Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty announces he is stepping down
Credits: CRAIG ROBERTSON/QMI AGENCY
While Ontario's Liberal government may resemble a sinking ship these days, it still has plenty of lifelines to throw to the party faithful.
Among those are patronage appointments to 600 agencies, boards and commissions, everything from the board of Ontario Power Generation, to Hydro One, to local police service boards and regional health networks.
As Sun Queen's Park reporter Jonathan Jenkins reported Monday, normally these appointments would be vetted by a legislative committee which, in the current minority parliament, has a majority of opposition MPPs sitting on it.
But with Premier Dalton McGuinty having shut down the Legislature while the Liberals decide on a new leader to replace him, no one is vetting these appointments, which are made by the premier and his cabinet.
The Liberals insist they cleaned up the appointment process, making it more open and transparent.
Besides, they argue, the situation is no different now than it would be during the Legislature's summer recess.
It's true appointments to agencies, boards and commissions have been used by governments of all stripes to reward friends.
Further, just because someone is a political supporter of the government of the day, doesn't automatically mean he or she is incompetent or should be automatically excluded from consideration.
But the concern here is that with the Liberals in huge political trouble and facing the possibility of a spring election that could well see them defeated after nine years in power, McGuinty and his cabinet will use this opportunity to ram through an orgy of last-minute patronage appointments.
And that the next government will be left cleaning up the mess for years, not only having to weed out incompetent appointees, but hyper-partisan ones committed to working against the new government, no matter what it does.
This is a well-grounded fear, given that ever since he adjourned the Legislature on Oct. 15 to escape daily questioning about a series of scandals that have rocked his government, McGuinty, with his party in tow, has been putting the interests of the Liberal Party of Ontario ahead of the people of Ontario.
Which suggests the real solution to this isn't for the Liberals to elect a new leader. It's for voters to elect a new, non-Liberal government at the first opportunity.