Saturday, July 7, 2007

William Elliot: Long Time Tory

It is hardly surprising that Harper picked a good Tory for the job. It is good to have a little more on his background. The article may be right that he will be on the job only long enough to reform the RCMP as best he can and then will move on and be replaced by someone from within. It will be interesting to see if he can survive and do the job.

Long-time Tory a man of little flash

From Saturday's Globe and Mail

July 6, 2007 at 9:25 PM EDT

The country's new RCMP commissioner has a gaggle of kids, a modest home in the west end of Ottawa and Conservative ties that go back more than two decades.

Around official Ottawa, Bill Elliott, a lawyer by training, is not known as a motivator, according to a long-time Tory.

Rather, the 53-year-old bureaucrat is considered to be a solid, hardworking guy with little flash, which is in contrast to his predecessor, Giuliano Zaccardelli, a career RCMP member who resigned under a cloud in December and who attracted controversy almost immediately after his appointment for buying $1,000 riding boots.

As well, one look at Mr. Elliott's long résumé shows him jumping every three to four years from job to job in the bureaucracy, indicating that he may be in this top job for only a short time as a mop-up man rather than for the long term.

William Elliott, Canada's new commissioner of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, attends a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Friday. (REUTERS/Patrick Doyle)

Indeed, the force is in dire need of a makeover after a devastating report from lawyer David Brown concluded that the RCMP's management was “horribly broken.”

“It wouldn't be surprising to me if Bill were only there for a couple of years to sort it out and get it reconstituted and reset and then take off,” said a Conservative friend who asked not to be named. “Because if you look at his track record he has moved around quite a bit and I don't know if this will be his final resting place in government.”

Although he's not controversial – in fact, a friend said that he is so low-key and discreet that no one would even know he was a senior bureaucrat – his appointment, which takes effect on July 16, comes amid controversy.

He is a civilian appointed to an organization whose members were certain that the replacement for Mr. Zaccardelli would come from within.

As well, the Liberal Opposition has raised concerns about Mr. Elliott's Conservative background, because he started out in 1988 as a special assistant to deputy prime minister Don Mazankowski. He worked himself up to chief of staff, leaving in 1992 to go into the bureaucracy. The Conservative government was defeated in 1993.

But Mr. Elliott's Tory ties predate even his work with the Mulroney government.

In 1984, he was practising law with a large firm, but was also the president of the Ottawa West Progressive Conservative riding association when David Daubney was elected MP.

As far back as 1981, he was working on the campaign of provincial Progressive Conservative MPP Reuben Baetz, a cabinet minister in the governments of Bill Davis and Frank Miller.

Mr. Elliott, who one friend describes as a “real family man,” has four children – three girls, the oldest of whom is 27, and a boy. “He's got a great sense of humour,” the friend said. “He's very easy going. He likes to laugh ... he doesn't take himself too seriously.

This week at the Independence Day party at U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins's residence, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day was teasing reporters that an announcement of the appointment was imminent. But Mr. Day had been saying this since the job was posted in March.

Word began spreading within the police force on Thursday that Mr. Day was poised to announce the new commissioner. Even then, everyone believed the new top cop would be from the inside, a senior source said.

Late that afternoon, two of the top candidates, including Deputy Commissioner William Sweeney, were spotted at the Privy Council Office, likely receiving the bad news.

Mr. Elliott, who served as a senior bureaucrat in the Public Safety Department, was always considered to be a long-shot for the post, although his name began to surface in speculation about three weeks ago.

Still, many in the RCMP, including Acting Commissioner Bev Busson, said that the person who becomes commissioner should be someone who worked their way up from constable.

Bringing in an outsider, she said in a recent interview with The Globe and Mail, would be a mistake. Mistake perhaps, but the five-person search committee unanimously recommended Mr. Elliott for the job.

Norman Inkster, a former commissioner, served on that committee. Yesterday, he said: “I think the challenges facing the RCMP at this time in its history are somewhat unique and perhaps will make commissioner Elliott's appointment the right one. Because, while he comes with certain downsides, not having been a member of the RCMP, he certainly comes with a large number of upsides. And that is, he knows his way around government, he knows his way around government policy and Treasury Board. All those things that are so important in implementing any recommendations that have been made by the Arar commission ... and not to mention the things that are out there are on the horizon ...”

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