Sunday, April 01, 2007

A good question.

The Globe and Mail's Jeff Shallot raised a great question on CTV's Question Period this morning. Why, when the government has made so much of greater citizen input on judicial appointment committees do they not have a single civilian on the search committee to find a new RCMP commissioner? (The committee, if I recall, is composed of a former RCMP commissioner, the PM's security advisor, and two former Supreme Court Justices. All qualifed people, I should like to say).

I, for one, do not have strong objections to the Conservatives' method for judicial appointments. Especially when judicial appointments have hardly been non-partisan in the past. But, why not extend the principal of greater citizen involvement to the RCMP? Especially when the top brass of the RCMP are bringing themselves into such disrepute? And especially when the RCMP has no civilian oversight as it now stands. This seems like a great beachhead to take in the reform of the organization.

6 comments:

Jason Bo Green said...

Interesting. I know little of this process, so am enjoying the Harper government's time in office - it's teaching me a lot. I think you have a good point. I don't mind at all the process they are using, but agree: Why not have a civilian or two?

Candace said...

I'm not sure that bringing a civilian into the process of hiring the commissioner has much value. What would YOU be looking for? or me? or Jason?

For someone to take the reins, they have to have the respect of the rank & file. Unless you are either a cop or a judge, you probably can't bring anything to the table that isn't already there.

The Acting Commissioner, Bev Busson, has the respect required, but she doesn't want the job and technically, isn't qualified as she's unilingual (making her proof positive of the stupidity of that rule).

As for some sort of oversight committee, that's perhaps a different story. I don't know how well the oversight on CSIS is working (as I refuse to take Craig Oliver's word for it, go figure), nor, more importantly, how that committee might be impeding CSIS.

What really needs to happen is for the position to be de-politicized. Currently, the Commissioner is essentially a Deputy Minister. The position should report directly to Parliament, not the PMO or a Minister (I believe that's the way it was before - Trudeau? I think - changed it).

Peter Loewen said...

Candace:

I can't say I know how the process used to work under Trudeau, though I don't have a strict problem with the commissioner reporting to the minister. After all, at least the minister is then directly responsible to guard his conduct, rather than all of parliament. (I don't know of two many offices, save cabinet portfolios, which are directly responsible to all of parliament).

I think it's pretty clear what kind of citizen we would want: someone who has knowledge about what it takes to run a large organization, who is not overly deferential to the RCMP culture or ways of doing things, who has a passing knowledge of how the RCMP is structured, who can work well in a committee, and who has a reasonable conception of what the public wants in a police force. Now, this doesn't mean that we should give the job to some hack because he was a poll captain at one time or another. But certainly the government could find one person who could fit those criteria. I think I could list ten in an instant. What it would lend to the process is the same thing that is lended to the judicial appointment process: the knowledge that this wasn't just one big inside cook-up.

Peter

Jason Bo Green said...

First off Peter, I think you may be my replacement for Olaf, now that he's run off to chase the sunset.

Secondly, are you aware that if one googles the word "hereschetic", the only hit that pops up is http://www.ashrewdnessofapes.blogspot.com?

So what the heck does it mean, then?

Peter Loewen said...

I've no idea who Olaf is, but I do hope that is a compliment.

On the other matter, damn my typing/spelling. What I meant to type is heresthetic. It's a phrase coined by William Riker to describe situations where political losers win not by changing peoples' preferences (which is done principally through rhetoric) but by changing the dimensions on which an election is fought; by introducing new issues, for example.

Jason Bo Green said...

Olaf was a legend in his time, it's a great compliment!

Ahhhh, wonderful term - thanks for introducing it to me.

William Riker...? The William Riker, of the USS Enterprise? Fascinating. ;)