Alberta law protects the government, not whistleblowers or the public

FAIR's complete report is available here (pdf)

Media Release – For Immediate Release

Monday, November 5, 2012

Whistleblower charity's analysis of Alberta law concludes that it is a backward step: it protects the government, not whistleblowers or the public

The Canadian whistleblower charity Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform (FAIR) has conducted a detailed analysis of the Alberta Government’s recently tabled law, the Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection) Act

FAIR has concluded that this is a misleadingly-named piece of legislation which shields the government from damaging disclosures, may be used to protect government wrongdoers, and does not protect whistleblowers at all.

“This bill is a backward step because it does the opposite of what it claims, effectively shielding the government from embarrassing publicity while doing nothing to protect whistleblowers or the public” said FAIR’s executive director David Hutton. “It should not have the phrase ‘whistleblower protection’ in the title since there’s not a single word in the law about their most important need: compensation for those who have suffered devastating reprisals.”

“The government’s claim that it is ‘leading the way’ in Canada is also misleading” says Hutton. “This law is demonstrably worse than the deeply-flawed and long-discredited federal law: stripping out its few good features, copying some of its worst provisions, and adding several more loopholes. The Alberta law is arguably the worst in Canada.”

The fourteen specific shortcomings listed by FAIR include the following:

  1. The Commissioner has unlimited powers to exempt any person or organization, placing them above the law – an extraordinary provision to put in any legislation
  2. The Commissioner need not ever conduct a single investigation of alleged wrongdoing: he has unlimited discretion to do nothing
  3. There is no requirement to report the specifics of any wrongdoings found – these can remain secret forever
  4. There is no mechanism to challenge the Commissioner’s decisions, e.g. if he decides not to investigate, or decides that there was no wrongdoing or reprisals
  5. Whistleblowers go to MLAs or the media at their own risk: the law provides no right to make such disclosures and be protected
  6. There is no mechanism for whistleblowers to obtain a remedy such as compensation if they suffer reprisals (as most do, often ending their careers)
  7. The law does not cover private sector wrongdoing at all, even when government money is involved, or public health and safety are at risk.

"This bill, like the failed federal legislation, creates a ‘black hole’ where courageous employees may, at great risk to themselves, take serious concerns that affect the public interest – and get no protection, no feedback, and no result” said Hutton.

The complete text of FAIR's report can be found at:
http://fairwhistleblower.ca/files/fair/docs/alberta/Analysis_of_Alberta_PIDA.pdf (pdf)

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Contact Information:
David Hutton, executive director, Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform (FAIR) 613-567-1511

Related:
Alberta's Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection) Act (pdf)