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Democracy Watch calls for actually independent, merit-based appointment process for all government watchdogs

Trudeau Cabinet currently handpicking Ethics Commissioner, RCMP Commissioner, Integrity Commissioner who all enforce laws that apply to Cabinet

Trudeau Cabinet’s appointments process is as partisan, Cabinet-controlled and political as past government’s processes

Thursday, April 20, 2023

OTTAWA – Today, Democracy Watch 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.

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.

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.

Past appointments by the Trudeau Cabinet have shown clearly that the appointment process is far from merit-based. Former Ontario Liberal MPP Madeleine Meilleur 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.

Mario Dion, who was handpicked to be Ethics Commissioner in November 2017 by the Trudeau Cabinet through a secretive, dishonest process, had a record of eight unethical actions in his former job as Integrity Commissioner. The 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.

Given 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.

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.

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.

“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,” said Conacher. “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.

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Duff Conacher, Co-founder of Democracy Watch
Tel: (613) 241-5179
Cell: 416-546-3443
Email: [email protected]

Democracy Watch’s Stop Bad Government Appointments Campaign