Budget: Gwyn Morgan would be so upset - Macleans.ca

Budget: Gwyn Morgan would be so upset


How to begin? Let’s use boldface.

“By establishing the Public Appointments Commission, the Government is implementing a key component of its overall plan to strengthen accountability in government as outlined in the Federal Accountability Act,” Stephen Harper said in a 2006 news release. “The Commission will provide the necessary oversight to ensure that the selection of individuals is based on merit and is done in an open and transparent way.”

The Prime Minister’s nominee to run the appointments commission was Gwyn Morgan, who had just stepped down as chairman of Encana. Setting up this commission was a big deal. Naming Morgan was a big deal. But it ended very badly indeed when Peggy Nash, an NDP member on the committee charged with approving the nomination, led the opposition in rejecting it over statements Morgan had made about immigration.

Harper scrapped the whole notion of a commission. But not forever.

“So what that tells (us) is we won’t be able to clean up the process in this minority Parliament. We’ll obviously need a majority government to do that in the future. That’s obviously what we’ll be taking to the people of Canada at the appropriate time.”

Gwyn Morgan, whose record of business achievement truly is formidable, was not happy. He gave an interview to a frequent contributor to this magazine, Linda Frum, not yet a Senator. Just think what was lost!, he said.

The commission would have the right to audit and look through all of the records. And then, the real teeth of this thing, where people start to shake in their boots, is that we would have reported annually to the Prime Minister, and tabled in the House, the appointments we felt didn’t meet the code. And that was the reason we had power.

Linda Frum, concerned for “a country that craves a higher calibre political class,” asked Morgan whether he would take the appointment in the future — you know, when the Conservatives had a majority and the Prime Minister kept his word. Morgan wasn’t sure. Life can change. He might not be the right person in the future. But maybe. “Obviously I believe strongly in what this was all about.”

And there things stood, until something odd happened in January of this year. Greg Weston, the veteran reporter now at the CBC, started running stories about the office Gwyn Morgan would have run. It seems nobody ever shut it down, and it was spending $1 million a year to prepare for a job it had never been asked to do.

Fast forward to yesterday’s budget.

The Government is eliminating the Public Appointments Commission Secretariat as the Government has significantly strengthened the rigour and accessibility of the public appointments system over the past five years. Improvements put in place to strengthen the public appointments system include advertising public appointment opportunities on a dedicated website and conducting open selection processes for leadership and full-time positions.

So what Harper was obviously going to take to the people of Canada is obviously not what he took to the people of Canada. And it’s true that there are ads on a website now. But that wasn’t the power Morgan believed strongly in. The power Morgan believed strongly in was the power to report publicly on whether the appointments met proper criteria. It was a power analogous in public appointments to the power the Parliamentary Budget Officer exercises in public finances, to the government’s eternal chagrin, and the power the National Round Table on Energy and the Environment exercised on those issues until the government abolished that body in the budget too. The power Morgan believed strongly in, never exercised, is now abolished.

Is anything lost in this? Maybe a little light. Would the commission have oversight over appointments to the Immigration and Refugee Board? Would it have spotted the unilingual anglophone in Montreal whose academic writings, handily collated on the Fraser Institute website, would provide hours of fun reading?

Hard to say. The point is moot now, isn’t it.

One more thing. It’s hard to write a day-2 budget story. The energy goes into the day of release; the world has moved on by the weekend. Stories that don’t make it into the five-point summaries on the first day sometimes vanish without a trace. I’ll be lingering over various aspects of this budget, not all of them embarrassing to the government, for a while, to see what else we can find.




Budget: Gwyn Morgan would be so upset

  1. Interesting.  Given CPC behaviour since taking office, I bet this is one thing Harper is glad to have been blocked from implementing.

    •  Surely the litmus test for existence of the office would have been if it approved of the shadow MP appointments like Saulie Z.  So either Mr. Morgan’s office would have been shown to be a hollow sham or some of the CPC’s most cherished appointments (they want two more seats at least out of it) would have come under the gun.

      Let alone the raft of crap senate appointments after a promise never to appoint a senator.

      • Interesting that Mr. Morgan went on to become Chairman of the Board of SNC-Lavalin, which is having it’s own staffing problems.

        •  How is that interesting?

          • I’d say it was interesting because the Chair is the one ultimately responsible for corporate governance. Given that SNC-Lavalin operates in over 100 countries, one would be naive to assume similar “ethical” problems do not exist elsewhere on other projects. Morgan has been there long enough to wear some of it.

            I’ve noticed the G&M has also buried his occasional op pieces from a prominent position on the bottom of pg B2 ROB when he first started out, to today on B7. He seems to have lost some of his je ne sais quoi.

          • You seem to be confusing the chairman of the board with the CEO.  Morgan is a member of the board of several companies.  The board represents the stockholders, it doesn’t operate the company. If the CEO is resigning, that is more a sign that the board is doing its job than otherwise.

  2. So the point is open for debate? If your use of “moot” isnot that, then this whole article is… well… Moot.

  3. It’s just a recognition that all that “accountability” stuff is not really necessary to retain the loyalty of the base. CPC supporters are only offended when those other guys lie, cheat and steal. 

    • I’m offended by anyone who lies, cheats and steals, which is why I believe in smaller government, which appears to be on the Conservative menu, for this budget anyway.

      The smaller the government, the less opportunity for them to cheat and steal. I don’t care much about the lying, I care about what they do, not what they say.

      •  Now you see, reasonable people try to put safeguards in place against cheating and stealing rather than trying to convince themselves their half-baked ideology is the solution.

        • If you think that’s reasonable, that’s where you’re wrong. In the private sector, what keeps organizations reasonable is competition. In the public sector, there is none. Anyone who has ever walked into a government office knows the difference.

  4. Thank you for doing that necessary dogwork on the budget.

  5. How is this work different from that of the Public Service Commission? They have are an agent of Parliament and must report annually on their activities including studies and audits of staffing activities both across governments and in departments.