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News Release


Wednesday, May 17, 2006

OTTAWA - Today, Democracy Watch detailed several concerns with Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s promise-breaking in proposing and derailing the Public Appointment Commission’s role in ending patronage, and the opposition parties’ rejection of the PM’s nominee for Chair of the Commission, Gwyn Morgan.

First, Prime Minister Harper set the basis for opposition party resistance by not really keeping his promise to “Establish a Public Appointments Commission to set merit-based requirements for appointments ...”  In the Prime Minister’s proposed Federal Accountability Act (FAA - Bill C-2), there is only one paragraph about the Commission and it states that the Cabinet “may” establish and set all the rules for the operation of the Commission.  If set up this way, the Commission would have no independence from Cabinet, would always be under the threat of being shut down by Cabinet, and would therefore very likely do little to end patronage.

Second, the Prime Minister then (before parliamentary review of Bill C-2 even began) chose Conservative fundraiser Gwyn Morgan as his nominee for Chair of the Commission, and made the very dubious claim that “There is no one better qualified” for the position.  Given Mr. Morgan’s ties to the party, Harper’s nomination of him was a classic patronage move.  Combined with Mr. Morgan’s lack of experience in the public sector, and long experience in the corporate sector (where there are no rules requiring merit-based appointments), it is highly questionable that Mr. Morgan is qualified for the job, let alone the best qualified person.

Third, at a hearing held yesterday to review the nomination, after questioning Mr. Morgan the opposition parties rejected him for other reasons not directly associated with the position, including statements Mr. Morgan had made about immigrants.  Instead, the opposition parties should have simply refused to consider a nominee for a Commission that has not been established by law, and that lacks the independence needed to be effective.

Fourth, Harper reacted to the Committee’s rejection of Morgan by making the false claim that “We won’t be able to clean up the [appointment] process in this minority Parliament.”

In fact, the appointments process can be cleaned up in this minority Parliament as follows:

“The Public Appointments Commission can be an effective check on Cabinet’s appointment powers if the Prime Minister and all parties want it to be,” said Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch.

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Duff Conacher, Coordinator of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179

See also Democracy Watch's February 28, 2006 news release

Democracy Watch's Voter Rights Campaign

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Conservative Party of Canada platform webpage