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Investigation to centre on hiring of four senior executives in Atlantic Canada by cabinet minister Peter MacKayThe Canadian Press

Findings from a year-long probe by the federal Integrity Commission that centres on the hiring practices of John Lynn, appointed head of a Cape Breton federal Crown agency by senior cabinet minister Peter MacKay in 2008, will be released this week.

The probe into Mr. Lynn, who is a friend of Mr. MacKay, will look at the hiring of four senior executives at the Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation. It was provoked by complaints from the federal Liberal Atlantic caucus that accused the Tories of a pattern of patronage abuse.

Its findings come as questions are being raised about other appointments with ties to Mr. MacKay. A Federal Court of Canada decision earlier this month described as "tainted" the hiring process that led to the appointment of Kevin MacAdam to director of operations in PEI for the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, which funds economic development in the region. Mr. MacAdam, a long-time friend of Mr. MacKay who worked for him as a political staffer for years, was no longer in that job as of last week.

The Liberal complaint around Mr. Lynn's practices points to three men with "strong ties to the Conservative Party" who were hired to the ECBC: Allan Murphy, who ran unsuccessfully for the Harper Tories in the 2011 election and was a long-time staff member to Mr. MacKay, was hired to ECBC in a "newly-created federal liaison position," according to the Liberals; and two senior ECBC officials named are Ken Langley and Robert MacLean, who both have tight connections to the provincial Tories. A fourth person, a former ECBC staffer, who the Liberals have identified as Nancy Baker, works for Mr. MacKay in Justice.

When he launched his probe, Integrity Commissioner Mario Dion said: "I have reasonable grounds to believe that a wrongdoing was committed."

Rodger Cuzner, a Cape Breton Liberal MP, said he's comfortable if a Conservative wins a job through a legitimate process. "But when jobs aren't posted and there is not as much as an interview for a position, I think most people would understand there is a total lack of fairness in that," he said.

"I think we take a great deal of pride in having a professional, independent, non-partisan public service," said Mr. Cuzner.

Mr. MacKay will not comment on the accusations of patronage. Stephen Harper vowed to take patronage out of regional-development agencies in his 2006 election platform.

Mr. Lynn, appointed to head ECBC in 2008 through an order-in-council appointment announced by Mr. MacKay, was a former Sobey's Inc. executive from Mr. MacKay's Central Nova riding. And for the past year, Mr. Lynn has been on paid leave from his job because of the integrity commissioner's investigation and another by the ethics commissioner into an unspecified complaint made to the head of ACOA.

He will soon be without a job, as the federal Conservatives have brought in legislation to wrap ECBC into ACOA. The bill is expected to pass through the House before the summer break.

And there are questions as to whether Mr. Lynn is entitled to a year's severance. The Privy Council Office, which is responsible for order-in-council appointments, refused to provide details, citing privacy.

As for Mr. MacAdam, he is considering whether to appeal the Federal Court decision, said his lawyer, Craig Stehr. Mr. Stehr noted that "there was no political interference and no question that Mr. MacAdam was well-qualified for the position at ACOA."

Federal Court Justice Richard Mosley's decision said that Mr. MacAdam did nothing wrong but that the hiring was inappropriate. He upheld the Public Service Commission's investigation that found Mr. MacAdam's hiring improper.