When I first started 10 years ago, whistleblowing was a dirty word

It has been 10 years since the Liberals’ Sponsorship Scandal and my elevation to be known as “The Whistleblower.” This was not my choice. Leadership comes in various forms. The most common is those who seek to be the leader. The least common is being forced to be a leader by representing something of importance. That is the role that I was assigned and not the role I chose.

Once identified, I had options of what to do with the label “The Whistleblower” given to me by the media during the Sponsorship Scandal. I could ignore it and fade into the background or use
it to try and make changes. The latter was my chosen route.

For the last 10 years, I have been representing whistleblowers and giving suggestions on how they might want to address their situations. The decisions are always theirs. Some, learning
what they face, have retreated and allowed corruption to continue. Fortunately, the majority have
had the courage of their convictions and have fought the good fight—usually unsuccessfully.

I have continued speaking and writing about whistleblowing—what it entails and how corruption is allowed to exist. I point out that there are only three types of participants in a corrupt situation—the abuser, the fighter (whistleblower) and the enablers. If you know it exists and do nothing, you condone corruption. The reaction of an audience is usually very interesting when they realize that there is no fourth choice.

What has changed, you might ask? The answer is everything and nothing. When I first started 10 years ago, whistleblowing was a dirty word. In fact, one journalist referred to me as “the Sponsorship Snitch.” The media claimed to be supportive but, in fact, the remarks addressed to me and about me were often negative. Some, such as Michael Harris, Dave Brown and Robert Fife, were extremely supportive. Others were not so kind.

The meanings of words do change. The use of “whistleblower” is no longer negative in the media. There is a greater understanding of the effort needed to try and correct corrupt or illegal practices. In fact, I have noted that the meaning is becoming positive in its usage. This is a significant change and not to be underestimated.

On the other hand, the actual experiences of whistleblowers have changed only slightly. For the most part, they still experience adversity. Their personal lives suffer. Their work careers are destroyed. It is a rare whistleblower who can fight against the prevailing wisdom, “What are you doing and why are you doing it to us?”

For my part, I am still the only federal public servant involved with the Sponsorship Scandal who has suffered financially. It often seems that the honesty does not pay. The taint continues. I have heard from more than one Liberal that I am to blame for their loss in the 2006 election and that they will never forget this.

In fact, I was told directly not to bother applying to be a Senator as the application would be “torn up.” This, by the way, is why I did not apply. There is no point when you are facing a rigged deck.

The truth is very different. I have never blamed the Liberal Party for what happened to me.
There were some Liberals involved in what was known as the Sponsorship Scandal. But every
party has some corrupt individuals. The fact is the vast majority of Liberals have integrity and good intentions. The few spoiled it for the majority. This same situation exists in the Conservative and NDP parties. People are human and in any large organization there are a few corrupt people.

In any event, the fight continues. Bradley Birkenfeld, the U.S. whistleblower who exposed
hidden off-shore accounts in his country, is willing to come to Canada to speak about $1-billion
in unpaid taxes due to off-shore accounts in Canada. Not so surprisingly, the House Finance
Committee does not want to hear from him. We have to wonder who is being protected if Canadian citizens are not being protected from tax fraud.

This piece first appeared in the Hill Times on November 21, 2016.

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