At the time this
article was written Diane Shumyla was a Committee Clerk with the Legislative
Assembly of Alberta. This is a revised version of a paper presented at the
Special Conference on Parliamentary Committees held in Ottawa in September
In every jurisdiction certain public
officials (the Chief Electoral Officer, the Auditor General, Information and
Privacy Commissioners, Ethics Commissioners and Ombudsmen) report to the
Legislative Assembly rather than to a Minister of the Crown. The list
varies from one province to another but little has been written about the
process by which such officials are recruited and the role of the legislature
in the appointment process. This article looks at the situation in
In Alberta, Officers of the Legislative Assembly report through the Select
Standing Committee on Legislative Offices. The origin of this committee
goes back to November 1977 when the Auditor General Act was adopted. Douglas
(Bill) Rogers, then Provincial Auditor, who was appointed as Auditor General on
April 1, 1978, suggested the need for a mechanism to ensure the independence of
the Auditor General from the government was preserved. As Auditor General
he was responsible to the Legislative Assembly, as they were his client, and he
would report annually to them.
Although some were skeptical of having an
Officer report through an all-party committee, nevertheless a Committee
consisting of 9 members was established on March 20, 1978 as the Select
Standing Committee on the Office of the Auditor General. In May 1978 the name
of the Committee was changed to “Standing Committee on the Offices of the
Auditor General and Ombudsman” and in November 1980 it adopted its present
The function of the Committee is authorized
by various acts including the Auditor General Act, Conflicts of Interest
Act, the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, the
Ombudsman Act, the Election Act, the Election Finances and Contributions
Disclosure Act, and the Electoral Divisions Act.
At the beginning of each session, members
including the Chair and Deputy Chair are appointed to the Select Standing
Committee on Legislative Offices. The membership reflects the composition
of the House. The mandate of the Committee is to review and approve the
Officers’ annual budgets and to conduct salary reviews for the Officers.
The Committee can entertain Officers’
requests regarding proposed changes to legislation, and forward the
recommendation to the appropriate ministry, however it is important to note
that the Committee does not have the mandate to approve changes to legislation.
No reports to the Assembly are required by the Committee, although annual
reports were presented in 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985, and 1986.
Special Search Committees
A Special Search Committee is struck by a
motion in the House as required following the retirement, resignation or
non-renewal of the term of an Officer. A search committee is comprised of
some or all of the members of the Legislative Offices Committee.
The motion to establish a Search Committee
is made in the Legislative Assembly and, once struck the Search Committee
establishes a tentative timetable and procedures to be used. It decides
whether to use the resources of Executive Search, Personnel Administration
Office, Department of Human Resources and Employment; and whether to hire a
private consulting firm. It sometimes opts to involve another
organization (e.g. Institute of Chartered Accountants of Alberta) in the
The Search Committee establishes its own
budget, approves a position profile and proposes advertisements for daily and
weekly newspapers and/or periodicals and the Internet. When the
competition closes, resumes are received and acknowledged. Applications
and resumes are screened by the Personnel Administration Office, and a
screening report is prepared for the Search Committee who identify candidates to
be invited to preliminary interviews by the Personnel Administration Office.
The Search Committee conducts final interviews and following reference
checks, successful candidates are notified.
The Search Committee proposes appointments
of successful candidates to the Legislative Assembly after the recommendation
is ratified by the Standing Committee on Legislative Offices.
Example of a Recent Search and
On March 9, 1998 the Alberta Legislative
Assembly passed the following motion appointing a Search Committee for the
purpose of inviting applications for the position of Chief Electoral Officer
and to recommend to the Assembly the applicant considered most suitable for
appointment to that position.
(1) A Select Special Chief
Electoral Officer Search Committee of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta be
appointed consisting of the following members: Mr. Langevin, Chairman Ms.
Barrett, Mr. Friedel, Mr. Jacques, Mr. Sapers
(2) The Chairman and members of the Committee shall be paid in accordance with the
schedule of category A committees provided in Members’ Services Committee Order
(3) Reasonable disbursements by the Committee for advertising, staff
assistance, equipment and supplies, rent, travel, and other expenditures
necessary for the effective conduct of its responsibilities shall be paid
subject to the approval of the Chairman.
(4) In carrying out its responsibilities, the Committee may, with the
concurrence of the head of the department, utilize the services of members of
the public service employed in that department or the staff employed by the
(5) The Committee may, without leave of the Assembly, sit during a period when
the Assembly is adjourned.
(6) When its work has been completed, the Committee shall report to the Assembly
if it is then sitting. During a period when the Assembly is adjourned,
the Committee may release its report by depositing a copy with the Clerk and
forwarding a copy to each Member of the Assembly.
The Committee held its first meeting on
March 27, 1998. With the assistance of Ms. Alayne Stewart, Manager,
Executive Search, Personnel Administration Office, the advertising campaign,
position profile, and screening guidelines were developed.
Newspaper advertisements were placed in
several newspapers including: the Calgary Herald, Calgary Sun, Edmonton
Journal, Edmonton Sun, Fort McMurray Today, Grande Prairie Daily Herald
Tribune, Lethbridge-Herald, Medicine Hat News and Red Deer Advocate with a
competition closing date of May 15, 1998. The position was also
advertised in The Bulletin and posted on the Internet under the Alberta
Government home page job opportunities.
The Committee received a total of 65
applications from across Canada, with 56 applications coming from Albertans,
and 9 from candidates residing in other jurisdictions. All candidates received
letters acknowledging their applications, and candidates to be interviewed
received position profiles. Forty-seven applications were received from
male candidates, and eighteen were received from female candidates. On
June 3, 1998, the Committee reviewed the resumes and selected candidates for
preliminary interviews. Executive Search had provided the committee with
comprehensive write-ups on each candidate, which were discussed with the
Upon the recommendation of the Search
Committee, Executive Search conducted preliminary interviews with fourteen
candidates, two of whom withdrew following the preliminary interviews.
The committee then selected five candidates for final interviews which
were conducted on August 24, 1998.
After interviews were completed, the
Committee unanimously agreed that Olaf Brian Fjeldheim be recommended to
the Legislative Assembly as the fourth Chief Electoral Officer of Alberta.
Recommending a Candidate to the
When the House is in session the Committee
tables a report. Following a motion to concur in the report, an
Order-in-Council is then approved by the Lieutenant Governor-in-Council
(Cabinet) and finally a swearing-in-ceremony is arranged by the Office of the
If the House is not in session the Search
Committee releases its report through the Clerk with a copy given to the
Speaker and all MLAs. The recommendation from the Search Committee is
also sent to the Standing Committee on Legislative Offices which tables its
report in the Legislative Assembly within 30 days of the next session.