Harper’s patronage appointments becoming a holiday tradition

Prime Minister Stephen Harper speaks during a visit to Ronald McDonald House in Toronto December 16, 2011. REUTERS/Mike …Just like old Saint Nick, it seems Stephen Harper likes to give during the Holiday season.

As reported by the Canadian Press Wednesday, Harper slipped through a rash of Conservative patronage appointments just after the pre-Christmas exodus from Parliament Hill.  The recipients included failed candidates, ex-caucus members, members of Conservative riding executives and long-time party faithful.

Looking back, it seems that Harper's Christmas appointments have become somewhat of an annual tradition.

On December 20, 2010, Harper appointed two new Senators - Larry Smith and Don Meredith.

On December 22, 2008, Harper made a record number 18 senate appointments including broadcaster Pamela Wallin, Olympic icon Nancy Greene Raine and CTV broadcaster Mike Duffy.

In 2006, during his first Christmas in office, Harper snuck some gifts under the holiday radar.

That year's cadre of friends and insiders included former Tory MP Barbara McDougall, who was appointed to the internal trade panel, and former Edmonton Conservative MP Ian McClelland, who was named a director of Edmonton Northlands.

Is the Harper government intentionally waiting to make these appointments after Parliament is on break and reporters have gone home for the holidays?

A writer for the Sixth Estate blog claims the Conservatives have made 58 patronage appointments since winning the May election.  By comparison, he says, there has been only 7 posts given to Liberals.

While the Chretien government also made a habit of naming party stalwarts to federal boards, panels and to the Senate, it was supposed to be different with Stephen Harper.

In opposition, Harper denounced the practice.

"(Canadians) are ashamed the Prime Minister continues the disgraceful, undemocratic appointment of undemocratic Liberals to the undemocratic Senate to pass all too often undemocratic legislation," he said in the House of Commons in 1996.

Then, in 2006, after opposition MPs rejected his choice of a patronage watchdog, he vowed to one day stop the appointments of friends and insiders.

"So what that tells (us) is we won't be able to clean up the (appointment) process in this minority Parliament. We'll obviously need a majority government to do that in the future."

Harper now has his majority, yet the patronage appointments continue.

Maybe he just gets caught-up in the Christmas spirit of giving.