Federal Conservatives fail to initiate review of whistleblower law by legal deadline

FAIR Media Release – For Immediate Release

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Federal Conservatives fail to initiate review of whistleblower law by legal deadline: groups fear government end-run on whistleblower law.

A comprehensive transparent and independent review of the flawed Act is required.

OTTAWA—Today civil society organizations voiced concern that the federal conservative government has still not begun the legally-required review of its discredited whistleblower law, and may attempt to short-circuit the process to avoid proper discussion.

Conservative cabinet Minister Tony Clement is responsible for overseeing the review, which under the law was required to begin by April 15th, and is required to be an “independent” review

The Conservative Government’s ‘ironclad’ whistleblower protection regime is in disarray, having been discredited by former integrity commissioner Christiane Ouimet’s shameful mismanagement. Even under the new commissioner Mario Dion, virtually nothing has been achieved: after five years and more than 30 million dollars spent the agency has reported only one case of wrongdoing.

The root cause of these problems lies in the deeply-flawed legislation passed by the Conservative government in 2006, after coming to power on a promise to clean up government and specifically to protect whistleblowers. The Canadian whistleblower charity FAIR has analyzed this law and published a list of 40 serious shortcomings.

“This government owes it to Canadians to fix this bungled law. We need a comprehensive, transparent and independent review involving the best experts available” said David Hutton, executive director of FAIR. “Unfortunately the government has not commenced the legally-required review process, which should have begun a month ago, and it has refused to disclose even the most basic information about the intended format of the review.”

Tyler Sommers, Coordinator of Democracy Watch noted “Our concern is that the Conservatives will secretly conduct a bogus review that is not independent and does not involve the right people or public hearings at a parliamentary committee.”

Allan Cutler of Canadians for Accountability observed “This review process will be a critical test of whether this government really wants to fulfill its campaign promise by protecting honest public servants who speak up about government misconduct.”

The groups want a comprehensive, open and transparent process, including a conference or workshop where recognized experts can develop a consensus on the most important changes. There should also be substantive hearings before House and Senate committees, which can pass further amendments if necessary.

“After years of inaction and a spectacular false start, Canada is now decades behind countries like the USA, the UK and Australia. It is essential to consult with experts from these countries, which unlike Canada have considerable experience with effective laws, and have carried out excellent in-depth research.” says Hutton.

Ross MacLeod, the official responsible for the review, told FAIR that Treasury Board has made its recommendation (regarding the review) to Minister Clement but is still awaiting his decision.

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Contact Information

David Hutton, Executive Director, FAIR (Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform) (613) 567-1511

Tyler Sommers, Coordinator of Democracy Watch and Chair of the Open Government Coalition: (613) 241-5179

Allan Cutler, President, Canadians for Accountability: (613) 863-4671

Ian Bron, Managing Director, Canadians for Accountability: (613) 304-8049