Friday, January 21, 2011

The Moral of the Bastarache Commission: Don't Fix the Blame, Fix the Problem

There was something adolescent in Jean Charest's assertion that he had been cleared of any wrong doing in the nomination of judges by the Bastarache Commission report and that it was the former Minister of Justice, Marc Bellemare's fault that it was necessary to convene the commission.

Obviously, the buck doesn't stop with Jean, six million bucks to be precise, the cost to the public purse for what could have been accomplished at a fraction of the cost by a legislative committee.

In short, the Charest led Liberals were found not guilty of undue influence peddling in the nomination of judges. Undue in this instance means that the nominations were not simply bought.

Yet, in a wonderfully euphemistic understatement, Bastarache went on to say that the nomination process was "permeable" to outside influence:

the process is vulnerable to all manner of interventions and influence, particularly by members of the National Assembly, members of political parties, lawyers and the candidates themselves. The candidates’ political affiliation or acquaintance with representatives of the political party in power may play a role. There are no standards governing the handling of the files or the conduct required of the Minister of Justice, the Premier, the members of their political staff or other stakeholders, particularly with respect to which persons may be consulted for the purpose of recommending an appointment. There are no criteria in place to guide the Minister in making recommendations. Every Minister of Justice has had to establish his or her own guidelines in these areas.

This is not a glowing assessment of the nomination process of which Charest is ultimately responsible. It's as if with Charest at the helm the ship has run aground, but the investigation has shown that he wasn't drunk at the wheel; he was simply incompetent.

Fortunately, there were 46 recommendations made that would if acted upon raise the credibility of the nomination process.

Which brings me to my main point, this is not all about you Jean. We know that you want to hang onto your job at all costs. But hey, things are extremely screwed up in Quebec. We need to understand the scale and the scope of the problem. That's why a public inquiry into the construction industry and the financing of political parties is absolutely necessary.

Your precious reputation aside, having your ridiculously named Operation Hammer lay charges upon a few scapegoats is not going to address the systemic problems and restore the people's confidence in their government.

Let's get out of the blame game and fix the problem.

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