Flagger accuses Ghiz government of patronage

A road construction flagger on P.E.I. through 10 of 11 years of Progressive Conservative rule has no work this fall, and she's blaming the new Liberal administration.

A road constructionflagger on P.E.I. through 10 of 11 years of Progressive Conservative rule has no work this fall, and she's blaming the new Liberal administration.

Brigit DeCourcey told CBC News Monday the pattern of her hiring for seasonal work has not changed in the last decade.

"I would call my MLA and … they would call another government employee and they would give the names to the contractor, and I would get hired on," she said, but this year was different.

"I was phoned June 21 by a government employee that my job was no longer there. I said, 'Is there lots of work?' [He said] 'Yes, there is lots of work, but none for you.' And I asked why, and they said it was due to the change in government that I probably wouldn't get my job."

The road construction projects that DeCourcey used to work on are done by private contractors who do their own hiring, but DeCourcey said that doesn't stop the government from influencing hirings.

Government has new approach, say Liberals

That accusation is rejected by the Liberals. Fisheries Minister Allan Campbell is the only Liberal MLA elected in Kings County, and the first Liberal DeCourcey approached for help.

"Obviously we have a new government who obviously has demonstrated a new approach," said Campbell, "and that approach includes having the contractor look after the hiring of these flaggers."

Transportation Minister Ron MacKinley said the Liberals introduced a new policy in July. That policy includes providing a list of people looking for work to contractors, but only as a service to help them find workers, which he said can be scarce in the fall.

DeCourcey plans to file a complaint with the Human Rights Commission. ((CBC))

"That means they can contact our office and we'll help people out, the contractors," said MacKinley.

"We'll give them maybe 15 names. They want to hire four people for jobs or six. I don't know. Just give them a bunch of names. Here, hire whoever you want."

But transportation critic Mike Currie said that is no change at all from the way things were done under the previous Progressive Conservative government.

"The agents of the premier are out there. Their EAs are gathering names and providing them to contractors," said Currie.

"That's the same system we had and it's still the same practice."

DeCourcey said she's not a member of any political party, but her parents are Progressive Conservative, and the assumption has been she's a PC supporter too. That assumption, she said, has locked her out under the new government.

Patronage a big issue for Liberals

The question of political patronage has been a big one for the Liberals. They pounded the Tories on the question throughout their administration, in particular over big payoffs made to Liberals who were found to be victims of political discrimination when they were sacked by the Tories when they came to power in 1996.

In the run-up to this year's election, Liberal Leader Robert Ghiz refused to endorse a candidate who won the nomination in Morell-Mermaid— the very district where DeCourcey lives— who advocated political patronage in his nomination speech.

Transportation Minister Ron MacKinley says contractors are sent names of potential workers. ((CBC))

DeCourcey tried to take her case directly to Premier Ghiz, but without luck

"I'm a single mother with a new house and there's no reason why I lost my job," said DeCourcey.

"He said nobody is going to lose their jobs, and I was one of the first ones that lost my job. It's not fair."

DeCourcey has been to the Human Rights Commission and plans to file a political discrimination complaint.

The Liberals said that if DeCourcey does file an official complaint they will address it, and contend this is not a patronage issue. DeCourcey intends to continue fighting for the seasonal job she has had for 10 years.