All posts tagged William J. S. Elliott

The Age of Unaccountability

I’ve been trying to find a topic to write about these past two weeks, but haven’t found something that really inspired me into outrage. I’ve just become too jaded.

There have been stories of incompetence and abuse of authority – the rising aviation accident death rate due to Transport Canada’s refusal to act as a regulator, the RCMP’s growing sexual harassment scandal and more instances of flagrant privacy violations by government officials trying to discredit critics.

I wasn’t always this cynical.  Back in 2006, when the Harper Conservatives won their first majority, I penned an op-ed entitled “The Age of Accountability” and pitched it to the Ottawa Citizen. It was an op-ed full of hope and expectation – the Conservatives were going to bring in new legislation to protect whistleblowers, rules were going to be tightened and information made more accessible to the public.

The Citizen didn’t buy the piece, but did rip off my title for an editorial. But that was to be the least of my disappointments.

Within a year, the government had passed a deeply flawed whistleblower protection law and appointed a new Commissioner, Christiane Ouimet, who (probably correctly) interpreted her mandate as one of suppressing whistleblowing.… Read the rest

A man of courage

Last week I had the honour to accompany Hugh Danford, a whistleblower of great courage, to the Office of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner. Hugh is a former pilot with many, many years in the cockpit and who served as an aviation safety inspector at Transport Canada from 1996 to about 2004.

Following a 1999 crash in Davis Inlet which killed 22 year-old Damien Hancock, Mr. Danford prepared a report documenting Transport Canada management’s failure to act against the pilot (the Hancock report). This pilot had already crashed four times and had a long history of other violations. The Hancock report also noted that Transport Canada was not implementing a Transportation Safety Board recommendation and that Transport Canada was negligent and in part responsible for the death of Damien Hancock.

As punishment for speaking out persistently, Transport Canada senior management employed a tactic which has been well described in literature on whistleblowing: dubbed the “nuts and sluts” approach, there was a concerted effort to represent Mr. Danford as mentally unstable (women are sometimes represented as promiscuous). He was also described as insubordinate. At one point, Transport Canada management ordered him arrested on unfounded allegations that he had made a death threat.… Read the rest

The Clerk, the flag and ideal public servant

Sorry for the long period since my last post, but I’ve been out of town on a trip to speak about whistleblowing. And, of course, being stuck in a metal tube for four hours was just what my already tired and stressed body needed – so I caught a cold, complete with laryngitis.

But I’m mostly better now, and I’d like to tell you about the conference I attended.

It was for The Institute of Public Administration of Canada (IPAC), and Allan Cutler and I were invited to speak on whistleblowing. The theme was “Sharing Knowledge to Shape our Future: the Power of Stories”. I guess we fit in because whistleblowers tell a story about corruption and wrongdoing.

Tthe keynote speaker on the first day was none other than Wayne Wouters, Clerk of the Privy Council. Canada’s most powerful civil servant.

I made sure to arrive early to hear him speak, as did Allan. I wasn’t feeling great, dragged down by my cold. Nor did I have especially high expectations – we’re talking about bureaucrats, after all. But I did hope for a glimpse of his vision for the public service. After all, he has championed the use of social media in the federal government – most notably the development of GCPEDIA, a government version of Wikipedia.… Read the rest