Prime minister Justin Trudeau made two notable vice-regal appointments yesterday – new lieutenant governors for both Newfoundland and Labrador and British Columbia, both women (the first for Newfoundland and Labrador). While the new BC LG is the chair of Vancouver’s YWCA, the new Newfoundland and Labrador LG is former cabinet minister Judy Foote, which seems like a curiously partisan appointment for a position such as this – especially when Trudeau keeps going out of his way to ensure that there are “independent, non-partisan” appointment processes to other key positions, most especially senators.
— Dale Smith (@journo_dale) March 20, 2018
— Dale Smith (@journo_dale) March 20, 2018
The point that none of the stories on these appointments made yesterday was that since Trudeau came to power, he dismantled the process that Stephen Harper put into place to find new vice-regal appointments in a depoliticized fashion. The Harper-era Vice Regal Appointments Committee was headed by the Canadian Secretary to the Queen, had two permanent members, and then had additional ad hoc members for whichever province or territory they had to search for candidates from in order to get the local perspective. Short lists were forwarded to the PM, and for the most part, they were appointments without partisan histories (though the last Manitoba LG appointment was the wife of a former provincial politician it does bear noting). When he came in, Trudeau and his people said that the system was working well, and that they were likely to continue it. Except they didn’t. They replicated portions of it for their Senate nomination committee, but dismantled the Vice-Regal Appointments Committee after they let the memberships lapse, including the post of Canadian Secretary to the Queen (which remains vacant to this day). And the only reason anyone can figure out as to why is because it was simple antipathy to the Harper government, regardless of whether the idea worked. Instead, appointments are made in a black box, and Foote’s appointment seems to indicate that he’s willing to let partisans into these posts in contrast with others.
And don’t get me wrong – I have nothing against Judy Foote personally, and I’m sure she’ll do a fine job, but the whole thing is a bit odd in the context of every other appointment process that Trudeau has put into place (which are interminable and can’t fill any position in a timely manner, Supreme Court of Canada excepted). There was a system that worked. What Trudeau has done instead makes no sense at all.
- The new gun control bill was tabled yesterday, promising better background checks and record keeping. Critics are already deriding it as a “backdoor gun registry.”
- The Privacy Commissioner is looking into Facebook data breaches after this week’s revelations, and Scott Brison is also meeting with CSIS and CSE about it.
- Elections Canada, meanwhile, says it’s working to fight fake news and other election disruptions like we’ve seen in other countries recently.
- Our ambassador to Washington says that progress on NAFTA talks is happening rapidly, and the US is willing to build on Canada’s auto sector proposals.
- Harjit Sajjan says private sector investment in Mali can help to stabilize the region.
- Marc Garneau says he’s satisfied with the plans put forward by the two main railways to alleviate the grain backlog on the prairies.
- The government continues to say it will support the arms sales to Saudi Arabia but be more stringent about export permits going forward.
- PCO says they were unaware of the investigation into Joshua Boyle when he met with the PM (which is likely given the nature of the charges against him).
- One NDP MP, David Christopherson, voted with the Conservatives to oppose the summer jobs grant attestation, as did one Liberal.
- A group of academics is reviewing the Gerald Stanley trial, and are pointing out places where problems occurred that should not have been allowed.
- The Public Sector Integrity Commissioner put out a report about an abusive manager at Correctional Services, and the fact that the Assistant Director was silent.
- Romeo Sagansh says it’s a human right to have Indigenous languages in Parliament, but shrugs off the actual logistical and capacity challenges.
- Here is an interesting conversation between reporters on how best to cover Jagmeet Singh and Sikh politics without ascribing radicalism to the whole community.
- Here’s a lengthy analysis of Jason Kenney’s preferred return to Alberta’s old carbon pricing mechanism, which largely amounted to a subsidy for businesses.
- Martin Patriquin warns of the CAQ’s adoption of anti-immigrant “values tests” and Trumpian white grievance politics in Quebec.
- Kady O’Malley reminds us why it’s a bad idea for the opposition to demand votes on military deployments.
Odds and ends:
For Maclean’s, I wrote an explainer about prorogation and whether Kathleen Wynne abused the powers this last week.
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