Set out below is a letter to the editor by Democracy Watch Coordinator Duff Conacher which was published in shorter, edited form in the November 20, 2009 issue of the Toronto Star, in the November 24, 2009 issue of the National Post, in the November 25, 2009 issues of the Globe and Mail and Vancouver Sun, in the November 29, 2009 issue of the Edmonton Journal, in the January 16, 2010 issue of the Charlottetown Guardian, and on Canada.com
In the federal Conservatives' 2006 election platform they stated that: "There have been many examples over the years of reprisals against government whistleblowers, including public servants who helped reveal the sponsorship scandal, and others who exposed waste and abuse in the Department of Foreign Affairs. After pressure from the opposition and whistleblowers themselves, the Liberals brought forward weak legislation to deal with the issue. Much more still needs to be done." (p. 10).
The Conservatives' so-called "Federal Accountability Act" (FAA) failed to do the much more that needed to be done and, as the Richard Colvin and other recent situations show clearly, the Conservatives have continued the undemocratic and unethical practice of retaliating against whistleblowers.
The FAA established a system that: does not cover all federal public servants (let alone everyone, as the Conservatives promised); does not provide promised adequate funding for legal services for whistleblowers; does not provide promised rewards (or even adequate compensation) to whistleblowers whose claims are proven true, and; that requires the whistleblower to prove retaliation has occurred (instead of requiring the government to prove it has not punished the whistleblower).
The U.S. experience dating back to 1979 has proven that a system with such flaws does not protect whistleblowers enough to encourage them to report wrongdoing and waste.
In addition, the federal Conservatives broke their 2006 election promises to strengthen the Access to Information Act to require all government institutions to create records detailing all their actions and decisions, and to give the Information Commissioner the power to order the disclosure of any record if it is in the public interest and would not cause any actual harm to anyone or any organization.
Canadians deserve better, especially from a government that promised to practise politics differently.
In the current minority government situation however, opposition parties can do more than complain about the Conservatives. If they really believe in whistleblower protection and open government, they will work together to pass the needed changes to strengthen the currently weak protection system.
Duff Conacher, Coordinator
For more details, go to Democracy Watch's Open Government Campaign and Voter Rights Campaign