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The importance of being earnest

Parliament resumed Thursday to the much-ballyhooed first order of business: voting in the Speaker of the House, who replaces Peter Milliken, a Liberal Party member.

Parliament resumed Thursday to the much-ballyhooed first order of business: voting in the Speaker of the House, who replaces Peter Milliken, a Liberal Party member.

Milliken was appointed to the chair (or rather the throne) in 2001 when the Liberal Party still enjoyed a majority, not to mention some credibility.

At time of this writing, a new Speaker had yet to be elected. But in keeping with the perpetual partisan politics in the House of Commons, we'll take a long shot and say he or she will be a Conservative Party MP.

Although the Speaker enjoys a lot of ceremonial powers, the position also has some considerable real powers - the last collapse of government is directly attributed to Milliken's decision to let stand the Liberal's charge of contempt of Parliament against the Conservatives.

Nonetheless, is there anyone really sweating the appointment?

Contrast that to another high profile federal position opening up after a decade... that of Auditor General.

Now there's something to sweat over. If the Conservative Party (or any party in the role of majority government) chooses to appoint a partisan player as auditor, the Canadian people will very certainly suffer.

Sadly, Sheila Fraser said goodbye to that role on Monday, and we are all the poorer for it. As many Prince George residents discovered during her all-too-brief visit last winter, Fraser is the epitome of integrity - and she's a genuinely nice person to boot.

But her real talent is her ability to cut through a bureaucracy that would send most heads spinning, and to translate barely discernible government documents, policy and expenditures into clear and concise plain language so the average citizen - who is, after all, footing the bill - can understand.

For her work, she's been recognized by the entire country by being famously voted the most trusted public official in Canada.

Simply put, she has some very big shoes to fill.

Her replacement must be approved by the House of Commons and the Senate, so clearly the Conservatives have the advantage.

So was the party sending a message when its job posting stated the candidate must be a "team player" who can anticipate the "implications" of their actions?

Despite Fraser's public criticism over wasteful government, to Stephen Harper's credit, on her departure he said "Ms. Fraser's service to Canada and Canadians exemplifies the very best of public service." Hear, hear.

He does well to celebrate her - after all the Liberals could still be enjoying dubious financial shenanigans on our dime if it hadn't been for her revelations over the ad scam, which led to the Gomery Commission and the party's demise.

And hopefully the Conservatives realize she helps government because if Canadians know there's such a (please excuse the term Ms. Fraser) pit bull in the chair, fewer spend time wondering just what's going on with our dollars and coming up with conspiracy scenarios that have no bearing to the truth.

We need only pick up an Auditor General report to get the real goods.

So let's hope the Conservatives drop notions of partisan politics for this appointment.

In the short game, hiring someone potentially critical of government may not appear to be the best political strategy, but in the long run it creates a culture of trust.

And when Canadians trust you, they vote for you - isn't that what politicians live for?

-- Prince George Citizen