Saturday, February 27, 2010

Rights & Democracy? Right!

OTTAWA–Opposition leaders are rejecting the government's pick of a new president to head Montreal's troubled Rights and Democracy, calling him a partisan choice that risks further upsetting the agency.

In a letter rejecting the choice of Gérard Latulippe, Liberal Leader Michael Ignatieff accused the Conservatives of trying to hijack arm's-length government agencies.

"Your government has demonstrated time and again that it aims to impose on our country's independent institutions the most extreme views espoused within your own political party," Ignatieff wrote.

"And when this approach is applied to an independent organization dedicated to the promotion of human rights and democracy, it is particularly offensive."

Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon's pick of Latulippe was ostensibly meant to bring stability to the government-funded agency, which has been rocked by questions of funding, a revolt by staff against the Conservative-appointed board, and the suspension of senior employees.

But Latulippe's past political ties have only fed opposition suspicions that the government is trying to engineer a takeover at the independent rights agency, which has an $11 million budget to foster democracy and human rights around the globe.

Latulippe, currently the resident director for the National Democratic Institute in Haiti, was a one-time candidate for the defunct Canadian Alliance.

Latulippe was also an adviser to Stockwell Day when the Treasury Board president was Canadian Alliance leader.

He also served alongside Cannon when they were Quebec Liberal MNAs in the 1980s.

Ignatieff notes that Latulippe's resumé circulated to the opposition leaders seemed to omit the more partisan points of his career.

"It seems counterproductive, to say the least, to appoint as its president an individual like Mr. Latulippe who has such strong ties to the government and its ministers," he wrote.

Cannon had called Latulippe "exceptionally qualified" when he named him for the job Monday.

Ignatieff said Rights and Democracy deserves better, saying its reputation "has been seriously damaged by the current chaos that has befallen the organization."

In his letter to Cannon, NDP Leader Jack Layton urged the government to delay any appointment until after the agency's woes have been given a full hearing before the Commons foreign affairs committee.

"The problems relating to the board of directors of Rights and Democracy are complex and will not be adequately addressed by prematurely appointing Mr. Latulippe," Layton said.

The opposition objections can't legally block the appointment but would put the government in the position of defying their concerns – and convention – if it pushes ahead.


* Memo provides insights on turmoil
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* Travers: Crisis born of broken pledge, shift in Mideast policy
* Siddiqui: PM's Gang of Seven provides a glimpse of Reform politics
* Rights agency probe urged
* Siddiqui: How the Harperites ambushed the rights agency
* Liberals, NDP failed to contest rights appointees, documents show
* Siddiqui: Harper remains silent on rights agency fiasco
* Editorial: Row over rights group
* Siddiqui: Stephen Harper's homegrown human rights problem
* Rights group rift turns ugly after tragedy
* Tory appointees 'unfit' for rights agency board, staff says

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