Book Excerpts

Excerpt from Dr. David Zussman’s book Off and Running: The Prospects and Pitfalls of Government Transitions in Canada, pps 46 and 84.

I was pleased to be noted in a recent book about government transitions, called “Off and Running” by Dr. David Zussman.

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Excerpt from Brooke Jeffrey’s book “Divided Loyalities”, The Liberal Party of Canada, 1984-2008, UTS press, pps 250-251

“Chretien also made two significant appointments that would affect the course of his mandate. The first was a director of appointments. For this position, Chretien chose one of his earliest supporters, Penny Collenette. Collenette was initially surprised at the offer, having assumed her colleague, Gordon Ashworth would have priority to round out the PMO team.  As she later recalled, it was not a position she would have chosen but you “don’t say no to a Prime Minister”.

Collenette’s concern initially proved well founded. The only PMO staffer to report directly to the Prime Minister, she had a lonely task. The need for confidentiality was imperative.  At the same time, her role in setting up a professional, competence-based appointments process, complete with job descriptions and advertisements in the Canada Gazette, did not endear her to some Chretien supporters who assumed positions would be provided as a reward for loyal service.  Her task also made her unpopular with certain ministers when she did not recommend their original choices for some appointments to the Prime Minister. Still, Collenette stressed that many ministers were committed to the new, less partisan approach to appointments, viewing it as a welcome change from Brian Mulroney.

Despite occasional opposition to Collenette’s recommendations, Chretien proved consistently supportive even though some of the pressure came from his close friends and colleagues.  His objective was not simply to establish a more professional, merit based system.  He was soon convinced by Collenette of the need to improve representation in senior appointments. Under Chretien, a record number of women and minorities were appointed.  In one of his last addresses to national caucus before the 1997 election, he devoted considerable time to the role Collenette had played in establishing the Liberal government’s reputation for integrity and keeping its commitments. ‘Because of her, we won’t be having patronage as an issue in the upcoming election’, he told his caucus to roars of approval and much applause. As one of her former colleagues in the PMO later added, ‘ It wasn’t just the number of excellent appointments she made – it was the number of bad ones she prevented.’”