Democracy Watch says Trudeau’s Watchdog Appointments are a Charade

DW calls for independent, merit-based appointment process.

In a press release today Democracy Watch (DW) called on the Trudeau Cabinet to “stop its multi-year charade and establish an actually independent, merit-based appointment process for all the federal democratic good government watchdogs,” The independent and respected agency said the Trudeau Cabinet’s appointments process is as partisan, Cabinet-controlled, and political as past government’s processes.

The release went on to say that, “Despite promising in the 2015 federal election to change the process, the Trudeau Cabinet didn’t actually change it. Cabinet ministers still choose all appointment advisory committee members (which all have ministers, their staff, and/or Privy Council Office staff as members) and choose all appointees from the long lists of candidates that the committees provide, with little or no consultation with opposition parties.

DW noted that the Federal Court of Appeal ruled unanimously in January 2020 that the Cabinet is biased when choosing watchdogs such as the Ethics Commissioner and Commissioner of Lobbying.

DW says that past appointments by the Trudeau Cabinet clearly show that the appointment process is far from merit-based. They point to former Ontario Liberal MPP Madeleine Meilleur who admitted in spring 2017 before a House Committee that when she was considering ending her political career, she had talked with Trudeau’s then-senior adviser Gerald Butts, and also his Chief of Staff Katie Telford, and asked to be appointed as federal Commissioner of Official Languages. Her statement became so politically costly to the Trudeau Cabinet that she ended up withdrawing her candidacy.

The DW release points out that former Ethics Commissioner Mario Dion was handpicked to be Ethics Commissioner in November 2017 by the Trudeau Cabinet through a secretive, dishonest process and that Dion had a record of eight unethical actions in his former job as Integrity Commissioner. DW said the Trudeau Cabinet hid emails for two years that showed they had other qualified candidates for Ethics Commissioner, and also for the position of Commissioner of Lobbying, and lied to opposition party leaders.

DW says that in light of the resignation yesterday of Interim Ethics Commissioner Martine Richard, who never should have been appointed given she is the sister-in-law of Trudeau Cabinet Minister Dominic LeBlanc, the Trudeau Cabinet is currently handpicking the following watchdogs, all of whom enforce key democracy laws that apply to the Cabinet:

  • the Interim Ethics Commissioner.
  • the Ethics Commissioner.
  • the Integrity Commissioner, and;
  • the RCMP Commissioner.

DW says that the Trudeau Cabinet has also handpicked, through partisan, political Cabinet-controlled processes, all of Canada’s other current democratic good government watchdogs: the Chief Electoral Officer (who was switched by the Trudeau Cabinet for secret reasons); Commissioner of Lobbying; Auditor General; Information Commissioner; Privacy Commissioner, and; Parliamentary Budget Officer.

DW says that to ensure merit-based appointments, a fully independent Appointments Commission should be established (as Prime Minister Harper promised to do back in 2006), with the Commission members approved by all parties, and then the Commission will do public, merit-based searches and submit a short list of no more than three well-qualified candidates to an all-party committee, which will make the final choice for each watchdog position.

Duff Conacher, co-founder of Democracy Watch said that “Like every Cabinet, the Trudeau Cabinet is in a conflict of interest when choosing democratic good government watchdog because those watchdogs enforce laws that apply to Cabinet ministers and their departments.” He added, “the only way to stop this dangerously undemocratic and unethical appointment process is to establish a fully independent appointments commission to conduct public, merit-based searches and then send a short list of well-qualified candidates to an all-party committee which will make the final choice for each watchdog position.”

More than 15,000 Canadians have sent a letter through Democracy Watch’s Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign calling on the federal Liberals to make the Cabinet appointment process actually independent and merit-based.

Photo: Via CTV News