It is no secret that politicians in opposition love the Auditor General's reports, while those in power detest the revelations that these reports usually contain. However, this oversight is so important to the effective functioning of government that even politicians stung by the AG's criticisms have recognized the necessity of this work. Until now.
By halving the percentage of reports reviewed in committee – from 62% to 30% – the government is effectively tossing many of the AG's reports in the trash.
The publication of a critical report by the AG does not necessarily mean that any useful action will result by the department concerned. The Public Accounts Committee, which receives these reports, plays an vital role: by calling the senior bureaucrats to appear and explain themselves, by making its own recommendations and by following-up to see whether promised actions were taken. Without this kind of highly visible prodding, departments may simply choose to ride out a brief flurry of criticism in the media – and then do nothing: a complete waste of the AG's valuable work.
Here is an particularly galling example. Recall the damning testimony given by AG Sheila Fraser following her investigation of former Integrity Commissioner Christiane Ouimet – and then the combative performance by Ouimet, who told the committee that the AG was incompetent to examine her agency and got it all wrong, and that she (Oiumet) was the victim, rather than the 170 whistleblowers who got short shrift from her office.
The committee decided to bring back both parties to sort out these contradictions, and might well have sanctioned Ouimet. But this never happened, because the Conservative government used its new-found majority to shield the former commissioner, forcing the committee into a secret session where it voted to halt any further work on this file. The result was zero transparency and zero accountability for what appeared to be an egregious abuse of power by one of the highest public officials in the land.
The bottom line is that shutting down committee work and letting the the AG's reports go unexamined is a 'cover-up' strategy which may temporarilty avoid embarassment – but creates the perfect conditions for incompetence and corruption to flourish. Canadians deserve better than this.
Why would a government agency suppress information about deadly microbes – information that is essential to combat one of the most serious threats to public health in our lifetime?
One plausible answer is the pervasive and sinister influence of the pharmaceutical industry, which seems to consistently put profit ahead of human health. Any discussion of superbugs quickly leads to a very inconvenient truth: that much of the industry's profits come from the use of antibiotics in the food industry, where low doses of these drugs can fatten animals in half the time – while at the same time creating the perfect conditions for breeding new strains of antiobiotic-resistant microbes. This agricultural practice is banned in many countries – but not in Canada.
The central issue here – the dwindling number of antiobiotics effective against 'superbugs' – was raised fifteen years ago by Dr. Shiv Chopra and his colleagues when they testified before the Senate about being pressured to approve drugs into the food supply without the legally-required proof of human safety.
All three scientists were simultaneously fired a few years later, and with these “insubordinate” employees conveniently out of the way, Health Canada rapidly approved seven drugs and other commercial products that the scientists had been blocking – including the use of Baytril (an antibiotic in the fluoroquinolone class) for veterinary purposes.
This highly controversial decision left Canada out of step with many other developed countries: by approving Baytril, Health Canada endangered our last line of defence against superbugs.
It is clear that pharmaceutical industry's extraordinary clout reaches into the highest places. In 2009 Dr. Bernard Prigent, vice-president and medical director of Pfizer Canada, was appointed to the governing council of the Canadian Institutes for Health Research. The council has a $1-billion-a-year budget and funds the work of thousands of researchers across Canada. More than 3,700 people, including several prominent ethicists and researchers, signed a petition calling for the withdrawal of this appointment, but the government paid no attention whatsoever.
This latest shabby episode again raises the question – what is the government's top priority: to protect the health of Canadians, or the interests of Big Pharma?
This is the only publicly available report on psychological safety in a Manitoba health care region. The results are disturbing, and are probably similar to those that would be found in other Regional Health Authorities.
To add insult to injury, few psychological injuries are compensated through Manitoba's WCB.
On the basis of personal experience, I can say that the WRHA is inconsistent and unfair in assigning workloads. For several years I was routinely required to work 80 hours in seven consecutive nights on alternate weeks...all at straight time. Other workers in the same job worked 8 hour days Monday to Friday. I quit when it became apparent that I was being treated as an expendable commodity, and that it would continue until I became unable to work. I saved my health and sanity, but lost my faith in "the system", my income, and the career I loved.
Just for the record, none of the resources available to me through EAP, Human Resources, the MGEU, or the Minister of Labour resulted in any help at all, though they did waste a great deal of my time and effort outside of my horrendous work schedule.
The RCMP's new draft code of conduct gives the impression of being a trojan horse that will facilitate arbitrary and retaliatory dismissals, rather than a genuine attempt to address the current culture of intimidation and harassment.
For example Section 9 of the new code enables RCMP management to easily fire – with cause – anyone who says anything that their bosses don't like. This would clearly include whistleblowers.
And contrary to what Staff-Sergeant Abe Townsend asserts, the federal whistleblower protection law is essential useless when it comes to protecting RCMP whistleblowers. When they suffer reprisals they are forced to exhaust internal RCMP procedures before they can even complain to the Integrity Commissioner. These internal procedures have been repeatedly used in the past to take reprisals against RCMP whistleblowers.
This muzzling provision may also violate the Charter – another serious problem – but this should not surprise us. Thanks to whistleblower Edgar Schmidt we now know that successive governments have been essentially ignoring our charter rights for the past 20 years.
According to the Public Banking Institute, plans exist in various countries – including Canada – to confiscate depositors' funds in the (very likely) event of a future financial crisis.
In February 2009, FAIR wrote in the Hill Times "Many Canadians rightly fear that the massive government spending recently announced may simply be wasted or the money end up in the wrong hands, without creating jobs or helping the economy."
In the USA, the stimulus package was accompanied by an amendment further strengthening whistleblower laws, as a means of safeguarding against mismanagement and fraud. In Canada there was no such measure, in spite of our whistleblower laws being clearly ineffective.
I encourage all those that have a stake in this matter and who care about true freedoms and justice for Canadians in a truly democratic society to lend their voice or partner with Ron Ellis in this cause for reform. It is imperative to facilitate discussion and to ultimately awaken the Canadian public to a much needed democratic reform of the Canadian Administrative Justice System. This is long overdue and a stumbling block to improving the lives of Canadians. Without this reform, Canada will never be more than a democratic dictatorship. Please visit Ron Ellis’ interactive website called: Administrative Justice System Reform at: http://administrativejusticereform.ca/
The latest Canadian Whistleblower, Ron Ellis, is not yet well known. His book exposes the Canadian Administrative Justice system. I have read his book and have been a victim of this system myself. His book validates how government uses tribunals to silence truth when it is needed. http://www.ubcpress.ca/search/
Scott Bloch was the Bush-appointed head of the Office of Special Counsel, the federal watchdog charged with protecting whistleblowers. He was the counterpart of our disgraced former Integrity Commissioner, Christiane Ouimet. There are numerous similarities between their stories – and a few significant differences.
The similarities lie in the conduct of these agency heads, who both became notorious for ill-treatment of their own staff and their seeming hostility towards the whistleblowers they were charged with protecting. There are also similarities in the response of the authorities when their misconduct was exposed: both got remarkably soft landings, with Ouimet being given a $500,000 handout (with a gag order) for going quietly into retirement; while in Bloch's case the Justice Department (which was supposed to be prosecuting him on multiple felony charges) sided with Bloch's own lawyers in doing everything in its power to keep Bloch out of jail.
The difference? Thanks to the backbone of the US judges concerned – who dismissed many of the arguments for leniency – Bloch will actually go to jail. Certainly, it's for just one day, but he will serve time and have a record, and have to explain this to future clients of his law firm. Ouimet got her massive handout, a comfortable pension, and not so much as a slap on the wrist. That's Canadian justice.