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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Stelmach Accepts New Governance Recommendations for Agencies, Boards and Commissions

There is another significant step towards better governance in Alberta with the release today of the Premier’s Task Force on Agencies Boards and Commissions. These groups, largely appointed, spend about half of the annual operational budget of the province so they are not insignificant.

There is a full report on line- suffice to say the Premier has accepted 14 of the 15 recommendations and the other one was modified. That recommendation modification was that no elected or senior government officials should be appointed to governing bodies of agencies. The modification was to acknowledge that sometimes. Given the mandate of an agency it is helpful to have elected or senior government officials input.

I see the quibble but such political or administrative input can be obtained very easily without elected or senior government officials being officially appointed to the agency, board or commission. These various groups are formed mostly to get independent and sometimes expert advice (like the Hunter Expert Panel on the Royalty Review) and to take politics and bureaucratic culture out of the deliberations and decision or recommendation making. Having bureaucrats and MLAs appointed and directly in the decision making process tends to undermine that larger and important goal.

The other recommendation that will be the media focus on is going to be on “a competency-based appointment process.” That will be interpreted as code to not just appointing the party faithful. Competency is paramount but it does not eliminate partisanship in appointments. Nor should it. Everything being equal, any government is going to appoint like-minded people to agencies board and commissions because they want alignment with government policy directions and goals. Competency is the first test; pedigree will still be the second test – regardless of which party is forming government.

“Diversity of Appointments” recommendation to reflect the diverse nature of the Alberta population is a great step forward.

Good governance and transparency are in desperate need of policy and political attention in ALberta. This positive response by Stelmach to the recommendations of the Agencies, Boards and Commissions Governance Task Force is one more way Stelmach is getting it done.