Cheers: to watchdogs. His appointment may be about to end, but parliamentary budget officer Kevin Page is still doing yeoman work for taxpayers — and is probably more despised than ever by the Tories who appointed him. His latest salvo? Analysis showing that, despite Tory promises to the contrary, the latest federal spending restraint is cutting front-line services, while internal services — communications, information technology, human resources and financial management — continue to grow. That is, of course, the complete opposite of the way federal Treasury Board President Tony Clement said the cuts would work when he promised any cuts wouldn’t affect public services. Is it any wonder Page thinks he won’t be rehired anywhere in the federal government when his five-year appointment ends? Watch for the next appointment to the critically important oversight job to be someone Conservative-friendly who won’t rock the boat.
Jeers: to patronage. And while we’re talking about appointments to critical oversight positions, isn’t it just jim-dandy that the provincial government decided the absolutely best person to be the newest provincial representative and vice-chair of the Canada-Newfoundland Offshore Petroleum Board (CNLOPB) is Tory adviser (and former premier Danny Williams’ brother) Ed Williams? Cue all the usual “we can’t rule out qualified candidates just because they share our political stripe” tripe — the fact is, it is becoming abundantly clear that political stripe is the qualification that’s considered above all else. Williams’ six-year appointment pays between $171,100 and $201,200 a year — meaning the appointment will be worth between $1,026,600 and $1,207,200 in total. Not a bad little sinecure — maybe we could just call it “winning Lotto-CNLOPB.” Asked about the appointment, provincial Natural Resources Minister Tom Marshall said Williams was a “highly qualified individual” but could not give any specific examples of Williams’ relevant experience.
Jeers: to shooting messengers. Still talking about watchdogs, there’s the fascinating federal case of Edgar Schmidt. Schmidt works for the federal Justice Department, and for the last 10 years, he’s been telling his overseers that they are breaking federal law when they don’t fully consider if new laws violate the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Schmidt says Justice lawyers have been told to keep quiet even when laws have a 95 per cent chance of being struck down — even though the law says the federal justice minister must alert Parliament when laws are potentially in violation of the Charter. Schmidt took the government to court and was immediately suspended for violating a confidentiality agreement. The judge hearing Schmidt’s case, Simon Noel, didn’t like that much. “The day after the filing of this statement (by Mr. Schmidt), bang: ‘You’re suspended,’” Noel was quoted as saying in the Toronto Star. “It’s unbelievable. … (The government) has done everything it can to kill this thing. The court doesn’t like that. … We see that in different countries and we don’t like it. … Canada is still a democracy.” Yep, we’re a democracy all right — until self-serving governments brazenly fill all their appointments — including judgeships —with politically like-minded “highly qualified individuals.” And if we don’t pay attention every time, they’ll believe they have a licence to keep doing it.