Liberals want some Tory appointees grilled by MPs

Liberals say a ‘significant’ number of Conservative appointees have offered to quit

Parliament Hill in Ottawa December 9, 2008. (Photograph by Blair Gable)

Parliament Hill in Ottawa December 9, 2008. (Photograph by Blair Gable)

OTTAWA – The federal Liberal government says a “significant number” of Conservative appointees have offered to step down after being asked to quit, while others will be called before parliamentary committees to explain their credentials.

But the Prime Minister’s Office is refusing to provide even a numerical breakdown, citing privacy concerns for the individuals involved.

That’s a sharp reversal from earlier this month, when government House leader Dominic LeBlanc announced he’d sent letters to 33 people who had been given pre-election appointment renewals by the former Harper government, which the Liberals said amounted to an “abuse of process.”

LeBlanc said he wanted their voluntary resignations and gave them until Dec. 18 to respond.

“Generally speaking, a large majority of the 33 appointees answered, with a significant number of them offering to step down,” PMO spokeswoman Andree-Lyne Halle said Wednesday in an email.

“It will now be up to ministers to pursue the process with individual appointees.”

At issue are previous government appointments to boards and tribunals that were due to expire after the Oct. 19 federal election — some of them many months after the election — but were renewed in advance by the Conservatives before last summer’s election call.

Among those appointed were members of the Immigration and Refugee Board, the National Energy Board and Via Rail’s board of directors, as well as top executives at Canada Post and Telefilm Canada.

Out of 33 appointees identified in news reports as having received letters from LeBlanc, 19 had been re-appointed under good behaviour provisions, meaning they can only be removed with cause.

Others were appointed at pleasure, meaning their appointments can be terminated without reason.

The Prime Minister’s Office says those who were appointed under good behaviour, but who have refused to voluntarily resign, will be referred to parliamentary committees for hearings.

“The committee may call the appointee to appear, however the committees do not have the power to overturn appointments,” PMO spokesman Oliver Duchesneau said in an email.

Duchesneau added that for “those individuals who offered their resignation or were appointed at pleasure, their response will be referred to the responsible minister, who will be communicating with them directly.”

LeBlanc has said the letters are not a judgment on any of the individual appointees. Rather, he said the new government considers the way the appointments were made to be illegitimate, due to lack of transparency and parliamentary scrutiny.

That’s not good enough, interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose said in an email.

“The Liberal approach here has impugned the integrity of qualified people for no good reason,” said Ambrose.

“If the government can demonstrate that appointments were made for reasons other than merit, they should publicly state those reasons and remove the appointees accordingly. Unless they can do that, they should be left to continue to do the jobs they have done very well.”

Two of the contested appointees who received letters — both directors of national museums — have already confirmed that they’ve received assurances from federal Heritage Minister Melanie Joly that she “strongly supports their renomination.”

Margaret Beckel, the director of the Canadian Museum of Nature, and Mark O’Neill, director of the Canadian Museum of History, received the assurances on Dec. 23, according to the Ottawa Citizen.

As Beckel explained to the Citizen, the timing of her reappointment last June for a new five-year term that doesn’t begin until June 2016 followed industry standards. Had the government wanted to replace her, it needed at least a year to find her successor.

Another appointee, Telefilm Canada executive director Carolle Brabant, has been in contact with the Heritage minister’s office and expects a formal response in the new year, her spokesman told The Canadian Press.

Correction: A previous version of this post said that these were Conservative Senate appointees. These were appointees to various boards and committees.

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Liberals want some Tory appointees grilled by MPs

  1. Transparent Gov I think not.. I want the number of those Conservative appointees have offered to step down………..

    • I was thinking the exact same thing. Providing the number in no way infringes on privacy issues.
      Without true openness and transparency, that has the makings of a witch hunt.

  2. Conveniently ignored in this news item is the fact that when the Leader of the House sent one of those stupid demands for resignation to the CEO of Canada Post, the Chair of CP’s Board of Directors came swinging back objecting to tainting the personal integrity the Board and that of their process of recruitment. Sowing divisions has been a trait of the Liberals all along. Yet they aren’t ashamed of transferring the blame onto others.

    • Heh.
      Why didn’t the author mention that the Conservative hack, former Harper official agent, and patronage-appointed Chair of Canada Post wrote a letter objecting to the request that patronage-appointed hacks resign?

      • Heh,
        You….. still there!?!
        I thought you were gone long before!
        A very happy, healthy, prosperous, and argumentative New Year!

      • Out of interest, how long have some of these appointees been in the jobs? Were some renewed to longer terms? Were they doing decent work? How many are brand new to the jobs?

        • Short of the Leader of the House releasing a comprehensive list of all those to whom he sent such letters, we cannot speculate on that. But one thing is clear. Harper is not someone to appoint someone to high office without the right qualifications. Those to rogue Senators are a different kettle of fish and there is time yet to learn all the facts about that. In the current issue, we already have three or four cases that have either contacted the relevant minister to demonstrate their suitability or have challenged the letters sent to them. As you can see from the reported news, some of these appointments had to be made well in advance in order to ensure the availability of the best candidate. It looks to me that all these appointments are “order-in-council appointments” and therefore will have to be confirmed by the Cabinet – which fact gives the chance for many that don’t have much else to do to give it all a mischievous interpretation.
          Political appointments are not a novelty. Remember the time when the elder Trudeau gave a whole series of highly irregular appointments and Mr. John Turner who succeeded him had a hard time explaining it all during an election debate thereby lost an election. Remember the case of David Dingwall well known for his “I am entitled to my entitlements” argument. Mr. Jean Chretien appointed Mr. Dingwall, a defeated erstwhile Cabinet Minister as the Chairman of Royal Mint. Mr. Dingwall had to resign when the Government found out that Mr. Dingwall’s expense claims were too much for its own taste. When asked to resign, Mr. Dingwall wanted some more money. He even claimed that he was instrumental in making the Mint profitable and therefore entitled to the sum – a bizarre claim considering the fact Mint essentially not being a seller of manufactured goods or services, rather a provider of monopolistic but essential service to the Government only, wasn’t supposed to make any profit but just break even.
          People, who had promised many things to many of their minions, just wanted these innocent yet qualified appointees pay a price in order to satiate their own greed. But they don’t even remember their despicable past. The most important thing to observe here is that if Harper had wanted to reward his political faithful, he could have given them 22 Senate appointments, which no one could have challenged and which would have been financially much more rewarding. Decency is not something that you will readily find in these critics and the propagators of their stories.

          • I was just reminded of another thing: The previous Liberal Government appointed an Ethics Commissioner who hailed from the journalistic community and therefore had a different perspective about ethics in government. The guy had to go to jail but the Liberals learned nothing out of that fiasco. The lesson here is that because the way the media organizations mollycoddle these journalists, their sense of entitlement never fades away. That means trouble for anyone who appoints them to trusted positions. Can you recollect that Mr. Radawansky wrote some speeches for Mr. Duffy? Well, such cooperation transcends party lines if you are a journalist.

          • “Harper is not someone to appoint someone to high office without the right qualifications.”

            Bruce Carson, Dean Del Mastro, Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin, Arthur Porter, Patrick Brazeau…..
            I like your sense of humour.

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