View From the Hill by Keith Beardsley – Revised Appointment Requirments – May 20, 2012

CFN -Was it really shocking to learn that Heritage minister James Moore has revised the candidate requirements for future appointments under his department to include a stipulation that they develop and maintain and effective relationship with him and his staff?

Actually what was shocking was that someone put that requirement in writing, but at least they can say they were being open and transparent.

It is unlikely that any government regardless of political stripe will appoint people to key positions if they know that they are opposed to that government’s policies. That is a recipe for political disaster and constant infighting and a dysfunctional working relationship. That helps no one including the taxpayer who foots the bill for the salaries and any legal costs that might arise.

One would hope that any individual who is appointed to a board or commission or any other Order-in-Council appointment would be the best qualified person and not just a party hack. It is beneficial for a board to include a mixture of backgrounds and opinions and the government and the taxpayer are best served when boards are staffed by qualified individuals who provide honest advice to a minister. Today, some of those appointees may very well have ties to the Conservatives.

When I read that some Liberals were shocked at Moore’s requirements I couldn’t help but think back to the thousands of appointments they made from 1993-2006. It was roughly 2700 positions that came up for renewal each year and as an opposition researcher for the PC Party, I would go through them, especially if one of the appointees got into trouble and ended up in the media. To aid me I had a huge document that had been compiled by a previous researcher and it showed the many different connections that many of the appointees had to the Liberal Party. Today’s Liberal complaints seem to be more of the pot calling the kettle black.

Whenever questions about an appointee arose in the House, the standard Liberal answer (you can substitute Conservative here too) was that these were the best qualified people for the job.  In fact in many cases that might have been true, both then and now.

For all the whining from the NDP over the appointment process, does anyone think for a moment that they would do things differently? Thomas Mulcair has been a cabinet minister in Quebec; he understands the process and the type of working relationship a minister needs with key members of commissions and boards etc. If Mulcair was Prime Minister today do the NDP critics or NDP backbenchers honestly think that he would be appointing people to key government positions if he knew that they were opposed to the very NDP policies Mulcair was promoting?

Unfortunately in 2006, an opportunity was lost to clean up the appointment process when Prime Minister Harper suggested Gwyn Morgan take over as head of the process. Instead of using that opportunity to vet and question an appointee in a rational manner (as MPs have done with the appointment of judges) the meeting was a circus.

It was a partisan side show of the worse type and it pretty well sealed the fate of that process. How could any Prime Minister ask another appointee to endure the same fate? Who would accept to be an appointee knowing what they would be subjected too? An excellent opportunity was lost to clean up our appointment process.

Opposition parties love to criticize and seek out that 10 second TV clip or earn that one sentence in the written press. But they need to remember that when they obtain power some of their comments will come back to bite them.

Should the NDP ever come to power, it will be interesting to see how quickly they establish a Parliamentary Appointments Office and how clean and nonpartisan their suggested appointees will be. Somehow I don’t think they will be any different from the Liberals or the Conservatives.

Keith Beardsley is a senior strategist for True North Public Affairs in Ottawa, as well as a blogger and political analyst. He can often be found running or cycling on his favorite bike trails.

James Moak


  1. The public at large understands how appointments process works. Don’t the prospective appointees?

  2. Which all just illustrates the major flaw in our political party system of governance. Party ideology trumps sound reasoning, especially in a majority situation, and more than ever with our current government.

  3. The federal NDP have a bill in the House in to enshrine top level jobs are bilingual, looks like Mr Moore would vote for that then…..
    (by bilingual, it means English, French, Asian only speakers need not apply!)

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