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Keeping tabs on the Tory 
patronage comeback

[PoliticsWatch updated 6:07 p.m. October 11, 2006]

OTTAWA  — Patronage is in the eye of the beholder.  
  
One party's merit-based, qualified appointee, is another party's crony. 

Not surprisingly, the Conservative government is now coming under criticism from the Liberals for nearly 20 recent appointments.  

The party that brought in the Federal Accountability Act is now being accused of playing old-school politics and rewarding their friends after just eight months in power. 

"This government is clearly practising a double standard," Liberal House Leader Ralph Goodale told reporters after question period last week. 

"They were elected on the theory that they were purer than the driven snow and I guess now . . . it's becoming clear to Canadians that they have vastly overstated their ethical virtue." 

The Tories did in fact make huge promises while in opposition and during the election campaign last year.

Last November, when the Tories announced they would introduce the Accountability Act, their press released promised to end patronage. 

"The Liberals have repeatedly appointed insiders, in some cases completely unqualified, to important public offices," the Tories said. "Liberal insiders, candidates and MPs have received appointments as heads of Crown corporations, board members, and ambassadors. 

"A new government is needed to make sure that important public appointments are filled on the basis of merit and not simply as favours to friends and political supporters."

However, the Conservatives appear to be making appointments to a number of their supporters after just eight months in office. 

Are we witnessing a return to the Mulroney-style of politics which helped spawn the rise of the Reform Party and the electoral destruction of the federal PCs? Or is it just a balancing out after 13 years of the Liberals being at the helm. 

PoliticsWatch looks at some of these appointments. 

Senate

Michael Fortier: On the day the cabinet was sworn in, Prime Minister Stephen Harper appointed one of his campaign co-chairs, Michael Fortier, to the senate and named him public works minister. The appointment came as a surprise as Harper has been a long-time supporter of an elected-senate. Harper's rationale was that he needed Fortier in the Senate so he could have representation in his cabinet from Montreal. Fortier has promised to run in the next federal election, but says he will not run in any byelection. 

Judicial Appointments

J.D. Bruce McDonald: The Liberals say Justice McDonald was appointed to the superior trial court in Alberta because he was a Conservative supporter. McDonald has been a long-time chief fundraiser for the Conservative, Alliance and Reform parties. Justice Minister Vic Toews has defended his latest appointment. "Mr. Justice MacDonald was first appointed to the bench by another government," Toews noted in the House last week. "He distinguished himself on the provincial court and the government appointed him to the Queen's Bench on the basis of his demonstrable legal abilities."

Richard Bell: In June, the Tories appointed Bell to Court of Queen's Bench in New Brunswick. Bell was a New Brunswick campaign co-chair for Harper's 2004 Conservative party leadership race and was a co-chair in New Brunswick for Conservatives in the 2004 and 2006 federal election campaigns. Toews office defended the appointment, saying Bell, an experienced lawyer, was qualified for the position. 

Jacques Leger: In September, the Tories appointed Leger as a Judge of the Superior Court of Justice of Quebec. Leger is a former president of the Progressive Conservative Party. 

Lieutenant Governor

Barbara Hagerman: In July, the Tories appointed Hagerman as Lieutenant Governor of Prince Edward Island. Last week in question period, Liberal MP Wayne Easter attacked Hagerman's appointment because she is married to Nelson Hagerman, a Tory fundraiser in the province. "He worked on the prime minister's campaign for leader, was part of the first executive of the new party," said Easter. "In fact, Mr. Speaker, they are so close the prime minister spent last year's Canada Day on Mr. Hagerman's boat. Is this appointment a political reward?" The PM called Easter's questions a "disgraceful attack." 

Diplomatic Appointments

Neil Leblanc: The Tories replaced former Liberal MP Stan Keyes as Canada's representative in Boston with Neil LeBlanc, the former Nova Scotia Tory finance minister and leadership candidate. 

Other Appointments

Harvie Andre: The former Mulroney cabinet minister was named a land claims negotiator for the federal government in August. The Liberals claim Andre's contract was sole-sourced and worth over $300,000, but Indian Affairs Minister Jim Prentice said Andre is working for $50,000, which far less than his predecessor, former Ontario Liberal Premier David Peterson. The Liberals also point out that Andre's son-in-law is president of Prentice's riding association. It's a small, small world.   

Jim Gouk: After the election, the long-time Reform, Alliance, Conservative MP was appointed to the board of directors of NAV Canada. Gouk was the party's transport critic at one point.  

Kerry-Lynne Findlay: Findlay is a long-time Vancouver lawyer who ran for the Alliance in Vancouver-Quadra in 2000 and sought the nomination in Richmond last year. On September 18, Toews named her to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. 

Hermel Vienneau: Recently named as vice-president of ACOA in New Brunswick, the Liberals accused Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay of making a patronage appointment. "The new vice-president of ACOA in New Brunswick is the former chief of staff to Elmer MacKay and communications chief to Bernard Lord," said Liberal MP Geoff Regan in question period last week. "What a coincidence. How can the minister explain to Canadians that Canada's minority Conservative government is appointing a friend to a senior position at ACOA?" MacKay described Vienneau as a qualified, bilingual former public servant. 

Canada Pension Plan Review Tribunal. 

In addition, the Liberals have compiled a list of 10 people with connections to the Conservatives that have been appointed to the Canada Pension Plan Review Tribunal since the Tories came into power.

This includes a former Progressive Conservative MP, two former PC candidates and three senior campaign organizers for Tory candidates at the provincial and federal level. 

:  Related Links

> Liberals question Tory ethics 

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