PM Trudeau’s proposed Supreme Court appointment involves lots of good consultation but is still partisan because, unlike Ontario’s process, PM and Minister of Justice can still appoint whomever they want

PM Trudeau’s proposed Supreme Court appointment involves lots of good consultation but is still partisan because, unlike Ontario’s process, PM and Minister of Justice can still appoint whomever they want

Ontario’s Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee is best appointments process in Canada – same process (with one change) should be used for all appointments

Thousands have written letter to Trudeau and provincial premiers calling on them to end patronage and cronyism by matching Ontario’s system

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Tuesday, August 2, 2016

OTTAWA - Today, Democracy Watch called on the federal Liberals to improve their proposed new Supreme Court appointments system by requiring the Prime Minister and Minister of Justice to appoint one of the people the new advisory board recommends (as Ontario’s Attorney General is required to do for provincial court appointments). The Liberals could make this change immediately as this part of the appointment process is at the discretion of the Prime Minister and is not covered by any law.

Once this change is made, the new process should be added to the Supreme Court Act and the Federal Courts Act, and to all other federal laws that address judicial or quasi-judicial appointments (including for all Officers of Parliament), so that, as in Ontario, the system is part of laws and the Prime Minister’s and Minister of Justice’s appointment powers are restricted by law and they can’t change the system whenever and however they wants without parliamentary review.

Thousands of Canadians have written to Prime Minister Trudeau and provincial premiers through Democracy Watch’s Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign calling on them to make changes to ensure their Cabinet and judicial appointment processes match Ontario’s judicial appointment process (with one change to ensure a majority of the appointment advisory committee members are not appointed by the government).

“While it is good that a majority of the Supreme Court appointments advisory board members are chosen by independent organizations, and that the Minister of Justice will consult with the Chief Justice, provincial ministers and House and Senate committees, the fact remains that the process is partisan because the Prime Minister and Minister of Justice are not required to choose from the advisory board’s list of nominees and so, unlike Ontario’s Attorney General, they can still appoint whomever they want as a judge,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch.

Ontario’s Judicial Appointments Advisory Committee (JAAC) is the best appointments process in Canada as the committee: is largely independent from the government; does a public, merit-based search for nominees to fill each available provincial court judge position, and: then sends a short list of nominees to the Attorney General who is required to choose from the list.

However the JAAC has one flaw – the ruling party in Ontario appoints the majority – 7 of 13 -- of the JAAC members. To be truly independent from the ruling party, the members of an appointment committee must be approved by opposition party leaders or by organizations that are independent of the government. Otherwise, the ruling party still controls who is selected and patronage and cronyism is still possible.

The Liberals similarly called their new Senate appointments advisory board process “non-partisan” but it isn’t because Prime Minister Trudeau appoints all the board members, and the process isn’t guaranteed to be merit-based because the PM can ignore the board’s list of nominees, and secretly appoint whomever he wants as a senator.

The Liberals have sketched out their plans for what they claim is a “new” general Cabinet appointments process – but it is essentially the same process the Conservatives used to appoint whomever they wanted. In the “Frequently Asked Questions” document, letter-writing campaign says explicitly that members of appointment advisory committees “will be chosen to represent the interests of those who are responsible for decision-making on appointments (the Minister, the Prime Minister).” That is a recipe for patronage and crony appointments.

“The federal Liberals’ proposed Cabinet appointment system is essentially the same as the Conservatives used and will do little to stop patronage and cronyism,” said Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch and Visiting Professor and LL.M. candidate at the University of Ottawa. “To stop patronage and crony appointments by the ruling party, appointment committees must be created with members approved by opposition party leaders, and the committees must conduct public, merit-based searches for nominees and send a short list to Cabinet of qualified nominees, with Cabinet required to choose from the list.”

Democracy Watch’s letter-writing campaign calls for the following changes to all government appointment processes across Canada:

  1. Pass a law that sets up an independent appointments committee for all government appointments (including the Senate and Deputy Ministers, but not including law enforcement positions) with the committee members approved by at least a majority of leaders whose political party won 10% or more of the vote in the last election;
  2. Pass a law that sets up another independent appointments committee for all appointments to law enforcement positions (including all government watchdogs) with the committee members approved by at least a majority of leaders whose political party won 10% or more of the vote in the last election, and with the committee members required to have knowledge of law enforcement (and require municipalities in every province and territory to use this committee to choose their watchdogs);
  3. Require both committees to advertise publicly and widely on a website and through the print media all appointment jobs, including a list of merit-based criteria for each job;
  4. Require both committees to review applications, conduct interviews, and choose a ranked list of 3 very qualified people for each position and send the list to the government (or city council);
  5. Require the government (or city council) to choose whom they appoint to the job from the list of 3 people.
  6. Prohibit by law anyone serving in any government or democracy watchdog position (especially every Officer of Parliament) from serving more than one term – to ensure they don’t try to please the government/ruling party in order to keep their job.

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FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
info@democracywatch.ca

Democracy Watch’s Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign

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