​A letter sent Monday by the Liberal government leaves more than 30 ​people appointed to plum patronage posts in the dying days of Stephen Harper's Conservative government with a​ tough choice: step away ​voluntarily ​from their lucrative posts ​or face the possibility of a public backlash.

The letter targets ​dozens​ of ​board members, museum directors and advisers who were either appointed or had their appointments extended in the days before Harper called a summer election. Many of the appointments come with annual salaries well in excess of $100,000.

Among the recipients: the veterans ombudsman, the president of Canada Post, a member of the board of directors of Via Rail and the executive director of Telefilm Canada.

The letters have gone out. People have been asked to step aside. We'll be respectful of their decision - Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr

There are also five members of the Immigration and Refugee Board on the list and seven members of the Payments in Lieu of Taxes Dispute Advisory Panel.

The Liberals say they want to put a new appointment process in place. The letter refers to an "open, merit-based appointments system for Governor in Council appointees with greater access to all Canadians."

It says anyone who wants to re-apply for their job can do so. It's not clear what happens to those who opt not to step aside voluntarily.

The letter gives recipients until Dec. 18 to respond in writing.

A lot of 'qualified people:' Ambrose

One person who received a letter and who did not wish to be identified insisted their appointment was based on merit and not politics.

"It wasn't just a politician or MP who called up and said, 'Do you want a job?'" the person reached by CBC News Tuesday said. 

Interim Conservative leader Rona Ambrose has warned the new government not to paint all appointees with the same brush.

"What I would say to the government is, just because it was a Conservative government doesn't mean none of these people are qualified," Ambrose said Monday.

"There's a lot of incredibly....qualified people. So, look at them and assess them based on their merits, not on partisanship." 

Natural Resources Minister Jim Carr defended the government's move and said officials were waiting for a response from all those who received a letter. 

"We understand that there's a legitimate process," Carr said. 

"The letters have gone out. People have been asked to step aside. We'll be respectful of their decision."

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with files from Tom Parry