The B.C. government is under fire for what critics are calling a blatant patronage appointment for a former member of the legislative assembly.

On Tuesday, the province announced it was appointing John Les to head an earthquake preparedness consultation with a $140,000 dollar paycheque. 

That is in addition to the $60,000 Les is already paid as a member of the government-appointed Farm Industry Review Board.

Les is also a registered lobbyist paid by Belkorp, a branch of the company that runs the Cache Creek Landfill, to represent the company's interests to his former colleagues.

B.C. New Democrats MLA Shane Simpson says the appointment is "outrageous", and questions Les's qualifications. 

"Absolutely nothing makes him an expert in earthquake preparedness. There was no search for people who could actually do this job. This is simply another case. We talked the other day about 15 defeated Liberal candidates who are getting over a million dollars for patronage jobs," said Simpson.

"If they were really serious about emergency preparedness, they'd have gone out and found somebody who actually had the expertise."‚Äč

California expert to co-chair

But the Liberals have also appointed Henry Renteria, former director of California's Office of Emergency Services to co-chair the consultation, which is expected to report back by the end of the year with recommendations to improve B.C.'s ability to deal with a catastrophic earthquake.

Justice Minister Suzanne Anton defended Les's appointment, insisting Les' experience as a former solicitor general and public safety minister makes him a good choice to lead the process with Renteria.

"I am satisfied that Mr. Les has the expertise that is most useful to us in conducting this consultation. The goal here is to get a good product," she said.

She would not say, however, if there had been an open competition for the job or if the Liberal government had considered anyone other than their former colleague.

With files from the CBC's Stephen Smart