Political patronage has become a big issue in Canada's federal election campaign. Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau parceled out all the political favors he could as he left office last month. There were senators, ambassadors, judges, commission members, directors of government corporations, all guaranteed government paychecks, some demanding a little work but all demanding solid political connections.
The political pork barrel is always around, but never in recent memory has there been so much largess in one go. Nearly 250 appointments were made by the outgoing Prime Minister Trudeau and the incoming John Turner. They are payoffs for work in the politicial trenches.
The best jobs are in the Senate, where the pay is good and the living is easy. One new senator, Allan MacEachen, who held many posts during the Trudeau years, gets to stay in the Cabinet as government leader in the Senate.
Complaints about this round of patronage appointments came from lawyers, who object to judges being politically appointed, and even from the Portuguese ambassador in Ottawa, who objected to learning about the new emissary to his country from the newspaper. Bryce Mackasey, a former minister of labor, was appointed to the job in Lisbon.
The Canadian Bar Association wants to ''depo-liticize the system'' so judges are named on merit, not on political connections. Among those recently named to the bench was Mark MacGuigan, minister of justice in the Trudeau Cabinet. He ran for the Liberal leadership, then jumped on the Turner bandwagon after the first ballot. He will be a judge of the Federal Court of Appeal. Three other Liberal MPs were also named to the bench.
One of the most controversial appointments is that of Eugene Whelan, Trudeau's minister of agriculture, as ambassador to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization in Rome. The post was created for Mr. Whelan at a cost of some $2 million.
The question is: Will things be any different after the Sept. 4 election?
Turner says most of the appointments were made in an agreement with outgoing Prime Minister Trudeau. Turner has hinted the patronage system will change under his regime, but so far it has not.
The Progressive Conservative leader, Brian Mulroney, has described the appointments as ''vulgar'' and said it would ''never happen again under a Conservative government.'' But he has been known to promise jobs for the Tory troops if his party is elected.