Government accountability under scrutiny

«We need to depoliticize these appointments. Patronage is running rampant in Alberta. »




The Stelmach government is rejecting a call from its own task force to bar MLAs and senior government officials from political appointments to regulatory bodies as part of an overhaul to the province’s boards and agencies.

In response to a report commissioned earlier this year, the province is adopting 14 recommendations aimed at improving accountability for hundreds of agencies, but modifying a call to eliminate further government appointments.

"Due to the nature of some boards, elected or senior officials will be appointed when their input is important for the agency to achieve its mandate," a government release stated.

Liberal critic Mo Elsalhy said the move shows the Conservative government is trying to maintain a tight grip over agencies by stacking them with Tory-friendly associates.

"The one thing which they rejected is really the reason why we had that task force in the first place — which is patronage appointments and putting people who are connected in those positions," he said.

"Those boards are public organizations and they should not be run like a private club."

In March, Premier Ed Stelmach appointed the task force to study organizations that run government business, including regional health boards and commissions.

The panel recommended new legislation be created to keep better track of an agency’s mandate and governance, which will be adopted.

New Democrat Leader Brian Mason said he would approve any measures taken to make the selection process for board members more open and transparent.

"We need to depoliticize these appointments," he said. "Patronage is running rampant in Alberta."

He said a non-partisan commission should be created to handle the vetting of appointments to government boards instead of allowing cabinet ministers to fill commissions with Albertans meeting "good Tory credentials."