All posts tagged Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates

A Tale of Two Committees

This piece was first published, in edited form, in the Hill Times on July 3, 2014.

When Dickens wrote the opening to A Tale of Two Cities, set over two hundred years ago, he described an age of contrasts – wisdom and foolishness, belief and skepticism, hope and despair. He also wryly observed that this could be said of any era. It certainly seemed true to whistleblowing advocates attending two sets of recent Parliamentary committee hearings.

The committees in question were the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates (or OGGO, as it’s commonly known) and the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities (or TRAN). In both cases, the committees had serious, deeply embedded problems to tackle: whistleblower protection on one hand, and aviation safety on the other.

For its part, OGGO set its sights on reviewing the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act in early February. This is the law which is supposed to protect federal government whistleblowers, but which has been spectacularly ineffective at doing so for 10 years. Without going into details – David Hutton and Allan Cutler have dealt with the issues thoroughly in previous editions of the Hill Times – it would be no exaggeration to say that the law intended to protect whistleblowers is little known and even less trusted by the rank-and-file public service.… Read the rest

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