Democracy Watch: Stop bad cabinet appointments
OTTAWA - Today, Democracy Watch called on the federal Liberals to change their proposed “new” Cabinet appointments system as it is essentially the same process the Conservatives used, and will do little to stop patronage and cronyism for the more than 2,500 federal Cabinet appointees. Democracy Watch launched a letter-writing campaign calling on the Liberals and all provincial and territorial governments to establish truly independent appointments committees to ensure merit-based Cabinet appointments.
The Liberals call their new Senate appointments advisory board “independent” but it isn’t because Prime Minister Trudeau appoints all the board members, and the process isn’t guaranteed to be merit-based because the PM can ignore the board’s list of nominees, and secretly appoint whomever he wants as a senator.
The Liberals have sketched out their plans for what they claim is a “new” general Cabinet appointments process – but it is essentially the same process the Conservatives used to appoint whomever they wanted. In the “Frequently Asked Questions” document, the answer to question A.6.. says explicitly that members of appointment advisory committees “will be chosen to represent the interests of those who are responsible for decision-making on appointments (the Minister, the Prime Minister).” That is a recipe for patronage and crony appointments.
“The federal Liberals’ proposed Cabinet appointment system is essentially the same as the Conservative’s used and will do little to stop patronage and cronyism,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch and Visiting Professor and LL.M. candidate at the University of Ottawa. “To stop patronage and crony appointments by the ruling party, appointment committees must be created with members approved by opposition party leaders, and the committees must conduct public, merit-based searches for nominees and send a short list to Cabinet of qualified nominees, with Cabinet required to choose from the list.”
Democracy Watch also called on the Liberals, and all governments, to change the law to ensure all Cabinet appointees who watch over the government or oversee key democracy laws and processes (especially every Officer of Parliament) be only allowed to serve one term.
“All government and democracy watchdogs must only serve one term, with no possibility that the government can reappoint them, to ensure watchdogs don’t try to please the government in order to keep their job,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch and Visiting Professor and LL.M. candidate at the University of Ottawa. “To safeguard our democracy the ruling party must not be allowed to reappoint any government watchdog.”
In particular, Democracy Watch opposes the reappointment of federal Ethics Commissioner Mary Dawson and Commissioner of Lobbying Karen Shepherd to new terms, not only because reappointments undermine democratic good government but also because of the Ethics Commissioner’s very weak enforcement record and the Lobbying Commissioner’s very weak enforcement record. For both commissioners, their current terms end this July.
Ontario’s Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee (JAAC) is the best appointments process in Canada as the committee: is largely independent from the government; does a public, merit-based search for nominees to fill each available provincial court judge position, and: then sends a short list of nominees to the Attorney General who is required to choose from the list.
However the JAAC has one flaw – the ruling party in Ontario appoints the majority – 7 of 13 -- of the JAAC members. To be truly independent from the ruling party, the members of an appointment committee must be approved by opposition party leaders. Otherwise, the ruling party still controls who is selected and patronage and cronyism is still possible.
Democracy Watch’s letter-writing campaign calls for the following changes to all government appointment processes across Canada:
- Pass a law that sets up an independent appointments committee for all government appointments (including the Senate and Deputy Ministers, but not including law enforcement positions) with the committee members approved by at least a majority of leaders whose political party won 10% or more of the vote in the last election;
- Pass a law that sets up another independent appointments committee for all appointments to law enforcement positions (including all government watchdogs) with the committee members approved by at least a majority of leaders whose political party won 10% or more of the vote in the last election, and with the committee members required to have knowledge of law enforcement (and require municipalities in every province and territory to use this committee to choose their watchdogs);
- Require both committees to advertise publicly and widely on a website and through the print media all appointment jobs, including a list of merit-based criteria for each job;
- Require both committees to review applications, conduct interviews, and choose a ranked list of 3 very qualified people for each position and send the list to the government (or city council);
- Require the government (or city council) to choose whom they appoint to the job from the list of 3 people.
- Prohibit by law anyone serving in any government or democracy watchdog position (especially every Officer of Parliament) from serving more than one term – to ensure they don’t try to please the government/ruling party in order to keep their job.
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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179