The Auditor General was on Power Play yesterday to talk about his recent examination of the Great Lakes Pilotage Authority, and how the lack of appointments to the board meant a lack of oversight for the CEO, who then abused his expenses. Michael Ferguson then went on to talk about the greater pattern of unfilled vacancies by this government (which will be the focus of one of his upcoming reports), and it’s a verifiable problem that this government has, in large part because as part of their reform of the system to ensure that more women and minorities were appointed, they changed to a system of seeking out nominees to having people apply for positions. For as much merit as ensuring more diversity among appointees has, the way they’ve handled it has been a gong show.
All of this is well and good to point out, but where I have a problem is where the AG suggests that if governments can’t fill these positions in a timely manner that we should consider a system where these boards have their own nomination committees to make their own appointments. This should raise a major alarm because it’s a sign of creeping technocracy and undermining accountability and responsible government. Government makes these appointments so that there is someone who can be held to account for them. Who is accountable if boards nominate their own members? How do we ensure that they don’t turn into cesspits of nepotism after we worked long and hard to ensure that we have taken patronage out of our current appointment systems?
Unfortunately, this is not a surprise with Ferguson, whose recommendations around an external audit committee for the Senate ignores the detrimental effect that this would have on Parliament’s ability to be self-governing. I do think it’s problematic that you have an officer of parliament who keeps advocating for greater technocracy and the undermining of our parliamentary democracy (and worse, that nobody in the media will dare to call him on it, because apparently we worship auditors general and believe that they can do no wrong). His observations about the problems around appointments are valid, don’t get me wrong. It’s his solutions that are untenable in the extreme.