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Federal Heritage Minister Mélanie Joly says her controversial pick for the position of official languages commissioner is withdrawing her candidacy.
Former Ontario Liberal cabinet minister Madeleine Meilleur has faced a barrage of criticism from opposition MPs for her ties to the Liberal Party and for meeting with the prime minister’s top two staffers, Gerry Butts and Katie Telford, before submitting her application for the $ 308,700 a year job.
Joly, a Montreal-area MP, told reporters in the foyer of the House of Commons that Meilleur informed her of her decision today.
“Ms. Meilleur has been, and is, an important advocate in favour of linguistics rights in this country and I really hope that she will continue this important work of advocacy. The reality is, the cause of linguistic minorities needs her,” Joly said. “She was a very good candidate … Quite frankly, I think this is a very sad story but ultimately she has taken her decision.”
In her letter, Meilleur expressed regret that her nomination had been the source of so much controversy.
“Considering this situation, I have concluded that my ability to perform this function fully and to act on behalf of Canadians would be greatly compromised,” Meilleur wrote in French.
In question period, Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer said the prime minister was making a “mockery” of a supposedly open and transparent appointment process for an officer of Parliament by picking Meilleur.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said it was rich for the Conservatives to criticize his government’s record on appointments, when former prime minister Stephen Harper “completely botched” the process for picking a Supreme Court justice.
“After 10 years of excessive partisanship by the former Conservative government, we know that picking the best people for the job, regardless of their backgrounds, and people that reflect the full diversity of this country, is what Canadians expect. This is exactly what we’re delivering,” Trudeau said in response, adding Meilleur has always offered “magnificent service” to minority-language communities.
“The prime minister has embarrassed the heritage minister and he’s embarrassed himself,” Conservative House leader Candice Bergen added.