Stephen McNeil should theoretically still be in the honeymoon stage with voters. But he’s pushing a couple of buttons to move things along to same old, same old.
The Liberal leader is going to any lengths to deny the inappropriateness, but handing a plum job to a defeated fellow candidate in the October election is old style tactics that Nova Scotians should, if anything, be embarrassed about.
On Tuesday Glennie Langille, who finished third in Pictou West in the election and a former Liberal staffer, was named the province’s chief of protocol. At a salary of $85,000 a year, that’s not a bad consolation prize. It is a year-by-year contract, one of the points McNeil uses in justifying it. But that’s entirely irrelevant.
The thing is, Langille might well be eminently qualified. But so might hundreds of other Nova Scotians who would love to have the job. As Conservative leader Jamie Baillie said, it’s blatant political payback. The ultimate winner of such a position should earn it the honest way, through open competition.
This lack of principle follows the Liberals’ flip-flop on the Nova Scotia Jobs Fund – leaving it under the control of cabinet rather than an arm’s length body, a change McNeil argued for while in opposition.
Trying to extricate political loyalty from rewards at the public’s expense can be tricky. But that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be attempted.
When former Liberal premier John Savage came to power 20 years ago, he made it plain he wanted the tradition of patronage to end. That didn’t sit well, however, with Liberals who felt they had helped the party to power.
A top consideration should be public perception. When favouritism plays a part in handing out such a position it infuriates people.
But also, what does it say to other faithful Liberals? Is there a chance others will be salivating, wondering where is their piece of the pie?
One would think McNeil would understand that, but so far he’s exhibiting a state of denial.