N.L. premier says government won’t ignore independent appointments commission

Published on March 10, 2016
Premier Dwight Ball (centre), with cabinet ministers Andrew Parsons and Cathy Bennett, talks about his government's signature transparency and accountability legislation at a news conference Thursday afternoon at Confederation Building. — Photo by James McLeod/The Telegram

Premier Dwight Ball has guaranteed that if the Liberal government ignores its own independent appointments commission, then commissioners will resign in protest.

Ball was unveiling Bill 1, the new government’s signature transparency and accountability legislation which purports to take the politics out of public appointments.

But Opposition Leader Paul Davis said that it actually does nothing of the sort; he said it only gives the Liberal government legal cover while still leaving the door open to political patronage appointments.

For so-called “Tier 1” positions — like the auditor general, the chief of the RNC or the CEO of Nalcor — the independent appointments commission will supply a list of three names to cabinet, and then the politicians will make the final decision.

Or cabinet can just ignore the list altogether and pick somebody else, according to the legislation, but if that happens the government will have to notify the public in an annual report filed by the minister.

The Liberals said they will keep the list of three names secret, to respect the privacy of the applicants.

Ball said that he thinks if the cabinet is going to ignore the three independent appointments commission recommendations, that would only happen in very rare circumstances.

He said if the cabinet started ignoring the recommendations left right and centre, he guarantees that the independent commissioners would resign in protest.

Davis was quick to point out that none of this completely “takes the politics out of government appointments” as the Liberals promised during last year’s provincial election.

New Democrat Leader Earle McCurdy has also called the legislation “over-hyped” and not exactly what the Liberals promised.

Davis also noted that the Ball government has created a much longer list of “Tier 2” appointments where the public service commission will provide a list of names to the minister, and the minister will make the final decision. For those ones, the independent appointments commission isn’t involved at all, and again, the minister can simply ignore the list of recommendations and pick somebody else entirely if he or she wants to.

Ball said that compared to what the government had before, all of this is a huge step forward in taking the partisanship out of government appointments.