Brian Gallant counters anti-patronage bills

Liberal Leader Brian Gallant proposed ways to curb patronage appointments Friday.

Liberal leader says NDP-Progressive Conservative anti-patronage bill is not enough

Liberal Leader Brian Gallant wants to extend the anti-patronage delay from one year to four years. (CBC)

Liberal Leader Brian Gallant proposed ways to curb patronage appointments on Friday, weeks after the New Democratic Party won the support of the Progressive Conservatives for a similar plan.

He said his ideas would improve accountability and transparency within government, something he said had eluded his political rivals.

"It was nice to see [Tory cabinet minister] Paul Robichaud and [NDP Leader] Dominic Cardy trying to co-operate. However, they are co-operating on a package of bills that will not stop patronage, but merely delay it," he said in a media release.

Cardy proposed two bills to curb patronage and the PC government adopted them in February. The laws would force MLAs to wait one year before they could be appointed to a government position.

Cardy also called for the president and chief executive officer of NB Liquor to be appointed by the Crown agency, not by the provincial government.

But Gallant said the proposals would just postpone patronage appointments, not stop them.

He said even if the new rules had been in place, a string of high-profile appointments could still have been made. Those include:

"Dozens and dozens of other patronage appointments made by Alward would still have happened as well," he said. 

"As New Brunswickers, we want and need the most qualified people serving in these positions."

Cardy responded by calling on the Liberals to work with the NDP on its proposals. "Mr. Gallant needs to understand that government is about more than reacting to other parties and sending out press releases," he said in a news release.

"It is a question of having a plan, having the right team, and having the strength of principle to make change happen."

Four-year delay proposed

Gallant argued the chief executive officers of all Crown corporations should be hired in an open and competitive process. He said the NDP-PC plan only requires the president of NB Liquor to be hired in that fashion.

The Liberals would extend the one-year waiting period to a four-year delay on appointments of former MLAs to Crown corporations or provincial government organizations.

"A one-year prohibition will do nothing to stop patronage," Gallant said. 

"A four-year period will truly discourage the practice of hiring former MLAs."

Gallant said it was ultimately up to government to stop patronage. 

"A law can be changed at the whim of government," he said.

"If we want to end patronage, we need a premier that believes in competency-based hiring practices."

Liberal governments have been accused of patronage in the past. In 2011, CBC News learned that the former chief executive officer of NB Liquor had been given a special pension package by the former Liberal government.

Dana Clendenning had worked as a political advisor to Shawn Graham and was appointed to the chief executive officer's job when Graham's Liberals came to power in 2006.