Liberals push to appoint Marin’s deputy as fill-in. Marin delivered a slew of hard-hitting reports on the Liberal government.
Andre Marin’s time as provincial ombudsman appears to be running short.
The Liberal government, which has been the subject of many hard-hitting reports from the outspoken watchdog, does not want to extend his term after MPPs reached an impasse on who to hire for the high-profile post paying $226,390 annually.
“This is all about getting him out of the way to create a path for someone else,” NDP House Leader Gilles Bisson charged Friday. His party wants to hire Marin for a third term, saying he has done a “great job.”
Government House Leader Yasir Naqvi sent a letter to Bisson and Progressive Conservative counterpart Jim Wilson on Friday seeking unanimous consent to have Marin’s deputy, Barbara Finlay, appointed as acting ombudsman when the legislature returns Monday.
Bisson said the New Democrats will refuse, arguing Marin should be extended until a final decision is reached, as happened in 2010 and again on May 28 of this year to allow the hiring process to run its course. Marin’s extension expires Monday.
Naqvi defended the government’s push for an interim ombudsman.
“The standard practice in most organizations, including the Ontario Public Service, is for the deputy to assume the leadership position when it is vacant,” he wrote to Bisson and Progressive Conservative House Leader Jim Wilson.
Wilson and Marin could not be reached for comment, but the Star obtained a copy of a letter the ombudsman sent Thursday to a number of MPPs and bureaucrats.
Marin wrote he was “taken by surprise” at news reports there was a deadlock in the hiring because his three references were contacted and “interviewed extensively” in late July and he was told he’d be contacted in late August.
Dozens of candidates applied but sources said the short list was narrowed down to Marin, Toronto Ombudsman Fiona Crean and federal Corrections Investigator Howard Sapers, who handles complaints from prisoners and is a former Alberta Liberal leader.
“The New Democrats are not going to support the former head of the Alberta Liberal party,” Bisson warned, noting Crean was his party’s second choice and that the Liberals in 2010 wanted to replace Marin with lawyer Susan Whelan, daughter of former federal Liberal agriculture minister Eugene Whelan.
“The ombudsman not only has to be impartial, but has to be seen as impartial.”
Because of the deadlock, the all-party committee of MPPs doing the hiring will go back to the drawing board and interested candidates asked to reapply.
“I hope that you will agree with the urgency of this situation and support our efforts to restart the hiring process immediately,” Naqvi added in his two-page letter to opposition parties.
The hiring panel of MPPs had worked for six months with equal representation from all parties and a mandate to reach a consensus. That became impossible when there were no agreements on a first or second choice for ombudsman.
Marin ruffled feathers at Queen’s Park last May when his term was set to expire and he went on Twitter to appeal for support.
“In less than 48 hours, u have no Ombudsman. Time to make your voice heard. Unfortunately it’s come to this. MAKE SOME NOISE PLEASE!” he wrote in one tweet.
At the time, Wilson said Marin’s Twitter activity “probably wasn’t helpful” to his ambition to secure a third, five-year term.