This piece first appeared in the Hill Times on February 27, 2017.
When examining the sorry track record of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner’s Office, it’s easy to overlook those primarily responsible: it was Privy Council Office (PCO) and the Treasury Board Secretariat (TBS), working mostly behind the scenes, who—intentionally or not—set up PSIC to fail. Here’s how it was done.
The Role of Treasury Board:
Treasury Board drafted faulty legislation
Given the wide range of serious shortcomings in the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act (PSDPA), it’s difficult to believe that the drafters intended it to work—unless they were completely oblivious of best practices and other jurisdictions’ experience.
The most glaring example of this is the absence of a ‘reverse onus’ provision. The PSDPA puts the onus on whistleblowers to prove that the actions taken against them were reprisals—an almost impossible task. Effective whistleblowing laws shift the burden of proof to the employer to show that adverse actions were not intended as reprisals. This has been well understood for literally decades—since the disastrous experience of the Merit System Protection Board (in the U.S.) in the early 1980s. Without a reverse onus, of the first 2,000 whistleblowers who submitted claims of reprisal, only four prevailed.… Read the rest
Posted by DavidH on March 11, 2017
Ian Bron and Allan Cutler
Three years ago, we attended a conference of government administrators in Victoria, B.C. Wayne Wouters, Clerk of the Privy Council and the most powerful bureaucrat in Canada, was a keynote speaker. Someone asked him what he considered the qualities of the ideal public servant. We expected an answer that included things like integrity, devotion to the public interest, competence, and non-partisanship. Instead, we were treated to his reminiscences of the flag debate in the 1960s.
This says much about the current state of leadership in the public service, how distant it is currently from golden age ideals and out of touch with modern public expectations. The latest federal government re-visioning exercise, Blueprint 2020, reinforces this reality. During Wouters’ recent testimony before a Parliamentary Committee, he patted himself on the back for doing such a fine job, arguing that there was no evidence of a morale problem in the public service. “I want to do a good job. I think I’m doing a good job,” he said.
Wouters is hardly neutral on the subject. However, is he really doing a good job? More broadly, are senior bureaucrats leading the public service well, and, by extension, the working in the public interest?… Read the rest
Posted by Ian Bron on June 23, 2014
From left to right: Mario Dion, Pierre Poilievre, Tony Clement and Wayne Wouters
Canada’s Public Sector Integrity Commissioner, Clerk of the Privy Council, President of Treasury Board and Pierre Poilievre need some serious schooling from University of Saskatchewan’s recent uproar over the unjust firing of a whistleblowing professor. Maybe then public servant whistleblowers who truly care about the public will be protected and not persecuted by an insular and out-of-touch senior bureaucracy.
Robert Buckingham, a tenured professor, was fired May 14, 2014 from the University of Saskatchewan. His crime: speaking out against a money-saving plan to restructure and reduce faculties and staff. Dr. Buckingham reported the usual litany of whistleblower reprisals including attacks to his credibility, management isolating him, intimidation and even an escort off campus after his dismissal.
What was unusual for Canada was the reaction. Students held mass demonstrations, politicians waded in, and academics worldwide pressured both the university and the provincial government to defend a whistleblower. Dr. Buckingham had his tenure restored the next day. The following week, the university provost, author of the letter firing Robert Buckingham, resigned. The university president was fired from her post but offered another position and a hefty severance.… Read the rest
Posted by Sean Bruyea on June 8, 2014