Trudeau's 'new approach' to government appointments begins

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Thursday that his government is "moving quickly" to develop an approach for how governor in council appointments are made.

Stephen Harper's Conservative government made 33 appointments just before mandate ran out

Former prime minister Stephen Harper made 33 government in council appointments in the dying days of his Conservative government. Government House leader Dominic LeBlanc (left) said the appointments were an 'abuse of power.' On Thursday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a new process for making similar appointments. (Canadian Press)

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced Thursday that his government is 'moving quickly' to develop an approach for how governor in council appointments are made.

In a statement from the prime minister's office Trudeau said the "new approach" will be an open, transparent and merit-based selection process that will help ministers make appointment recommendations for commissions, boards, Crown corporations, agencies and tribunals.

"We are committed to raising the bar on openness and transparency in government to make sure that it remains focused on serving Canadians as effectively and efficiently as possible," Trudeau said in the statement. "Government must serve the public interest, and remain accountable to Canadians."

In the past the appointments were made behind closed doors, at the discretion of the minister or prime minister. The media or the public might find out by press release who was named to the post.

That process has been criticized when it appeared to reward partisan loyalists with plum, often well paid, positions across the federal government. The new process will see a number of changes to how these appointments are made:

  • All positions will be advertised on a government website.
  • Canadians will be able to apply for these positions online.
  • All appointment decisions will be posted online.
  • Ministers will have to ensure their appointments meet gender parity and diversity guidelines.
  • Applicants will undergo a selection process comparing their skills to the requirements of the job.
  • A roster of people pre-approved to serve on boards of directors will be created and expanded over time.
  • Reappointment recommendations will be based on merit.

'Abuse of power'

When the Liberals came to power they shone a light on 33 such appointments that were made during the final days of former prime minister Stephen Harper's government.

Those appointments included:

  • The veterans ombudsman.
  • The president of Canada Post.
  • A member of the board of directors of Via Rail.
  • The executive director of Telefilm Canada.
  • Five members of the Immigration and Refugee Board.
  • Seven members of the Payments in Lieu of Taxes Dispute Advisory Panel.

Some of these appointments were renewals of existing appointments that did not take effect for months, or in some cases years, after the 2015 election.

Government House leader Dominic LeBlanc said these appointments constituted an "abuse of power" by the Conservative government and sent each of the 33 a letter asking him or her to voluntarily step down and reapply.

Conservative interim leader Rona Ambrose urged the government to abandon the request, insisting the people appointed by the previous government were meritorious appointments who should not be turfed just because they were Tory appointments.

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  • An earlier version of this story said the new appointment process contained few details on how the process was going to work. This version includes those details.
    Feb 25, 2016 8:57 PM ET


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