Gomery Wants Politicians to Stay Out of Daily Operation of Crown Corporations

Worth A Look, Public Sector, Frontier Centre

MONTREAL (CP) – Canadians want politicians to avoid interfering in the operation of Crown corporations, the judge who headed the federal inquiry into the sponsorship scandal said Tuesday.

“Efforts by the boards of public corporations towards more accountability receive the unconditional support of the general public,” Justice John Gomery told a conference on the governance of government-run institutions.

“The same people profoundly want more transparency, accountability and the depoliticization of Crown corporations.”

Gomery noted the recommendations were among several he made after overseeing public hearings into the federal sponsorship scandal.

The Quebec Superior Court justice told conference delegates that the administrative boards of public institutions should still be accountable to a federal minister for the entity’s management and financial results.

“The minister could ask for supplementary information that’s useful to answer questions in the House of Commons, if necessary,” said Gomery.

“But he would not have the right to directly address the employees of a Crown corporation with his suggestions or his criticisms.”

Gomery noted that his recommendations are not a perfect solution to the problem created by political interference in the administration of Crown corporations.

“But changes to the status quo are necessary,” Gomery said.

“It seemed to me that the temptation to use Crown corporations to further political objectives is and will always be too great for some politicians to resist.”

Former Liberal cabinet minister Jean Lapierre, who also attended the conference, said Gomery was really naive.

“The reality is, if we form a Crown corporation, it’s to pursue political objectives,” Lapierre said.

The former federal Transport minister and radio talk show host said there’s a big difference between policy, politics and partisanship.

“And I think if judge Gomery wants to avoid partisanship, I’m with him,” said Lapierre.

“But you can’t have a Crown corporation that exists and doesn’t answer to anybody.”

With his controversial sponsorship reports now behind him, Gomery said he will resume his duties as a judge “with a bit of relief” until his mandatory retirement next year.

© The Canadian Press 2006