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LETTER: Patronage, political interference and party affiliation

'Independence of the courts is the cornerstone of our democracy,' reader says
Ontario Premier Doug Ford makes an announcement at Orillia Soldiers' Memorial Hospital in October.

OrilliaMatters welcomes letters to the editor at [email protected] or via the website. Please include your full name, daytime phone number and address (for verification of authorship, not publication). The following letter is in response to a letter regarding judicial appointments by Premier Doug Ford, published Feb. 29.

Once again, Doug Lewis has written in support of his former colleague, Doug Downey, and the changes that he and the Ford government have made to the Judicial Appointment Advisory Committee (JAAC). 

Last spring he wrote to defend Downey's decision to have all applications for the Chief Justice of Ontario come directly to him, bypassing the traditional, and much applauded, arm's length process used in the past. There was absolutely no transparency to the process. Downey stated that the new chief justice "must reflect the values I have... (that) only I can assess". 

Now, the Ford government has appointed not one, but two loyal party staffers to the JAAC, former chief of staff, Matthew Bondy, and Brock Vandrick, Ford's former director of stakeholder relations, whose sole qualifications are PC party affiliation, so that they have more influence over judicial appointments to make sure new judges are in line with Ford's values. He has openly stated he wants "like-minded" judges.

Ford has made many previous patronage appointments to reward his buddies. Doug Lewis, Downey's friend, suggests this is natural, and acceptable in politics. I beg to differ.

These patronage appointments are perhaps the worst form of corruption of government and a betrayal of the people of Ontario, who expect that the best qualified person secure the position. 

Furthermore, we don't want to walk down the same divisive partisan path that they have taken in the U.S., which means we need the judicial system to remain clearly chosen on merit, without consideration for any political affiliation. Mr. Lewis is just plain wrong! 

The selection of candidates needs to be independent of such consideration to maintain people's confidence in the justice system, that it is free from political bias. 

The independence of the courts is also necessary as a check on political parties. It was the independent courts that ruled the Ford's Bill 124 was unconstitutional. 

Ford sees these judicial rulings as obstacles to "getting things done" and hopes that by getting more like-minded judges appointed, these obstacles will be removed.

At least Doug Ford has been transparent in how he wants to select judges. It is up to us to insist that he change course. 

The independence of the courts is the cornerstone of our democracy and essential to ensure trust in government and the law. 

It is not acceptable for this government, or future governments, to erode that independence.

Debbie Palmer