Nearly one in four defeated Conservative candidates in the 2011 election received a taxpayer-funded federal job within the last year.
A Postmedia News analysis reveals that 35 of the 141 candidates who lost at the polls received jobs in places such as the Prime Minister’s Office, Health Canada, ministers’ offices or on boards and agencies such as the Quebec Port Authority. In fact, Quebec candidates made up three-quarters of those who received federal jobs.
Four candidates were appointed to the Senate, two to overseas diplomatic positions in France, 14 to agencies or boards and 14 became political staff to ministers and MPs. Some left their previous political staff positions to run in the election, and then were rehired after losing their bid for public office. Two people hired to serve in ministers’ offices have subsequently left their positions.
The analysis found that of the 63 defeated candidates in Quebec, where the Tories won only five of 75 seats, 26 received appointments or political jobs, or about 40 per cent of all the defeated Quebec candidates.
Outside of political staff, appointments to boards, agencies and the Senate are approved by cabinet.
The practice of appointing or hiring party faithful is a staple in Canadian politics. During his days as an opposition MP, Prime Minister Stephen Harper was critical of political appointments made by former prime ministers Brian Mulroney and Jean Chrétien.
A spokesman for Harper said that each one of the candidates identified in the Postmedia News analysis — a copy of which was provided to the Prime Minister’s Office on Friday — was qualified for their position and earned their job based on merit.
“Partisan affiliation should not qualify someone for consideration, nor should it exclude someone from consideration,” Carl Vallée said in an email. “It shouldn’t be a surprise that people with the determination and guts to run to be an elected member of Parliament would want to serve the public in some capacity.”
Chiefs of staff, communication directors and constituency assistants are just a few of the jobs candidates received. At the upper end of the pay scale, chiefs of staff can earn $177,000 annually, according to Treasury Board guidelines. At the lower end, the guidelines say constituency assistants can earn a maximum of $80,900.
The four senators — Josée Verner, Jean-Guy Dagenais, Larry Smith and Fabian Manning — each earn $132,300 annually, according to the parliamentary website. Smith and Manning resigned their Senate seats to run in the 2011 election. They were reappointed after their losses.
The Postmedia analysis found the majority of appointees to boards and agencies — 10 of the 14 appointments — received part-time work with the Employment Insurance board of referees, which adjudicates appeals of departmental rulings on all manner of employment insurance decisions.
Each EI referee earns $425 per hearing day, according to the Human Resources and Skills Development Canada website.
But the death knell has sounded for the board of referees. The government plans to merge it and three other social-assistance tribunals into one Social Security Tribunal, cutting down the more than 1,000 appeal board members into 74 full-time positions. The new tribunal will be in place by April 2013, and fully operational by April 2014, according to a spokeswoman for Human Resources Minister Diane Finley.
Postmedia checked the names of each defeated Tory candidate against government websites, including the government’s appointments index (appointments.gc.ca), the Privy Council website, the Canada Gazette, and the public servant phone listings.
The analysis of publicly available information also included checks of social networking websites such as LinkedIn.
Among those who received appointments or political jobs were candidates who lost to former NDP leader Jack Layton, current NDP leader Thomas Mulcair, Liberal MPs Marc Garneau, Hedy Fry and Scott Andrews and Bloc Québécois MP André Bellavance.
Saulie Zajdel, who lost to Liberal incumbent Irwin Cotler in the Montreal riding of Mount Royal, was hired as a special adviser to Heritage Minister James Moore based in Montreal. He resigned from the controversial post in April.
As of May 11, Jennifer Gearey was no longer Treasury Board President Tony Clement’s communications director. Gearey took the job shortly after losing to NDP MP Françoise Boivin in Gatineau by 30,730 votes.
At almost the same time that Zajdel stepped down, Robert Malo received a part-time appointment to the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal. Malo, the Conservative candidate in Laval, said he applied after seeing the position advertised, believing his experience as a mediator met the job qualifications.
