All posts tagged Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates

Trudeau can fix our broken whistleblowing system: here’s why and how

This piece was first published in the Hill Times on March 20, 2017.

The House Government Operations Committee deserves kudos for taking the bull by the horns in its review of Canada’s failed system for protecting government whistleblowers. This week the committee will hear from no less than four experts representing countries that have much better laws: the U.S., U.K., Australia, and Ireland.

The comparisons these experts can offer will be eye-opening, since the Canadian system simply does not protect whistleblowers from reprisals. In more than 10 years not a single truth-teller has been awarded a remedy by the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Tribunal (the only body that can do so), and not a single aggressor has suffered consequences for taking reprisals.

In Canada, it’s more dangerous to kick a dog than to destroy a whistleblower’s life. If you attack a helpless animal, someone might see you. A video of the incident might go viral online, and you might face public outrage and damage to your reputation, even your career. But if you destroy a whistleblower’s life in plain sight—through bullying and harassment, unfair dismissal and blacklisting—it’s unlikely that you will face any consequences.

Even if you are reported to our Public Sector Integrity Commissioner and he decides that reprisals took place (which he rarely does) he has the power (which he almost always uses) to block the tribunal from taking any action against you.… Read the rest

The Operations Committee leaps into action to protect whistleblowers – or does it?

This piece was first published in the Hill Times on February 13, 2017.

Whistleblower protection advocates across Canada were celebrating last week when the news broke that Hon. Scott Brison, President of Treasury Board, had suddenly asked the Government Operations Committee (OGGO) to conduct a review of the federal whistleblower protection law (the PSDPA). This review, which by law should have taken place 5 years ago, has been steadfastly blocked by Treasury Board since 2012. Why the sudden change of heart? No-one knows.

The big question now is whether members of OGGO can find the time, determination and resources to do justice to this very important task, handed to them at very short notice.

Hearings began on Tuesday, and on Thursday morning three civil society witnesses were called – Allan Cutler, David Yazbeck and myself. We presented damning testimony regarding the dysfunctional nature of both the law and the Integrity Commissioner’s office. We pleaded with the committee to call a wide range of follow-up witnesses – outside experts rather than those running the system – in order to obtain a proper understanding of how badly broken the current system is. And we offered detailed suggestions on how to fix it.… Read the rest

Actions speak louder than words

On Tuesday morning, May 21, 2013 at approximately 9:30am, Prime Minister Stephen Harper spoke to his caucus on the Senate expenses scandal. Like many Canadians, I listened and heard him say during his speech,

“I need not remind you that in 2006 this government was first elected to clean up the Liberal sponsorship scandal, to ensure the rules are followed and to ensure there are consequences when they are not.”

“Canada now has one of the most accountable and transparent systems of governance in the entire world and this is something Canadians are rightly proud of.”

Having listened to Prime Minister Harper’s speech, at 11:00am the same morning I attended the meeting of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates. The discussion was to be the Integrated Relocation Program with witnesses from the Department of Public Works and Government Services (PWGSC). Anything to do with ethics and public procurement is always of interest to me. I wanted to listen to PWGSC explain that the rules would be followed. This meeting was held just 1 ½ hour after our Prime Minister stated that Canadians should be proud of the transparency and openness of the federal government.

PWGSC officials were scheduled to speak from 11:00am to 12:00pm and to be followed by another witness.… Read the rest