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EDITORIAL: Political patronage rides again

Christopher Mitchelmore.
Advanced Education Minister Christopher Mitchelmore has been found to have mismanaged his duties as Culture minister. — Contributed photo

You could be forgiven for thinking that, when it comes to cronyism and patronage, this province is unfixable.

Because, about the time discussion of the last such event dies down, another occurs.

This time, it’s the appointment of a former Liberal staffer to a senior position at The Rooms.

The Rooms had hired someone who met the qualifications for experience and education, but that person was removed before they even started, and was replaced by Carla Foote, a former staffer from Premier Dwight Ball’s office. Foote didn’t have the requisite qualifications for the job and yet still apparently required a substantial increase in pay. The person who had been hired was to receive the equivalent of $85,513 — the government ordered a hike in pay to $132,000.

The province’s citizen’s representative found that then-tourism minister Chris Mitchelmore acted improperly by failing to go through a public service job competition, while the province’s commissioner of legislative standards ruled that Mitchelmore should be reprimanded for his conduct.

It’s all too familiar.

Hopefully, the opposition Tories will not argue that they hold any high ground here. It was not all that long ago that a Progressive Conservative government, three weeks after former premier Danny Williams left office, chose Williams’ communications director (and now spouse) as their pick for a position as vice-chair of the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board (a six-year appointment with a salary ranging between $165,000 and $195,000). At the time, the Tory government conceded the staffer had neither environmental nor oil industry experience.

In a province with limited opportunities for advancement, people who have the skills, education and qualifications for positions have just been told that their skills don’t matter.

We have to point out that the now-governing federal and provincial Liberal administrations appointed former Liberal premier Roger Grimes to head the same board.

The most demoralizing part?

In a province with limited opportunities for advancement, people who have the skills, education and qualifications for positions have just been told that their skills don’t matter.

Is that hurting the province as a whole?

Absolutely.

The Rooms lost a skilled marketing hire, and then lost its experienced CEO as well.

And not only that. A draft report into why skilled professionals leave this province spelled out the issue with scathing comments like these from people who left the province: “The old boys club is a problem. You either need a family member in politics or someone needs to rub elbows with someone in public service or someone on a board.”

And this: “If you don’t know them, you are persona non grata. We weren’t going to use politics or friends to get a job in Newfoundland. People should get hired on merit.”

Those comments, and a reference to complaints about the “buddy system” at play in hiring was a draft form of the report, but was actually stripped from the final report.

This latest example proves they were altogether too accurate.


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