22 July 2016

The future of the information commissioner #nlpoli

Donovan Molloy will be the new information and privacy commissioner.  He'll do a fine job, to be sure, but there is something about the appointment that seems a waste of the talents of a fellow who has been the director of public prosecutions.

He'd have made a fine judge, but the last time he applied for that position Molloy got screwed over by the guy in charge at the time.  Eventually, the former deputy minister of justice managed to get himself appointed to a seat where - as he well knew - we didn't need a judge at all.  

And about 11 days after that,  the chief suddenly and for no apparent reason quit his job as chief judge. Cabinet replaced him just as quickly and with no reason whatsoever vaulted his wife - the third most junior judge on the provincial bench at the time - to replace him. 

All very odd, if not downright suspicious.  

Molloy would have also made a fine deputy justice minister.  Too late for that now.

In the last session of the House, cabinet decided to leave the privacy commissioner's appointment out of the new independent commission process.  As SRBP noted at the time,  this was odd since there was no way they'd have a replacement for the incumbent no matter whether they used the process in the ATIPP Act or substituted the new Clyde Wells process.  What was interesting about the way they went, though, was that the choice of the new commissioner would be made by a group that included some of the folks involved that bit of tomfoolery in the justice department in 2015. 

From the spring post:  "Whoever gets the job will be in place for a decade so this is not a trivial matter.  The appointment of a new commissioner for access and privacy offered the Liberals an opportunity to highlight their commitment to a new direction in the public's right to note. What's more interesting, though, is that the decision on who gets to be the new commissioner will be made by a group of individuals who were all appointed by the previous administration using a process the current crowd supposedly don;t believe was correct. One of them, in fact,  came to her current job in a very shady and still unexplained set of circumstances

The description of the sort of individual they are looking for plus the composition of the panel make it most likely that the new access commissioner will come from inside the public service. It is highly unlikely the new person will come from outside the public service. In other words, cabinet will get a very narrow range of choices that meet with the approval of senior public servants based on criteria that, from all appearances, the bureaucrats drafted."

We don't know who else they looked and there is no question Molloy is a decent choice.  But how wide a range of candidates did they really get?  You also have to look very seriously at the fact that by surrendering control of appointments like this cabinet is really limiting the circle of folks it can pick for key jobs, let alone giving away the fact it can actually pick people for key jobs in the first place.  At least politicians are accountable to voters.  The more stuff we hand over to unelected people, the less accountable - the less democratic - things are.