Peter Mackay under questioning about ‘friendly’ judicial appointments

A new query is floating about the political arena this week as to why six of nine Nova Scotia judges are either colleagues or friends of Peter MacKay.

Information from Press Progress, a blog connected to the Broadbent Institute, is raising some serious questions about why the Nova Scotia judges are somehow personally linked to Mr. Mackay.

Peter MacKay, who was appointed Attorney General and Justice Minister in 2013, has since appointed Josh Arnold, Cindy Cormier, James Chipman, Ted Scanlan, Jefferrey Hunt and LouAnn Chiasson, all of whom are either personal friends or political colleagues of MacKay.

When asked about the judicial appointments, MacKay’s office responded by saying, “In the case of lawyers applying to be judges, committees assess them, provide comments, and also recommend them or not for appointment. The minister of justice only appoints those recommended by such committees.”

It was Prime Minister Harper’s government that changed the rules.

Whereas before the justice minister received a list of names that were marked “recommended”, “highly recommended” or “not recommended”, now the list of names are simply marked “recommended” or “not recommended” at the sole discretion of the minister.

Professor Wayne MacKay, a Dalhousie University constitutional law expert said that, “The ‘highly recommended’ category was dropped altogether, so now there is just two: ‘recommended’ or not.

“Now, where it’s ‘recommended’ only, whatever names go forward, it’s then completely within the minister’s discretion to appoint any of those people, even though on the ranking they might be seen as the least qualified of the group.”

Lawyers with 10 years of experience can become Supreme Court judges. In Nova Scotia, that means about 1,200 lawyers are eligible for the $300,000 per year job.

MacKay has held the Nova Scotia Conservatives seat since 1997.