“I followed all the steps that were very long,” he said. In the end, Malo received a three-year appointment as the member from Joliette, Que.
Malo is a former member of the Veterans Review and Appeal Board, an appointment he received from the Chrétien Liberals. He said he believed he earned his current position on merit, not because of any political affiliations.
Each appointee has to apply for positions that are advertised on the government’s appointments website. Jean-Philippe Payment said he learned about the appointments website after working as a staffer for three years in the Prime Minister’s Office as well as the offices of two Tory cabinet ministers.
“So I know the apparatus of government very well,” Payment said. “It was not something new for me.”
Payment said he didn’t ask for any special favours when he applied, and believes he earned his position because he met the criteria for the job.
“Getting a nomination isn’t a consolation prize,” said Payment, who lost to the NDP’s Charmaine Borg. “It’s not a way to reward someone … I wouldn’t answer for the others, but for me, I filled in the paperwork, and I got through the steps.”
The Postmedia analysis found 10 of the political hires had previous experience working for a Conservative politician. Among them:
Matthew Conway ran in the Quebec riding of Notre-Dame-de-Grace-Lachine, losing to Isabelle Morin of the NDP by 11,369 votes. His online candidate profile notes he used to work for a government research office. Today, he works as a special assistant to Heritage Minister James Moore.
Ann Matejicka, Finley’s chief of staff, worked for “a number” of federal cabinet ministers, including Justice Minister Rob Nicholson, before running in 2011, according to her candidate webpage. Matejicka lost to Liberal MP Kevin Lamoureux by 2,396 votes in Winnipeg North.
Stockwell Day’s former chief of staff lost to Liberal MP Marc Garneau by 8,128 votes. Neil Drabkin is now the chief of staff to Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver.
Two former politicians were hired by the federal government to work for Health Canada.
Former Northwest Territories health minister Sandy Lee lost the riding of Western Arctic by 2,139 votes to NDP MP Dennis Bevington, earning herself 35.6 per cent of the vote. In July, she began working as director of regional affairs for the Northwest Territories.
Former Conservative cabinet minister Sylvie Boucher lost her Quebec seat to the NDP’s Raymond Côté by 10,461 votes. By August, Boucher was a caucus liaison and legislative assistant to Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq.
Other former politicians landed political appointments:
Former foreign affairs minister Lawrence Cannon and Outaouais MP was appointed in May to be Canada’s ambassador to France. According to the Privy Council Office database, Cannon can earn up to $221,800 annually.
Former veterans affairs minister Jean-Pierre Blackburn was appointed in December to be the Canadian representative to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in Paris. According to the Privy Council Office database, Blackburn will earn an annual salary of up to $195,300,
Bernard Genereux lost his Quebec seat by nine votes. Genereux was appointed the federal representative to the Quebec Port Authority. Directors to the authority earn approximately $25,000 to $30,000 in 2011, according to financial statements from the port authority.
Richard Belisle was appointed to the National Parole Board, a part-time appointment that pays up to $700 per day for the minimum five to 10 days the board sits each month. Belisle was a former Bloc Québécois MP who defected to the Tories, but lost to the NDP’s Pierre Nantel by 22,780 votes — his second election loss in the Quebec riding of Longueuil — Pierre-Boucher.
The 35 candidates lost on average by 12,567 votes and earned about 21 per cent of the vote. Among them:
In Shefford, Que., Melisa Leclerc lost to the NDP’s Rejean Genest by 19,667 votes, earning herself 17.5 per cent of the vote. In January, Leclerc became chief of staff to Bernard Valcourt, the minister of state for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
Sebastien Forte lost to the NDP’s Alexandre Boulerice by 25,156 votes. He received an appointment to the EIboard of referees.
Jennifer Clarke lost to Liberal MP Hedy Fry by 2,937 votes. In March, she was appointed as a director to the Prince Rupert Port Authority in B.C.
Postmedia news, with files from Mike De Souza.