The Harper Index

Appointments: another Conservative placed on Toronto Port Authority

Could tip balance against environmentalists and community group.

Jeremy Adams - new appointee to the Toronto Port Authority Eric Mang

OTTAWA, January 20, 2009: In 2006, Stephen Harper promised an end to patronage appointments. He wanted an independent commission to select appointees based on experience and not political ties. In the same year, former tar sands baron and Conservative Gwyn Morgan was rejected by the House of Commons Government Operations Committee to be Chair of the Public Appointments Commission, and in a fit of juvenile rage Harper terminated the Appointments Commission before it could be created. So much for the crown jewel of his much vaunted Accountability Act.

Since 2006, the Harper government has made numerous political appointments including former Progressive Conservative Premier of PEI, Pat Binns, as Ambassador to Ireland, the recently announced 18 Conservative Senators (despite years of Harper vociferously opposing Senate appointments), conservative judges (in December 2008, Harper bypassed a parliamentary review process, a process fought for by his party, to appoint Thomas Cromwell to the Supreme Court) and Conservative pals and insiders to various and sundry boards and committees.

Just two days ago the Harper government appointed another Conservative to the Toronto Port Authority (TPA) Board. Jeremy Adams, a former political aide in the Harris government, joins another Harrisite, Sean Morley, who was appointed a month ago.

Some on the TPA Board and Mayor David Miller are not pleased with these appointments. Why have the feds expanded the Board to nine members (compared to ten for Vancouver, which handles significantly more port activity than Toronto)? The City is in a fight over expansion plans by Porter Air, the main tenant of the Toronto City Centre Airport (TCCA). And the TCCA is overseen by the Port Authority. Although federal Conservatives were briefly amenable to halting expansion of the airport, in 2006 they signaled their support for expansion while expressing enthusiasm for friends and supporters when then-Transportation Minister Lawrence Cannon appointed five new members, with either Conservative or airline business ties, to the TPA. (Incidentally, former CEO of the Toronto Port Authority, Lisa Raitt, is Harper's newly minted Minister of Natural Resources.)

Porter Air is being fought by environmentalists and community groups (notably CommunityAIR) who accuse it of increasing air pollution, noise pollution and generally mucking up the Island and waterfront.

Adams has no experience with infrastructure policy. None. After working for Ontario Health Minister Elizabeth Witmer, then as Premier Mike Harris' Health and Economic Policy Advisor, Adams was employed by pharmaceutical company Merck Frosst. Putting his years in health care policy to peculiar use, he is currently the Director of International Government Relations for the National Smokeless Tobacco Company (smokeless tobacco is snuff and chewing tobacco. Both contain 28 carcinogens and users have a high risk of developing mouth cancer).

If Harper hadn't petulantly spiked the Public Appointments Commission, many wouldn't be left wondering how a partisan political operative with no apparent understanding of transportation and infrastructure policy, ended up on the board of the Toronto Port Authority.

Eric Mang is a former Progressive Conservative political aide. He departed the political world when the progressive element was snuffed out of the Conservatives and his politics continued to drift leftward. He lives in Toronto and occasionally writes about municipal, provincial and federal politics.

Related individuals, organizations and significant events
Public appointments and patronage

Links and sources
  Patronage alive and well, The Star
  EnCana's Gwyn Morgan nominated for new federal appointments job, CBC
  Ottawa names second Tory to port board, The Globe and Mail
  Issues — Toronto Island Airport, VoteToronto
  CommunityAIR - devoted to restoring the lands and harbour
  Smokeless Tobacco and Cancer: Questions and Answers

Posted: January 22, 2009

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