can do is laugh at it. Unfortunately for us, it's our democracy and institutions that bare the brunt of this foolishness, but we should be used to that by now. Bill 1 is just another attempt to deceive the people of the Province by a government that has just started its mandate, and is sailing into hurricane waters in a bathtub. That's the truly scary part.

1 comment:

  1. “Sometimes I wonder whether the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on or by imbeciles who really mean it.”
    -Peter J Laurence


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