Government appointments and the Trudeau Government - Canadian Government Executive
CommunicationGovernmentLeadershipThe Last Word
June 26, 2017

Government appointments and the Trudeau Government

During the general election in 2015, Justin Trudeau, the leader of the 3rd party, made a number of commitments to rebuild many of Canada’s important governmental institutions including the House of Commons, the Senate, and the “first past the post” electoral system. After more than 18 months into its mandate, the Liberal government has made some progress in fulfilling the promises that were so central to the campaign but have also disappointed many advocates and reformers who had high expectations.

There is little argument that Prime Minister has changed the Senate fundamentally with the appointment of 28 independent Senators and expulsion of the previous Liberal Senators from his party caucus. In terms of reforming the first past the post electoral system, it now seems clear that the Prime Minister has lost his appetite for an overhaul of the status quo, citing a lack of consensus among the political parties. As for House of Commons’ reforms, “business as usual” might be the most appropriate way in which to describe the lack of progress in making committees more effective in scrutinizing legislation, reforming the access to information legislation, changing the current system of party financing, and making the day to day functioning of the House of Commons more relevant.

While the Prime Minister has not yet fulfilled his election promises with regards to institutional change, he has quietly pivoted instead and moved decisively to produce a modern way government appointments are made.

Canadian prime ministers have their hands on many levers in their exercise of power but one of their most potent ones is their ability to appoint individuals to a wide range of government jobs. In the course of a full five-year majority government, Canadian prime ministers will likely make more than 3,000 full and part time so-called Governor-in-Council (GIC) appointments. Examples of the wide range of appointments include judges to the Supreme Court, CEOs and board members for Crown Corporations such as the National Arts Centre, Export Development, and the Bank of Canada, all deputy and associate deputy minister level positions, all ambassadors and other heads of missions, as well as the leaders of dozens of agencies, tribunals, and commissions including all of the Agents of Parliament such as the Auditor General and the Commissioner of Information.

Historically, Governor-in-Council appointments were handled on an ad hoc basis by officials in the Prime Minister’s Office and in the Senior Personnel Section of the Privy Council Office. In most cases efforts were made to appoint competent and qualified people but, as a general rule, there was limited oversight over the appointment process and there was little consistency in approach which often produced suspect appointments. Despite the efforts of officials to appoint credible candidates, the partisan political leadership was often successful in having one of its own chosen as a GIC appointee.

In early 2016, the PM announced a new GIC appointment process for the majority of non-judicial appointments and for many part time appointments subjecting them to a formal selection process for the first time. At the same time the PM signalled that the new policy would also apply to all Ministerial appointments thereby significantly increasing the scope of the new policy. In broad terms, the new system is based on a “rigorous approach” which is anchored to three operating principles: openness, merit and transparency. One very tangible change in past practices is that potential appointees now apply for job openings citing their experience and qualifications as evidence of their competencies. After a deliberative process a short list of qualified individuals is generated and those chosen are then subject to a formal selection interview and possible meeting with the Minister or Prime Minister.

The new system is obviously having a positive impact in attracting a new cadre of potential appointees. At one point, there were more than 11,000 applications being considered for advertised jobs, thus overwhelming the capacity of the PCO to process the applications and conduct the thousands of reference checks.

The new merit based system has been slow to get started and as a result there are a large number of important jobs that urgently need to be filled. Some of the higher profile jobs that need appointments are the: Chief Electoral Officer, Official Languages Commissioner, Commissioner of Lobbying and Conflict, Ethics Commissioner and the Chair of the National Capital Commission. In fact, according to the Toronto Star, 35 percent of the current GIC appointments are vacant or past their expiry, including more than 50 judgeships.

This policy change is a significant departure from past practices. While the PM has not given away his powerful right to make appointments, he has leveled the playing field, removed the tinge of partisanship, and encouraged qualified people to apply. The GIC website, “Opportunity to Build a Better Canada” is symbolic of the efforts made to improve the system.

 

David Zussman is a Senior Fellow in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of

Ottawa, Adjunct Professor at the University of Victoria, and Research Advisor to the Public-Sector Practice of Deloitte. dzussman@uottawa.ca

About this author

David Zussman

David Zussman is a senior fellow in the Graduate School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Ottawa and is a Research Advisor to the Public Sector Practice of Deloitte.

0 comments

There are no comments for this post yet.

Be the first to comment. Click here.

Communication
 
It takes a lifetime to build a reputation and just moments...
 
In this episode of CGE Radio, J. Richard Jones speaks with...
 
You could hear the oxygen leave the room after I asked...
 
Today on CGE Radio, John Jones interviews Alex Miller the President...
 
There is growing pressure on governments around the world to be...
 
The Trudeau Government’s decision, in August 2017, to split the Indigenous...
 
As social media becomes ever-more prevalent in the lives of today’s...
 
Evaluation is performed for a range of reasons:  to improve programs,...
 
Radical candour sounds rather outré as a prescription for government executives....
 
In 2016, Deloitte undertook a global internal audit research study on...
 
As the face of the Association of Professional Executives of the...
 
One of the writers in this month’s issue started a note...
 
Excellence in leadership is instrumental in serving the public interest. New-age...
 
At this time a year ago, the 88,000 displaced people of...
 
During the general election in 2015, Justin Trudeau, the leader of...
 
“Former Metro banker stole $73,000.”  “Enbridge sues ex-employee.”  “Woman stole $51,000...
 
The recent introduction of the new Government of Canada (GC) IT...
 
The way forward to engaging Millennials in the public sector Passionate,...
 
Innovation is prized and praised these days at work, even in...
 
An Interview with Joe Friday and Craig Dowden The Office of...
 
Leading the Unleadable By Alan Willett Your team probably includes some...
 
In this episode J. Richard Jones examines the rise in international...
 
Currently, there are ten organizations at the federal level that function...
 
Imagine a Canadian government that shares best practices in service delivery....
 
If you want to learn from mistakes in how to handle...
 
In 2015, the Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED)...
 
Since 2010, experts and academics eager to connect “systems thinking” and...
 
We curse meetings, but they are essential to today’s collaborative leadership...
 
When Marshall McLuhan coined the phrase “the medium is the message”...
 
Words, words, words. Blah, blah, blah. Our days – our work...
 
Government executives are writers. Maybe not like Margaret Atwood or Joseph...
 
Rehabilitating the West Block in considered the most complex restoration project...
 
David Graham, Member of Parliament for Laurentides–Labelle, is on a mission...
 
Global market trends are accelerating to increase the pressure on commercial...
 
Dispersed organisations can be very powerful structures. There is ample evidence...
 
The fact that Shared Services Canada (SSC) has struggled mightily under...
 
The agency responsible for safeguarding the Pentagon and several other buildings...
 
The annual APEX Symposium, which is the largest gathering of federal...
 
The government is spending $3.5 million to improve an existing immunization...
 
Years and years ago when I was unemployed, being able to...
 
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) today begins a public...
 
Professors are obliged to set regular weekly office hours, something most...
 
The Federal Bureau of Investigation announced that it has managed to...
 
Declining TV revenues caused by a growing shift in viewing habits...
 
Written by Tim Wacker Almost a quarter century ago, when most...
 
Written By Jason McNaught Contrary to what you may have heard,...
 
“Public institutions are the cornerstone of our democratic system” is the...
 
Written by  Brady G. Wilson You may not realize it, but...
 
Written by  Roxanne Descôteaux When I first became a manager over...
 
The good news is that the Government of Canada recognizes the...
 
given the article is mainly about briefing decks. Thus...
 
As politicians prepare for the upcoming elections, leveraging mobile devices and...
 
As the social media field changes and expands, Veterans Affairs Canada...
 
If there is one world that has changed dramatically for public...
 
For the Canadian Tourism Commission (CTC), bidding for the 2010 Winter...
 
Smartphones and tablets have fundamentally changed how information is created, managed...
 
Canada is seen around the world as a leader in science...
 
They have been hard to miss – TV commercials with colourful...
 
Many emergency responders in Canada, including members of the Canadian Forces,...
 
Presentations can be nerve-wracking at the best of times, even for...
 
It should matter to citizens that governments in office continue to...
 
Chances are good your organization has a crisis communications plan. Sitting...
 
Smart phones now account for 40% of all internet usage, and...
 
Too often emailing is used to dodge conflict; why not use...
 
It’s painfully ironic how difficult it can be for communicators to...
 
Last week, Queen’s University held the Third Annual National Public Administration...
 
commentEmail””:””llevesque@iog.ca””...
 
By using existing technologies such as Facebook and Twitter, Veterans Affairs...
 
The lines between our professional and personal lives are blurring: we...
 
If there is one function of government that has undergone significant...
 
Last week, I announced that I would be retiring from the...
 
On April 21, 1992, a group of 225 people gathered in...
 
We are told that the web is where it’s at when...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.3 March 2007 Much has changed since SARS struck...
 
CGE Vol. 14 No.5 May 2008 Cela fait près de neuf...
 
CGE Vol. 14 No.5 May 2008 In the past decade, Ontarians...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.1 January 2007 "A nation’s ability to solve problems...
 
CGE Vol. 14 No.5 May 2008 Reaching out – it’s been...
 
CGE Vol.14 No.3 March 2008 Kevin Lynch is Clerk of the...
 
CGE Vol. 14 No.5 May 2008 You may be a generalist,...
 
CGE Vol. 14 No.4 April 2008 Fancy yourself a bit of...
 
Nicole Vienneau disappears in Syria three years ago and, according to...
 
For decades, governments around the world have relied on the news...
 
La phase d’expansion initiale qu’a connue l’Internet dans les années 90...
 
Depending on what stage you are in your public service career,...
 
In my long experience watching and working with many ministers of...
 
With the initial Internet boom of the 1990s now firmly behind...
 
Il y a cinq ans à peine, deux administrations municipales néoR09;zélandaises,...
 
Bien que la majorité des Nord-Américains ne se déplacent pas tellement...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.6 June 2007 Is it 1995? Sometimes I think...
 
CGE Vol.13 No.8 October 2007 A landmark conference at Ryerson University...
 
D’ici 2017, les minorités visibles représenteront presque 29 % de la...
 
Au moment où s’amorce la présidence d’Obama, les spéculations vont bon...
 
As the Obama Presidency begins, there is much speculation as to...
 
Our work life is a series of conversations. And those conversations...
 
When Steve Jobs unveiled the new iTab earlier this year, the...
 
This past June, Don Head, commissioner of Correctional Service of Canada...
 
The Government of Saskatchewan dove into a social media experiment with...
 
When you hear the word “collaborate,” do you yawn? Do you...
 
New professionals across Canada are developing novel, more effective approaches to...
 
In a time when communicators are almost universally under pressure to...
 
The communications community of the Government of Canada plays a central...
 
Governments face increasingly complex issues that often involve inter-related environmental, social,...
 
There is an old joke about two passengers on a cruise...
 
Four years ago, we suggested people, service and trust – three...
 
Not to be too dramatic, but information is like a raging...
 
Over the last few years criticism of Canadian human rights commissions...
 
Some title Some author
Some excerpt
It takes a lifetime to build a reputation and just moments...