Thursday, July 2, 2009

Harper's Cronyism Has Placed Under Qualified People in Key Positions

Harper first came to power when the sponsorship scandal had tarnished the Liberal reputation, and he promised to be the one to clean up government.

In a media blitz he announced an accountability act, that would ensure something like that would never happen again.

But after milking that scandal dry, and the Gomery report revealing that it was perpetrated by bureaucrats, and no elected official was involved; he moved on.

Besides the act was supposed to catch Liberals, not anyone in his own party, which is a shame because those are the guys who have taken corruption and scandal to new levels. Who knew? (besides me)

Patronage, nepotism, cronyism, fraud, sex, lies and videotape. They've got it all.

But instead of addressing these things when they surface, Harper's MO is to sweep them under the rug, and when the rug can no longer be walked on, he uses his executive powers to ignore subpoenas and sue our public service. A page out of Brian Mulroney's book.

On the first anniversary of the act that never was, the Toronto Star ran this article:

Tories' cronyism rampant, critics say
Two important provisions of the much vaunted accountability act haven't been implemented
January 01, 2008
Richard Brennan

OTTAWA–When the Conservatives were elected, they promised to do business differently. No more cronyism, no more backroom deals with party hacks. They were going to clean up Ottawa.

However, critics say Prime Minister Stephen Harper's government has appointed hundreds of people with Conservative ties – the kind of cronyism the Conservatives and their predecessors used to howl about.

When the federal government was patting itself on the back last month on the anniversary of the passage of the Federal Accountability Act, it failed to mention that two key components – the appointments commission and the lobbying provisions – have not been implemented.

"The lack of a public appointments commission seriously undermines any credibility that Mr. Harper is serious about cleaning up how business is done in Ottawa," said New Democrat MPP Charlie Angus (Timmins-James Bay).

Opposition parties insist Canadians were duped into giving the Conservatives a minority government in the January 2006 election. Government accountability was a big factor in the contest that banished the Liberals to official Opposition.

"After a full year, enough is enough. We're not going to let the Conservatives deceive Canadians any longer," New Democrat MP Pat Martin (Winnipeg Centre) said.

The Accountability act, drafted by the Tories in response to the Liberal sponsorship scandal, passed the Commons and Senate and received royal assent in December 2006, but a separate cabinet order is required for many provisions to come into force.

There is nothing forcing cabinet to establish the appointments commission.

Treasury Board President Vic Toews told the House of Commons these two components of the Accountability Act are very complicated and require time to draft. A government official said it could be another six months before the new lobbying rules come in and, as for a public appointments commission, that may never happen.

Angus said if there was a public appointments commission the government wouldn't be in a mess with Atomic Energy of Canada Ltd.

The Conservatives' hand-picked chair, Michael Burns, resigned from the Crown corporation after Parliament was forced to intervene when the shutdown of a nuclear reactor in Chalk River, Ont., caused a critical shortage of medical isotopes nationwide. Burns, a Tory fundraiser, was appointed to the top job at AECL by Harper's government in October 2006.

"One of the key elements to (having) the public appointments commission is to make sure that there is a process in place to carefully vet the public appointment and ensure that the government isn't just parachuting cronies into key posts," Angus said.

Since taking office, the Conservative have made 1,132 appointments – 410 in 2006 and 722 posted so far this year – and critics have said many of them are patronage appointments.

Another anniversary has passed and still no appointments commission or lobbying rule are in place, though we've been paying the staff for two years, running up more than one million dollars, mostly to pay salaries for people who techniclly have no jobs.

The PM abruptly cancelled the patronage watchdog office in 2006, but it has spent more than $1-million since.

Three years later, there is no new commissioner nominated and the Public Appointments Secretariat, created by an order in council on April 21, 2006, to "lay the groundwork for the eventual establishment of the commission," is still operating.

The secretariat has cost taxpayers more than $1-million over the last three years, including $633,000 spent in 2006-2007—most of which went to salaries and $82,000 in severance payment for layoffs. It has a yearly budget that's just more than $1-million, though for 2007-2008 (the last year that is posted) it lapsed most of it, using only $113,000.

There are two employees working at the secretariat: deputy executive director Christine Miles and administrative assistant Joanne Leblanc. Their salaries amount to most of the secretariat expenses, $88,000 in 2007-2008. A search through the orders in council website shows almost 3,000 public appointments were made since Feb. 6, 2006.

Mr. Martin (Winnipeg Centre, Man.) said the secretariat is "all smoke and mirrors" and "they should just fold up their tent" because the government is still making appointments in the same way previous governments did; "by the Rolodex of Conservative Party faithful, not by merit and certainly without any scrutiny or examination by an independent commission." Declared Mr. Martin: "

Only people who pay a lot of attention to Ottawa know that no such appointment process exists, because it was featured and advertised and promoted and promised, a lot of people probably think there is such an appointments commission and when they look it up in the government registry, sure enough, there's the office, there's the budget, but there's no commission so it is completely disingenuous and in the interest of honesty and transparency they should just lock the door and re-appoint these people to something more useful. You are probably wasting some decent, administrative talent, if nothing else."

And what does our buddy Vic Toews have to say now? Treasury Board President Vic Toews (Provencher, Man.) told Civil Circles he wasn't aware of the state of the appointment or commission. "The only thing I know is the commissioner was rejected by the House," said Mr. Toews. That was three years ago Vic. You can't ride that forever.

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