The Nova Scotia shuttle from the media to the state

Marilla Stephenson

Marilla Stephenson

Bruce Wark points us to the job description for the position of Managing Director Corporate and External Relations at the Executive Council office which was created by Stephen McNeil for Marilla Stephenson:

The position will lead the development of, and provide advice, plans, and strategic approaches that will inform decisions and assist with proactively managing issues. The Managing Director will lead, manage, consult and provide expertise in planning and execution of strategic, systems approaches to assist with managing issues, crisis and to proactively provoke strategic activities to assist in the delivery of the government’s agenda and support corporate priorities. Serves as a primary point of contact and liaison between the Premier’s Office and government departments.

“That bafflegab,” writes Wark, “makes sense because it hides what Stephenson will really be doing, i.e. spinning issues in ways designed to prevent journalists and the public from fully understanding what the government is doing, especially when the shit is hitting the fan.”

Also, Parker Donham reminds us that while she was still a columnist with the Chronicle Herald, Stephenson wrote two columns damning McNeil for the 2013 patronage appointment of former CBC reporter Glennie Langille as the province’s Chief Protocol Officer. Wrote Stephenson:

Any hopes that Premier Stephen McNeil planned a route on the high road careened sharply into the ditch Tuesday. Ironically, it was a political ambush completely of his own making.

[…]

With dozens of appointments looming on provincial boards and commissions in the months ahead, McNeil has begun with a backward step that sets a poor tone for voters’ expectations of qualified appointments and fair hiring practices in the provincial bureaucracy.

The premier has thumbed his nose at Nova Scotia’s civil servants by demonstrating preferential treatment for a party loyalist in filling the protocol job.

“Two months later,” writes Donham, “a release of emails under the Freedom of Information Act showed how thoroughly the fix was in for Langille, just as a release of emails this week showed how the fix was in for Stephenson. Stephenson pounced again in a February 7, 2014 column headed, “Brave new world, same old patronage.” Again, Stephenson wrote:

The more things stay the same in Nova Scotia politics, the more they stay the same.

Any voters who are in denial about how party loyalists access the spoils of power in the wake of an election victory may wish to take a spin through a collection of internal emails outlining how Glennie Langille became the province’s chief of protocol.

[…]

After the Langille appointment became public in December, McNeil defended his choice, saying she was qualified for the job.

But that, sadly, is not the point. The integrity of the public service — access to which is supposed to be based on merit, not patronage — is damaged when a premier feels compelled to remove a job from its jurisdiction in order to reward a good friend and political loyalist.

The premier declared in December that he was being “up front” about the appointment, and in almost the same breath defensively said Langille’s resume was the only one to land on his desk.

Of course it was. That’s exactly the way he engineered it.

This is not the sort of change Nova Scotians voted for when they chose the Liberals, and McNeil, to put Nova Scotia first.

Some readers may read rank hypocrisy into Stephenson’s words, but that’s because they don’t understand how these things works. Stephenson never wrote with true conviction, or at least not with any more conviction than with which McNeil leads a government.

This is all just a game of spoils. The McNeil Liberals won government so all the goodies go to them and their friends. I don’t know even know if I could make a complete list of the patronage appointments, but such a list would certainly include:

• McNeil’s friend Glennie Langille, hired without competition as the province’s chief of protocol at a salary of $85,000 annually

• Liberal insider Laurel Broten was appointed president of Nova Scotia Business Inc at a salary of $210,000 annually.

• Former CTV (and CBC) reporter Laurie Graham, who also happens to be Saint Ray Ivany’s spouse, was hired as the premier’s principal secretary at the whopping salary of $160,000 annually

• Former Chronicle Herald columnist Marilla Stephenson hired as the Managing Director Corporate and External Relations at the Executive Council office at a salary of $106,000 annually.

My working theory is that McNeil simply can’t resist women with the letter L in their names.

There have also been questionable contracts awarded to the premier’s family and friends, including a $16,750 contract for training the Transportation department’s compliance officers, which was awarded to Seventeen Consultants, owned by Stephen McNeil’s brother, Chris McNeil.

And then there’s the $1.5 million in payroll rebates Nova Scotia Business Inc (with Liberal insider Laurel Broten at the head) has given to Oxford Frozen Foods (owned by the Liberal-connected John Bragg).

As for Stephenson, well, you know, we all gotta survive, amirite? A hundred K and change might land her a nice house in the suburbs.

– Tim Bosquet, Halifax Examiner, July 27, 2016

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Filed under Media, Journalism & Disinformation, Nova Scotia Government

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