Question Period Highlights – Patronage

December 7, 2013

Your NDP MLAs were hard at work in the legislature this week, holding the government to account during Question Period on a number of key issues, including Liberal patronage, the proposed $10 million cut to Community Services, and changes to a popular federal immigration program.

Below is a passage from Hansard, the official record of the Nova Scotia legislature, on Stephen McNeil’s patronage appointment of Glennie Langille.

HON. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, yesterday we learned that the Premier had awarded the job of Chief Protocol Officer to a former Liberal Party staff member and failed Liberal candidate in the recent election.

Mr. Speaker, the last time the Liberal Party was in government, back in the 1990s, they did the very same thing, appointed a Liberal Party insider as Chief of Protocol and passed over a 35-year veteran of the navy who had handled two royal visits and numerous tours by Prime Ministers and Governors General. I’d like to table some articles from the Cape Breton Post entitled Province Settles Patronage Dispute. This decision cost the province $67,000 a year following a complaint to the Human Rights Commission due to discrimination based on political affiliation.

So my question to the Premier is, did the Premier decide not to hold an open competition for this $85,000-a-year position in order to avoid any embarrassing legal action if his favorite candidate wasn’t successful in a fair and open competition?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier to a previous question, yesterday we hired a former journalist in this province, someone who has worked in the private and public sector for over 30 years, to become our new Chief Protocol Officer in this province. We did so by contract basis, and that contract will be renewed annually. If any future government wants to cancel that contract they can do so – and I want to add that there is no big buyout at the end of the day.

MS. MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, I’m going to table, from January of this year, a job description for a Junior Protocol Officer in the Province of Nova Scotia. That job description outlines duties and qualifications for that job which include oral and written French skills, a proven track record of budget forecasting and management, experience monitoring revenues and expenditures, and a minimum of four years of progressive event management and protocol experience.

Therefore my question to the Premier is this, since there was no open and fair process, can the Premier tell us what specific assets and skills his preferred candidate and former communications director has to qualify for this $85,000-a-year position?

THE PREMIER: Mr. Speaker, as I’ve said in many answers already in this House, yesterday we hired a new Chief Protocol Officer with 30 years’ experience as a journalist, working both in the private sector – yes, communicating on behalf of the citizens of this province. The contract that we hired on is renewed annually and any future government, if they do so wish, can undo that – and unlike previous governments, there is no big buyout at the end of this day.

MS. MACDONALD: Mr. Speaker, it sounds like some of the pathetic excuses we’ve heard over the years for appointments to the Senate. Canadians have watched in disbelief as the details of appointments to the Senate are exposed on a daily basis, and they’re fed up with public resources being used to partisan gain. One thing we all agree on is that people should receive positions of public responsibility based on merit.