ACOA hiring under investigation

The Atlantic Opportunities Agency is under investigation after complaints that some high-ranking jobs are going to Conservatives.

Liberal MP says too many jobs going to Conservatives

The Liberal Caucus is specifically questioning the hiring of Kevin MacAdam (left), a former fisheries minister in the provincial Conservative government of Pat Binns, and a former aide to Nova Scotia MP Peter MacKay (right). (CBC)

The Atlantic Opportunities Agency is under investigation after complaints that some high-ranking jobs are going to Conservatives.

At least one recent appointment from Prince Edward Island is being investigated.

The Atlantic Liberal Caucus sent a letter to the Public Service Commission of Canada on Feb. 4.

In it, the caucus cites growing concerns over what it calls the "political affiliation" of high-ranking ACOA employees. In other words, patronage appointments.

It mentions specifically, the appointment of Kevin MacAdam who took a director general position with ACOA in December. The job comes with an annual salary of $113,000.

MacAdam served as provincial fisheries minister in the Pat Binns Conservative government and went on to work for Peter MacKay, who was formerly the minister responsible for ACOA.

It's a little too coincidental for Nova Scotia Liberal MP Rodger Cuzner, who pushed for the investigation.

Nova Scotia Liberal MP Rodger Cuzner questions ACOA's claims that Kevin MacAdam was the best candidate for the job, if he required French language training. (CBC)
"Longtime member of the party, worker for the party and to go right from there into the public service, I think that calls into question at least the essence of the appointment," said Cuzner.

The Public Service Commission confirmed on Tuesday that its lawyers are investigating the Liberals' complaints against ACOA.

ACOA spokesperson Richard Gauthier said the agency is cooperating with the investigation, but he maintains that the hiring process in the MacAdam case was fair and based on merit, with the job going to the best candidate.

"[The posting] was open to all Canadians. We received applications from people who wanted to go through the interview process. Those were evaluated against the criteria of the position in question," said Gauthier.

"There was an interview board and at the end of that whole process a letter of employment was forwarded to the candidate that was identified as the most qualified and most pertinent."

Cuzner questions that determination.

"It plays a little strange to know that this was the best candidate when as soon as he got the job he had to leave for two years for French training. I would think that the pool would be maybe deeper," said Cuzner.

The Liberal caucus said if the investigation finds hiring rules were broken, MacAdam and possibly others, should lose their jobs.

CBC News requested an interview with Kevin McAdam Thursday afternoon, but his office did not respond.