The week Finance Minister Jerome Kennedy released his provincial budget, the cabinet quietly made 12 appointments at the top of the civil service without any public notice.
Typically, senior appointments to the civil service happen in ones and twos. But March 25, the day before the budget, the cabinet made 10 appointments to the government’s top bureaucracy. On budget day, the cabinet made another appointment, and the day after, it made another appointment.
Normally, every time such an appointment is made, the government issues a news release that explains why the position was vacant, and gives biographical details about the person who filled the job.
Twenty senior appointment news releases were issued in 2012, and another three were issued earlier this year, but when it came time to make 12 changes to the senior civil service, the government was uncharacteristically quiet.
Senior appointments have to be done by an order in council — the official cabinet orders, signed into law by the lieutenant-governor — which comes directly from the provincial cabinet.
Since February, The Telegram has been requesting copies of all orders in council, but, unlike government news releases, they are not widely distributed. The orders in council also only include the name of the appointee and the position they will fill. They provide no biographical information, and don’t say why the position was vacant.
Earlier this week, the government announced it was going to start posting orders in council on the Internet.
“I think this was deliberate. This was not something that got lost in the shuffle,” Liberal Leader Dwight Ball said.
Finance Minister Jerome Kennedy told The Telegram that since media organizations have recently started requesting copies of all orders in council, the government decided it didn’t need to send out news releases.
“We knew at that point that the orders in council would be released, so at present, the way we will deal with these is releasing the orders in council,” he said.
NDP Leader Lorraine Michael said her big concern is that without a news release, there’s no way to tell why a position needed filling — if it was a retirement, or if someone was fired, or just took another job — and what exactly their qualifications are.
“We don’t know where they came from, and so, are they qualified to be where they are? Government thinks so, but I might not if I knew what their background is,” Michael said. “It makes it less transparent when you don’t know the background of the people involved.”
The cabinet appointed Paul Scott assistant deputy minister of intergovernmental affairs, Paul Morris as assistant deputy minister of energy policy with the Department of Natural Resources, Robert Gardiner as assistant deputy minister post-secondary skills development with the Department of Advanced Education and Skills, Michelle Jewer as acting-assistant deputy minister of corporate services with the Department of Health and Community Services, Denise Tubrett as assistant deputy minister of regional services with the Department of Health and Community Services, and Karen Stone as assistant deputy minister policy and planning with the Department of Health and Community Services.
Ed Walsh was appointed assistant deputy minister of primary, elementary and secondary education with the Department of Education. Rachelle Cochrane was made deputy minister of the women’s policy office. Shelly Smith was named executive director of corporate and information management services with the office of the chief information officer. John Phillips was named acting assistant deputy minister of policy and planning with the Labour Relations Agency.
Mike Samson is still the chief executive officer of Fire and Emergency Services, but he’s now also the CEO of the Multi-Materials Stewardship Board.