Dwight Ball’s appointment of lawyer Bern Coffey to the position of Clerk of the Executive Council at first seems another misstep. But it may actually be one of Ball’s better decisions.
It is true, as some have noted, that the appointment of a partisan to the position sets a dangerous precedent. Presumably the province intends to stay committed to the British model of public administration — in which partisan politics and the operation of government remain separate. Therefore we should regard the choice of Coffey as a “one-off” owing to his skills and history. Then, too, the Premier has confidence in him, which is fundamental. Taken together, these are sound reasons why Bern Coffey’s appointment will advance the public interest.
Coffey ran unsuccessfully as Leader of the Liberal Party. The Premier unwittingly denies he is a political appointment — because he has professional qualifications. But this is just another example of the Premier’s inability to use the truth to help bolster his own case. He should not be dismissive of partisans. Without them, his meagre 17% support would be a lot less.
Nevertheless, this is an occasion on which to cut Ball some slack.