Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Staffer quits as unilingual top auditor appointed

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OTTAWA -- Prime Minister Stephen Harper officially named Michael Ferguson as Canada's new auditor general Friday, but the government's appointment of someone who doesn't speak French has prompted a former deputy minister who works with the AG's office to resign in protest.

The 10-year appointment, which takes effect Nov. 28, effectively ignores the government's own job posting for a bilingual candidate, which has sparked protest from opposition parties and now a resignation from a veteran public servant who worked alongside the auditor general.

Michel Dorais, one of two independent members of the federal auditor general's internal audit committee, quit earlier Friday over the government's decision to appoint the unilingual Ferguson as Canada's top spending watchdog.

"While I have no doubt that (Ferguson's) professional credentials are outstanding, I think that the nomination of an unilingual Canadian to this highly visible position is a serious mistake," Dorais says in his resignation letter, which was held up by Liberal MP Denis Coderre in the House of Commons Friday.

The Conservatives used their majority in the Commons and Senate on Thursday to approve the unilingual Ferguson for the $334,500-a-year job, even though the government's own job posting said: "proficiency in both official languages is essential."

Senior Conservative cabinet minister John Baird said the government is trying to offer equal opportunity to all Canadians and noted Ferguson is committed to learning French.

Ferguson, a former New Brunswick auditor general and outgoing deputy minister of finance in the province, has said his goal is to be proficient in French within a year. However, he won't commit to resigning the post if he doesn't meet that goal.

The office of the official languages commissioner announced Friday it has decided to investigate the NDP's complaint about Ferguson's appointment.

The NDP asked languages commissioner Graham Fraser to investigate whether having a unilingual officer of Parliament when the job posting called for a bilingual candidate breaks the Official Languages Act.

-- Postmedia News

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 5, 2011 A22

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