Friday, October 19, 2012


The on-going controversy regarding cheater Peter Penashue got me to thinking about the quality of the individuals appointed to federal and provincial boards.

I am not Lilly white or naive about patronage. I know the process only too well having been engaged in the horse trading, patronage and rewards game for a few decades of my life. Parties have binders of “qualified” candidates for board appointments. These people have donated, volunteered and supported the party. They are deemed to be the benefactors of the spoils of war.

Board compositions are often made up of a combination of public service professionals, independent professionals and partisan appointments. Some boards are very lucrative while others are soup and sandwich boards.

The lucrative boards are reserved for the special folks. They are on top of the partisan pecking order. I am not suggesting that the cream rises to the top, just that those most deserving of graft, get the best appointments.

Hence, the appointment of Reg Bowers to the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador  Offshore Petroluem Board shortly after Peter Penashue was appointed to the Federal Cabinet. Bowers had acted as Peter’s official agent in the 2011 campaign. On August. 7, 2012, Bowers was replaced by Sandra Troster, the Conservative Party's chief financial officer. Her job was to try an clean-up the “honest mistakes” made by Bowers.

The mandate of the Canada-Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Petroleum Board is to interpret and apply the provisions of the Atlantic Accord and the Atlantic Accord Implementation Acts to all activities of operators in the Newfoundland and Labrador Offshore Area; and, to oversee operator compliance with those statutory provisions.

Bowers profile on the C-NLOPB does not scream, perfect fit. He does not have a petroleum background but he did “Mr. Bowers graduated from Memorial University of Newfoundland and Labrador with a Bachelor of Commerce and did extensive post secondary work with the Canadian Institute of Chartered Accountants.”

On paper, he certainly sounds like a perfect fit as a financial agent for a federal campaign. A numbers wizard. I suppose, his role in getting a Conservative elected to the House of Commons from Newfoundland and Labrador escalated him to the top of the list for federal boar appointments.

He joined others like Loyloya Sullivan’s brother Conrad Sullivan, Progressive Conservative bagman Ed Drover and Vice-chair David Wells who is a former senior Conservative staffer. Do you see a trend here?

I have always advocated for a vetting process for appointments to public boards through an agency like the Public Service Commission that matches skills with board vacancies.

Instead, we have a system where cabinet committees decide who is appointed to what boards. It is a horse trading game. One minister, MHA, MP, party president or adviser will recommend certain people.

The C-NLOBP, like many regulatory boards, is too important to be stuffed with political cronies. Has anyone in the media ever investigated the provincial and federal appointees to boards?

A little bit of light might expose some interesting choices and create some very red faces for those that put political service before competency.

One never knows what they might find trudging through the woods.

1 comment:

Julie Ali said...

This was an interesting post. I have always known in Alberta that the Tory faithful get on boards. They are also the places where new recruits are tried out for further plum positions. Some of them like in the case of the school boards result in the cream of the crop MLA hires--if you show you toe the Tory line--you are sure to get in as a Tory MLA---obedience is a valuable thing in Alberta.

It would be nice to have good folks on boards but really it would be nice to have good folks at all levels of government.

Instead of good folks, we get folks who know how to get maximum returns for very little effort. They use the same tired lines, excuses and ploys every time they get caught with their hands in the till as in the case of Senategate and no sort of criminal record or jail time follows. Why not? Good question.

The government in Canada is above the law. The board appointments are just the start of the journey to perfect immunity from public scrutiny, censure, disciplining and job termination.

The entire system is full of cheaters and I can't tell if they start out this way or if the temptation is so great (seeing everyone hogging out) that they fall sooner or later.

Its a sad matter. We could all be served so much better in government.