The Official Opposition is trying to bring Peter MacKay before a parliamentary committee to testify about apparent patronage appointments at a Crown corporation – hirings made by a now-dismissed executive and friend of the Justice Minister.
The NDP has submitted a motion to the industry committee asking that it "invite the Honourable Peter MacKay to appear, prior to June 20, 2014, in regards to appointments at the Enterprise Cape Breton Corporation." The motion could be moved and voted on by the Conservative-majority committee as early as Wednesday.
Mr. MacKay has distanced himself from the ECBC appointments, saying he had no hand in the hiring of John Lynn, a friend of the minister who ran the Crown corporation until being dismissed with cause last week. Mr. Lynn's firing, which the government says was the result of an ECBC-driven investigation, came one day after the federal Public Sector Integrity Commissioner found Mr. Lynn had breached ethics rules by hiring four Tory-connected people with little or no documented justification or competitive process. Two had been members of Mr. MacKay's staff.
The watchdog's investigation centred on Mr. Lynn and doesn't mention or implicate Mr. MacKay. Last week, the minister noted it was Mr. Lynn's activities that had been deemed inappropriate.
Ryan Cleary, the NDP critic responsible for the file, said he nonetheless believes "all the dots" connect to Mr. MacKay on the ECBC appointments. He said the minister should face "point-blank" questions over how his former staffers got the Crown corporation jobs.
"The question I've consistently asked in the House of Commons is this: Does the government honestly expect us to think John Lynn made all those appointments, all that patronage, on his own?" said Mr. Cleary.
Mr. MacKay's spokeswoman referred any questions about a potential committee appearance to the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, which is slated to soon absorb ECBC staff and programs. A spokeswoman for Rob Moore, the minister responsible for ACOA, didn't directly address the prospect of Mr. MacKay testifying about the appointments, instead pointing to Mr. Lynn's recent dismissal and the government's commitment to "ensuring that we have a professional, independent, non-partisan public service."
The Public Sector Integrity Commissioner's finding came amid controversy over other appointments of people with ties to Mr. MacKay. A Federal Court of Canada decision this month described as "tainted" the hiring process that led to the ACOA appointment of Kevin MacAdam, a long-time friend of Mr. MacKay who had worked for him as a political staffer. The judge upheld the decision to revoke Mr. MacAdam's appointment. Mr. Mr. MacAdam's lawyer said his client is still considering the possibility of an appeal, adding "there was no political interference."
When tabled, the NDP motion will be debated and voted on by the Conservative-majority committee, which could move those proceedings behind closed doors. Mr. Cleary called the chances of the motion being approved "probably remote," but said "the public has to know that we're fighting this."