Conservatives and New Democrats are trying to block a former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister from being appointed as Commissioner of Official Languages, saying Prime Minister Justin Trudeau ignored his legal obligation to consult with opposition leaders before announcing Madeleine Meilleur as his nominee.
The opposition house leaders, New Democrat Murray Rankin, and Conservative Candice Bergen, told the House of Commons on Wednesday that, far from being asked for input, their leaders received nothing more than a letter from the Liberal government advising them of Ms. Meilleur's nomination. Mr. Rankin and Ms. Bergen asked House Speaker Geoff Regan to delay the vote on the appointment until a true consultation has taken place.
Both the Tories and the NDP have complained about the partisan Liberal background of Ms. Meilleur, who, as an Officer of Parliament, would be expected to operate independently of the government and would report directly to the House of Commons or the Senate.
Ms. Meilleur was the Liberal MPP in the Ottawa riding of Ottawa-Vanier for 13 years. She held cabinet posts in the Ontario Liberal government, including that of minister responsible for francophone affairs, and has donated money to the federal Liberals and to Mr. Trudeau's leadership campaign.
She told a francophone TV network in Ontario this week she had wanted to be a senator, but Mr. Trudeau did not want politicians in the Red Chamber.
Ms. Meilleur said in an interview on Wednesday she applied to become a senator after she retired from provincial politics in June, 2016. "But Mr. Trudeau did not agree that a politician who had just left politics would go into the Senate," she said.
When the job of Official Languages Commissioner came open late last year, she submitted an application.
Ms. Meilleur, who will appear at the Commons standing committee on official languages on Thursday, said she is disappointed her nomination has been controversial but "I would like to be judged by the work that I will do."
Tom Mulcair, the NDP Leader, questioned why Mr. Trudeau, who has been trying to purge the Senate of partisans, would nominate someone who has been a prominent Liberal politician to an office that requires independence.
The NDP Leader recalled that Mr. Trudeau was the subject of an investigation this year by the office of the languages commissioner after he insisted on speaking only in French during a stop in Sherbrooke, Que., even when he was asked questions in English.
Mr. Mulcair said the Conservative government of Stephen Harper, which was often accused of hyperpartisanship, "definitely" consulted more vigorously with opposition leaders before nominating officers of Parliament.
A spokesman for the Prime Minister said Ms. Meilleur's nomination was based on merit and she was chosen after a rigorous vetting process. He also said that, in addition to the letters to party leaders asking for feedback, Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly spoke with opposition critics.
But the opposition says the law requires far more. Ms. Bergen told the House of Commons the letter sent to interim Conservative Leader Rona Ambrose to announce Ms. Meilleur's nomination only "mockingly" pretended to ask for input. Other Officers of Parliament, including Ethics Commissioner, must be named soon, and the opposition is concerned those jobs will also go to partisans, Ms. Bergen said.
Mr. Regan said he would consider the request to delay the vote on Ms. Meilleur's nomination.