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Editorial: Politics at work

Business Minister Christopher Mitchelmore speaks to reporters Monday outside the House of Assembly.
Business Minister Christopher Mitchelmore speaks to reporters Monday outside the House of Assembly. — Telegram file photo

It’s not hard to tell when the provincial government has its communications ducks all in a row.

From the business minister to the premier himself, everyone was following their notes to a T. Ten times during Monday’s question period in the House of Assembly, either Business Minister Christopher Mitchelmore or Premier Dwight Ball referred to the hiring of Carla Foote as an executive director of marketing and communications at The Rooms as “a lateral move.”

Not as the hiring of a former member of the premier’s staff in a $132,000-a-year position that wasn’t even advertised and was filled with the only candidate the government ever considered.

Not as a transparently political appointment made directly by a cabinet minister.

No, it was an innocuous-sounding “lateral move” — “nothing to see here, just business as usual.”

Just like moving lawn chairs around before the garden party.

It is, of course, not hard to determine someone is the most qualified when that person is the one and only person you are considering — and if no one has even been informed there’s an opening.

Foote has held senior communications positions with the provincial Liberals and was the top communications person with the provincial civil service.

And, while The Rooms has a board of directors and operates quasi-independently, the decision to fill the spot was made by Mitchelmore.

“I made the determination that Carla Foote was deemed the most qualified person to fill the role,” Mitchelmore said outside the House of Assembly

It is, of course, not hard to determine someone is the most qualified when that person is the one and only person you are considering — and if no one has even been informed there’s an opening.

Foote obviously has skills and experience for the position. But, if your argument is that you are appointing the best and only candidate, you could use that exact same logic to hire your cousin Jeb who hasn’t gotten off the couch for a day’s work in the last 27 years.

It’s also interesting that the legislation that governs The Rooms actually says this about the corporation’s employees: “The chief executive officer is responsible for the human resources, general direction, supervision and control of the finances and other business of the corporation and of the divisions of the corporation.”

There is no mention in The Rooms Act of any cabinet minister having the ability to reach in and hire anyone. In fact, when it comes to governance, the corporation describes itself as “a provincial Crown corporation governed by a board of directors, who are appointed by the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador.”

It’s hard to imagine a provincial cabinet minister reaching out and making a $132,000 appointment at a Crown corporation like Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, for example.

In all, especially after the Liberals campaigned on cleaning up cronyism in government, it should not be too much to ask that high-paying public service jobs have open, transparent job competitions that clearly look for the best qualified person for job, not merely the government’s own pick.

But don’t worry. It’s just a “lateral move.”

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