New Brunswick

Liberals pledge to curb patronage appointments

New Brunswick Liberals say they are rethinking their conduct in government in the wake of Progressive Conservative Margaret-Ann Blaney's appointment to a senior civil service position and pledge to curb their own use of patronage appointments in the future.

Rethinking their conduct in wake of Tory Margaret-Ann Blaney's new post

New Brunswick Liberals say they are rethinking their conduct in government in the wake of Progressive Conservative Margaret-Ann Blaney's appointment to a senior civil service position and pledge to curb their own use of patronage appointments in the future.

"I'm not hiding from the past — some of these appointments were made in the past," said Liberal MLA and former deputy premier Donald Arseneault.

"We're hearing more and more the frustration of the public on these kind of hirings, these appointments and I think we're at a time and place where we've got to start doing things differently," he said.

Liberals have been pounding the Tories with patronage allegations since mid-May, when Deputy Environment Minister Denis Caron was removed as president of the conservation agency Efficiency New Brunswick and the job was handed to Conservative MLA Margaret-Ann Blaney.

Caron had filled the position at no cost as part of his overall duties. Instead Blaney is to be paid about $170,000 a year.

Conservatives allege hypocrisy

Conservatives call the attacks hypocritical.

"They are the ones that wrote the book on patronage," said Local Government and Environment Minister Bruce Fitch in the legislature on Friday, listing several controversial appointments from the previous Liberal government, including former Liberal cabinet minister Doug Tyler.

"Let's talk about that," said Fitch.

Tyler was hired as a deputy minister in former premier Shawn Graham's government after running the Liberal party's election campaign.

He received an annual salary between $150,000 and $175,000 and then collected more than $125,000 in severance when Graham was defeated, even though he worked in government for less than two years.

Arseneault acknowledges mistakes were made and says in the future, top government jobs, outside the premier's office and executive council office, should be open to the public.

"We should have an open competition for these positions," he said.

Liberals have promised to clean up patronage before. Former premier Frank McKenna said he would tackle it during the 1987 election campaign, but was embroiled in numerous patronage controversies during his 10-year term.

NDP Leader Dominic Cardy says he doubts Liberals are serious about ending patronage this time either.

"I think the Liberals are a little bit late to this game and I have a few reasons to doubt their sincerity given how they behaved in government," Cardy said. "Their record on patronage was disgraceful; no different than the Alward Conservatives."

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