Media Update for November 15, 2010

The Quebec construction industry corruption scandal continues to batter Jean Charest and his government in Quebec. Opposition parties are being very vocal about wanting a public inquiry, with Charest steadfastly refusing. This is being interpreted by the public as him having something to hide. Others note, however, that a public inquiry would get in the way of a police investigation. They compare it to the investigation that brought in “Mom” Boucher, head of the Hells Angels in Quebec, and argue that it would have failed had a public inquiry interfered. I can understand the reasoning, but the problem is that this involves public money and potential corruption by public officials. There are indicators that the problem is deeply rooted, too. A public inquiry is really the only way I can see to restore public confidence. Perhaps if Charest promised one as soon as the police were finished, and then gave them a reasonable deadline?

There’s also two articles about how federal government oversight agencies are failing to do their jobs, or don’t have the power to do them properly. For example, did you know that Elections Canada, which is supposed to ensure that political parties follow the law with regard to spending, can’t ask for receipts when said parties ask for refunds from the government? And the fact that some of the heads of these agencies are obviously there to avoid identifying problems (and thus potential embarrassments) adds insult to injury.

A new Veterans Affairs ombudsman has been appointed, replacing the outspoken Pat Stogran. The new man, Guy Parent, has already spoken and I’m not liking what I’m hearing. He has said that he will be less outspoken, but will try to keep the issues that Stogran raised “buoyant”. This sounds like the usual doublespeak that dominates Ottawa communications these days and suggests he will not be a strong advocate for veterans rights – rights which have been trampled on for years now. I recommend that you read the comments made by readers, too: they’re quite interesting. That said, he should be given room to prove himself (or not). Stogran was quite a mercurial individual, according to the reports I’ve received, so perhaps a new approach will now be effective.

Finally, there’s an interesting bit of research I came across which looks at why some people don’t like whistleblowers. I had always thought that it was because people were either a) corrupt, b) benefiting from the corruption or c) didn’t like making waves. Apparently, though, it also has to do with a common fallacy – the belief in a just world where merit explains everything and people get what they deserve. It’s an ugly and selfish point of view, contradicted by much data and real-world evidence, but it seems many people hold it because it helps deflect anxiety when confronted by injustice and because admitting the world isn’t fair may undermine their own sense of invulnerability. The article explains in more detail and isn’t too long.

Another article in Reuters shows another fallacy – the idea that making whistleblowing too easy will cause them to “run amok”. It’s so ludicrous that I’d laugh if it weren’t for all the lives ruined in reprisals against whistleblowers.

See you Thursday.

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Quebec Construction Scandal Continues

Government Oversight Agencies Failing to Hold Government Accountable

More Calls for Better Treatment of Veterans and Members of Military

Another Church Sex Abuse Charge in Ontario

Research Sheds Light on Why Some People Don’t Like Whistleblowers

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Quebec Construction Scandal Continues

Charest ducks and weaves on construction probe
The Gazette (Montreal), November 12, 2010, 2010
Summary: This week the three Cs – collusion, corruption and construction -continued to haunt the Charest government with troubling allegations of Mafia interference thrown into the cauldron.

Construction: le gouvernement est irresponsable, dit Marois
La Presse, November 13, 2010
Summary: La chef du Parti québécois (PQ), Pauline Marois, se demande si le Parti libéral du Québec (PLQ) et son chef souffrent d’aveuglement ou s’ils sont plutôt inquiets par les liens qui pourraient être découverts entre le PLQ, ses donateurs et l’industrie de la construction au cours d’une éventuelle commission d’enquête sur cette industrie.

Liberal dissident loses in bid for a construction inquiry
The Gazette (Montreal), November 12, 2010, 2010
Summary: One lone delegate at a weekend meeting of the Quebec Liberal Party called Saturday for a public inquiry into the construction industry. But after Martin Drapeau, a delegate from Groulx riding north of Montreal, presented his motion, silence fell over the meeting room. There was no seconder for his motion and there was no debate. Asked if it was “omerta,” the law of silence, Drapeau said, “I don’t know.”

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Government Oversight Agencies Failing to Hold Government Accountable

The watchdogs who never bite
Macleans, November 15, 2010
Summary: Most federal government oversight agencies who investigate wrongdoing have little power, and little interest in using what they do have.

Elections Canada wants power to ask parties for receipts before giving refunds
Winnipeg Free Press, November 14, 2010
Summary: Imagine you run a private club that siphons millions of dollars from the public purse, but can’t be audited by government. And imagine your club members include the very people who can protect your immunity in perpetuity, because they write the rules. Yes, another fight may be brewing over the accountability and transparency of taxpayer-subsidized expenses on Parliament Hill, this time involving the election refunds of federal political parties.

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More Calls for Better Treatment of Veterans and Members of Military

New veterans ombudsman to be less ‘vocal’
CBC News, November 11, 2010
Summary: Canada’s new ombudsman for veterans affairs said Thursday he’ll try to keep “buoyant” the issues raised by his predecessor, Pat Stogran.

Suicide rates soar among U.S. veterans, says official
Calgary Herald, November 11, 2010
Summary: The economic downturn and the trauma of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have pushed more U.S. veterans to suicide, said Department of Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki.

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Another Church Sex Abuse Charge in Ontario

Tales of abuse link clerics again — after 47 years
The Star (Toronto), November 13, 2010
Summary: Police allege 88-year-old Rev. William Hodgson Marshall is a sexual predator who assaulted boys in a decades-long wave of abuse through Windsor, Toronto and Sudbury while working at prominent Catholic high schools managed by the Congregation of St. Basil’s religious order. The former math teacher faces nearly two dozen sexual and indecent assault charges involving16 people; thus far Marshall has not entered a plea.

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Research Sheds Light on Why Some People Don’t Like Whistleblowers

Think the World is Just? Then to You, Maybe Whistle-Blowers Are Just Troublemakers
Psychology Today, November 11, 2010
Summary: Studies show that people who believe in a meritocracy – a just world – are most likely to insult and criticize a person who claims to have experienced discrimination. They are not dissuaded from their name-calling by the evidence that prejudice really was in play. Their worldview has been challenged, and they don’t like that.

Prosecutor warns of whistleblowers “run amok”
Reuters, November 12, 2010
Summary: Whistleblowers who turn in false information in pursuit of rewards under a new federal program could face criminal prosecution, the U.S. attorney for Manhattan said on Friday. “There’s a lot of concern and discussion about whistleblowers run amok,” said Preet Bharara, whose district is one of the busiest in the country handling white collar crime.

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