Federal Liberal Cabinet Minister Dominic LeBlanc. Five of the six recent judicial appointments have close personal ties to the Minister.
The latest development in the ongoing dust-up over appointments under the Doug Ford government occurred last week, with Ontario Liberal Leader John Fraser asking the Integrity Commissioner to review all government appointments since the Conservatives came into power in June 2018. There is no doubt there were a few botched appointments, notably two Agent General appointees who turned out to be closely connected to former Ford Chief of Staff Dean French, and who did not possess appropriate qualifications for the positions. Once this came to light, the appointments were quickly rescinded and a few other appointments withdrawn because they had connections to French, even though most of the people involved were well-qualified for the posts. Dean French also walked the plank over this issue and is no longer Ford’s Chief of Staff. This is not the first time this type of situation has happened with governments of all political stripes, and it’s unlikely to be the last. The departure of French and the rescinding of the offending appointments should be the end of it, especially as the Ford government has launched a review of the overall appointment process. But as this situation involves a Conservative government, the usual rules do not apply.
The Ontario NDP also piled on, accusing both Liberals and Conservatives of having a long history of inappropriate patronage appointments to “loyalists and insiders”, conveniently forgetting that the occasional time the NDP is in power, their behavior is no different. In addition, the current process for appointments in Ontario was actually set up by the NDP government back in the 1990s, so it is a bit rich for them to be critical just because another political party is in power.
Almost as if the political gods wanted to rub in the fact that a double standard leads to Conservatives being subject to more scrutiny than other parties, we also recently saw some questionable judicial appointments at the federal level. Of six judge positions, it was found that five had close personal connections with Liberal Cabinet Minister Dominic LeBlanc and that most were Liberal party contributors. The Trudeau government has long used a partisan database appropriately called “Liberalist” as an aid to selecting judges and other appointments such as Senators. In the process of selecting judges, there is an independent committee involved, but once they have chosen a candidate that person is subject to further vetting with the Liberalist database. Since 2016, fully 25 per cent of judges appointed by the Trudeau government were Liberal donors, as compared to only 6 per cent who were contributors to the Conservative, NDP or Green Party combined.
Considering the Trudeau government’s track record of attempting end runs around the judicial system, notably in the SNC-Lavalin scandal and Vice-Admiral Norman debacle, the creation of a highly partisan judiciary which will likely serve a very long time is much more worrisome than a handful of short-term patronage appointments in the Ontario government. Yet not one of those questionable judge appointees has as yet been reversed or even seriously questioned, and there is no indication that any of them will be. It is easy to imagine that the situation would be very different and the scrutiny much more intense with a Conservative government. Unfortunately, it appears that integrity is subject to a partisan filter rather than demanded equally from whatever political party is in power. But as that is our current reality, Conservatives need to be especially vigilant to be purer than the driven snow in every respect, unfair as that may be.
Catherine Swift is currently President and CEO of Working Canadians (www.workingcanadians.ca. Prior to that, Catherine Swift had been with the Canadian Federation of Independent Business since September 1987, initially as Chief Economist. She became Chair in June 1999 after being named Chief Executive Officer in July 1997 and President in May of 1995. Her various responsibilities included coordinating policy issues at federal, provincial and municipal levels of government, representing CFIB with politicians, government, business, media and other groups.
Ms. Swift has worked with the federal government in Ottawa holding several positions with the Departments of Consumer and Corporate Affairs, Industry and Communications. Her areas of specialization included corporate and industrial analysis and international trade. Catherine Swift has a MA in Economics.
She has published numerous articles in journals, magazines and other media on such small business issues as free trade, finance, entrepreneurship and women small business owners. Ms. Swift is a Past President of the Empire Club of Canada, a former Director of the C.D. Howe Institute and past President of the International Small Business Congress. She was cited in 2003 and again in 2012 as one of the top 100 most powerful women in Canada by the Women’s Executive Network.