OTTAWA -The Harper government has appointed former Conservative organizer Ian McPhail as a new watchdog for the RCMP to muzzle criticism of the government's public safety policies, said the Opposition Liberals on Monday.
Liberal public safety critic Mark Holland accused the government of replacing the former chair of the RCMP Public Complaints Commission, Paul Kennedy, because he was causing political headaches for the government with his scathing reviews in files such as the use of Tasers as well as internal investigation procedures.
"I think it's a way of covering up all of that criticism by putting in somebody who's very clearly a Conservative and doesn't have the job qualifications," Mr. Holland said in an interview.
A spokesman at the commission said that Mr. McPhail was just getting his feet wet as he started the new job.
The Liberals have argued that Mr. McPhail doesn't have any criminal law or policing experience to bring into the position and that he also donated close to $5,000 to the provincial Ontario Progressive Conservative party from 1995 to 2008.
"It certainly looks like patronage, and there could be no worse position to have somebody who's a crony than an independent watchdog."
But a government spokesman stressed that Mr. McPhail would be an interim chair over the next year to give the government a chance to search for a suitable candidate through a fair and open competition.
"All government appointments are based on merit and ability," said Christopher McCluskey, a spokesman for Public Safety Minister Vic Toews.
Mr. McCluskey added that Mr. McPhail was a lawyer who demonstrated success in a diverse range of appointments, including acting as a chair of quasi-judicial bodies such as the Ontario Environmental Review Tribunal and the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario.