Premier Stephen McNeil has named his former communications director and a defeated Liberal candidate as Nova Scotia's next Chief Protocol Officer, a move that put him on the defensive as the opposition parties criticized his appointment.
Glennie Langille, who finished third in the riding of Pictou West in October's election, was named to the position in the legislature on Tuesday.
Florence Sassine, the woman who currently holds the position as the Chief Protocol Officer, is making almost $100,000 a year but Langille will be on a year-to-year contract and paid about $85,000 a year.
Langille, who once worked as a reporter for CBC News, has worked for the McNeil-led Liberals since 2008 when she was hired as the party's director of communications. In March 2010 she became the acting director of outreach, filling in for someone on maternity leave. The following February, Langille became an outreach officer in Pictou County but resigned from that position when the writ was dropped.
McNeil defended the patronage appointment to a post the Liberals have used before to pay off political debts.
"The fact of the matter is, I believe Ms. Langille is a qualified person for the job," he told reporters.
"I believe that the commitment that we have made, we have not strapped any future government, we did not put the Chief Protocol Officer in the public service. This is in keeping with what happens in this province, what has happened in terms of that position."
'It stinks to high heaven'
Opposition Leader Jamie Baillie didn’t mince words about his opinion on the appointment.
"It is a disgraceful flip-flop for a government that said they would be different, to make such a blatant political payback to a former candidate so quickly after the election. This is a $100,000 a year job just handed out to a Liberal without any due process," said Baillie.
Baillie says if Langille is the best person for the job she should have competed for it.
Acting NDP Leader Maureen MacDonald was also scathing in her assessment.
"It stinks to high heaven," said MacDonald. "This isn't about Glennie Langille, this is about the premier and history repeating itself."
MacDonald said the hiring of a protocol officer needs to be open and transparent, adding that the position should not serve as a soft landing for failed political candidates.
The protocol office is responsible for co-ordinating — among other things — official ceremonies and events as well as official visits by members of the royal family, heads of state and government, ambassadors, high commissioners and consuls general.
Langille's appointment takes effect in mid-January.