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Legislative Report (18 January 2006)

Legislative Report

18 January 2006
Political Patronage, Accountability and the Calvert NDP
The American poet E.A. Robinson published a number of volumes, and won several Pulitzer prizes for his work. However, Robinson was virtually destitute in his early career. Then he received a job from U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt at the New York Custom House.

Robinson was required to open his desk, read the morning paper and leave the newspaper on his chair as proof he had actually been at work. When William Howard Taft became president and suggested Robinson might have to work, the poet resigned.

Im sure patronage is as old as government. Careers have prospered based on connections with those in power. Weve seen this in the recent appointments of an NDP ministerial assistant, a chief of staff and the Premiers former driver to high paying government relations jobs in the Crowns.

The NDP also appointed former MP John Solomon as chair of the Workers Compensation Board. And dont forget Jim Fergusson, former director of the Saskatoon Health Region. Fergusson was a long-time NDP worker, who helped work on health care policy. Thats fine. Get advice from people you know. However what isnt fine is keeping Fergusson on as an advisor at $13,000 per month and a job description that seemed to amount to a couple of phone calls.

Now we have the federal NDP calling for an end to patronage and the establishment of a system based on merit instead of political connections. I wonder if the Saskatchewan NDP is willing to make the same suggestion. I wonder why cleaning up this problem hasnt been a priority for Lorne Calvert?

The federal NDP is also advocating changes to improve freedom of information legislation. Meanwhile, their Saskatchewan cousins are stonewalling answering more than 500 written questions from the Saskatchewan Party about potential fraud. And it should be noted that the Calvert NDP scored an F on a report card released by the Canadian Newspaper Association. It looked at all provinces and compared how hard it was for a member of the public to get the basic information they are entitled to.

Politics can make for strange bedfellows. However you seldom see the kind of disconnect between the federal and provincial wings of a party as we have seen from the NDP on patronage and freedom of information. It makes me wonder why the Calvert NDP is so out of step with its federal counterparts.

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