QUEBEC - The Parti Quebecois government has swiftly rescinded a plan to provide two prestigious jobs to a former leader — including a guaranteed position for life.
After that double-appointment caused a stir, and drew derision for a government elected on a stricter-ethics platform, Premier Pauline Marois announced the reversal Thursday.
The change came after Andre Boisclair had been provided a secure deputy minister's job on top of becoming Quebec's delegate-general to New York.
Marois told a news conference in Quebec City today that because of the controversy Boisclair will no longer take the deputy minister's job in the International Relations Department, along with its secure public-service benefits. He will keep the position in New York.
Marois bristled when asked by a reporter about the backpedalling.
"Thanks for telling me I'm backing down," Marois said sarcastically.
"It seems to me that you should be saying: This is wonderful, you're able to listen to people."
Marois said she decided to act swiftly because she didn't want her government attacked on ethics questions. The government has tabled clean-government bills with its first legislation as a minority government, much like the Harper Tories did in Ottawa with their 2006 Federal Accountability Act.
The Boisclair double-nomination had muddied the message in recent days.
Along with the two jobs, the 46-year-old Boisclair was given an annual salary of $170,000 and allowed to start taking his full pension at the age of 55.
Boisclair was a young star in the party, elected at 23 to the legislature and becoming a senior minister, before leading the PQ in the 2007 election. But he resigned the leadership after the party finished with its worst election result in decades.
The New York appointment came with risks. Since the PQ has only a minority, its political nominees could be replaced at any time if it happened to be toppled.
Boisclair negotiated the second job for additional security when he was appointed. But the unique circumstances were not included in the original appointment announcement, prompting accusations that the government was trying to hide something.
Marois said the episode raises interesting questions about how to attract and recruit external candidates for political appointments who aren't already on the government payroll.
The premier said she will appoint a three-person committee to examine the appointments process.
"I absolutely don't want my government attacked on questions of ethics," she said, "so I'm acting promptly to correct this situation."