Jean Chretien

Liberal Party

Pierre Trudeau

Canadian Alliance

The King of Patronage

Date: OCT21-00
Source: Ottawa Citizen
Keywords: patronage, hypocrisy
Posted: OCT24-00
Jean Chretien Index

'The king of patronage'
Seven years after vowing to review the appointment process, the Chretien
patronage machine is humming along, beating even Brian Mulroney at
the political 'game of friends.'
Jack Aubry

One sunny July day this past summer, Prime Minister Jean Chretien joined his cabinet to hand out millions of dollars worth of federal jobs, with half going to supporters of the Liberal party.

That job finished, Mr. Chretien hopped into a helicopter for a whitewater raft ride on the Ottawa River.

Ten years ago, the Citizen examined a similar summer day's worth of appointments made by then-Progressive Conservative Prime Minister Brian Mulroney and his cabinet.

The high rate of Liberal patronage on July 27 surpassed Mr. Mulroney's one-in-three patronage ratio.

Mr. Chretien has said the upcoming election would be partly fought over protecting "Liberal values" -- the values espoused by the late Pierre Trudeau. But the Citizen review may remind Canadians of the darker side of Mr. Trudeau's legacy, including a particularly infamous spate of patronage appointments he made John Turner fulfil in 1984. That list helped hand the 1984 election to Mr. Mulroney.

Mr. Chretien defended the appointments during the 1984 election, arguing that by naming so many sitting MPs to the patronage posts, Mr. Trudeau had saved taxpayers money. Instead of drawing big pensions, Mr. Chretien rationalized, the appointees would only earn their new salaries.

Later as Opposition leader, Mr. Chretien and his Liberals were highly critical of Mr. Mulroney's appointments.

And in the 1993 Red Book of election promises, the Liberals vowed to restore integrity to government and review the appointment process to ensure jobs were filled on the basis of competence. Seven years later, the famed Grit patronage machine is humming along, apparently cranking out Liberals for one out of every two new appointments -- if July 27, 2000, is any indication.

On that day, about 40 of the 80 appointments made by the cabinet were filled by Liberals who either contributed money to the party, ran as party candidates in previous federal and provincial elections, or worked on Liberal election and leadership campaigns. The total annual salaries of the 80 jobs filled is more than $3.8 million.

The appointments included Chretien cronies, former Liberal MPs, some defeated candidates, and in one case, the daughter of a Newfoundland Liberal member of the provincial legislature.

There were a handful of noteworthy Liberal appointments including Robert Fung, the man who brought Mr. Chretien to a Bay Street brokerage house as a well-paid "special adviser" when Mr. Chretien left politics in the mid-1980s.


Twenty-five of the Chretien appointments on July 27 were to positions in Human Resources Development Canada to either sit on one of its regional boards of referees or one of its review tribunals for the Canada Pension Plan.

The other government bodies involved in the appointments included the departments of Finance, Health, Natural Resources, Public Works, Justice, Veteran Affairs, Citizenship and Immigration, Transport, the Privy Council Office and the Prime Minister's Office.

Liberal officials say they brought in some changes including more advertising for positions in the Canada Gazette, followed by interviews and a reduction in appointed positions.


What he never mentions is that making patronage appointments is a traditional power historically coveted by prime ministers -- one Mr. Chretien has shown no sign of giving up.

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