Dear Premier Redford, Our organization, FAIR (Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform) acknowledges your recent pledge to introduce whistleblower legislation. This promise, when fulfilled, will be an important step towards ensuring transparent and accountable institutions that serve Albertans more effectively.
We also note your commitment to look at the “best examples from the world”. This will be especially important because Canada has an abysmal track record on whistleblower protection and is now decades behind other developed countries such as the USA, the UK and Australia.
Alberta must avoid the mistakes made by our federal government, whose whistleblower system has been a disaster. Regrettably, Canada is viewed internationally as the ‘Enron’ of whistleblower protection due to the spectacular, public meltdown of its national whistleblower protection system. This complex and costly regime has produced virtually no results in five years and has little credibility in the eyes of the public or public servants. Nor does any Canadian province have a system that we consider effective. Alberta can and must do better.
Fortunately there are many valuable resources available to draw upon in developing your own law. There is extensive research into the effectiveness of current legislation in jurisdictions around the world, which has provided solid evidence regarding what works and what doesn’t. There are well-developed standards and best practice documents developed by internationally respected organizations.
There is also a vibrant community of academic researchers, practicing lawyers and civil society organizations that have extensive experience in this field and have provided direct assistance to numerous legislative initiatives in the past. I urge your associate minister of Accountability, Transparency and Transformation, Don Scott, to engage closely with this community.
This initiative is important to Albertans because large bureaucracies have a powerful tendency to minimize and cover up wrongdoing in order to avoid public embarrassment – and this reflex is counterproductive. It prevents wrongdoing from being nipped in the bud, which leads to the spread of corruption and incompetence – and ultimately to the types of major scandal that bring down governments. Whistleblower protection is a tool that can help ministers to retain control over their own departments and prevent such major scandals from developing.
The ultimate success of this initiative will lie mainly in your own hands, by setting the ‘tone from the top’. Little will change unless your own actions as Premier demonstrate that employees in Alberta are encouraged to report wrongdoing that threatens the public interest, and that your government will not tolerate any reprisals against them. A strong, well-drafted law will be an excellent start.
For our part, FAIR commits to follow closely the progress of your government on this initiative. We will publish an analysis of your legislation and we will monitor and report on the effectiveness of implementation – just as we have done for the federal government.
We look forward to the successful fulfillment of your promise to Albertans.
FAIR (Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform)
FAIR is a registered Canadian charity, founded in 1998, whose mission is protecting whistleblowers who protect the public interest.
David Hutton, Executive Director (613) 567-1511