House of Commons Hansard #35 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was process.


Library and Archives of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10 a.m.

Bourassa Québec


Denis Coderre Liberalfor the Minister of Canadian Heritage

moved that the amendments made by the Senate to Bill C-8, an act to establish the Library and Archives of Canada, to amend the Copyright Act and to amend certain acts in consequence, be now read the second time and concurred in.

Library and Archives of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

Library and Archives of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members


Library and Archives of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Library and Archives of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members


Library and Archives of Canada ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

An hon. member

On division.

(Motion agreed to, amendments read the second time and concurred in)

Bill C-25. On the Order: Government Orders

March 22, 2004--The President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada--Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates of Bill C-25, an act to establish a procedure for the disclosure of wrongdoings in the public sector, including the protection of persons who disclose the wrongdoings.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

10:05 a.m.

Bourassa Québec


Denis Coderre LiberalPresident of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That Bill C-25, an act to establish a procedure for the disclosure of wrongdoings in the public sector, including the protection of persons who disclose the wrongdoings, be referred forthwith to the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates.

Mr. Speaker,Canadians have every right to expect that their government will act in accordance with the highest standards. They must have confidence that their government is acting in an open, honest and transparent manner.

The government is committed to ensuring transparency, accountability, financial responsibility and ethical conduct in the public sector. That is why on March 22 I tabled the public servants disclosure protection act in the House.

Federal public sector employees must always perform their official duties and arrange their private affairs in a manner that bears the closest public scrutiny. The vast majority of public servants do serve Canadians with honour, integrity and excellence.

In some exceptional situations, however, this is not the case. So the government must create an environment in which the reporting of wrongdoing can be made without repercussion for the individual who comes forward.

This bill acknowledges that existing procedures can effectively handle many issues of reported wrongdoing. It also establishes additional support and protection for public sector employees to make good faith disclosures. It significantly strengthens protections available to employees throughout government, including those in crown corporations.

The preamble recognizes that there must be a balance between the public servants' duty of loyalty and their right to freedom of expression. This balance is essential to adopting the right disclosure procedures and justifying their implementation.

The preamble also commits the government to establishing a charter of values of publicservice setting out the values that shouldguide public servants in their work andprofessional conduct.

The law will apply to employees in all sectors of the public service, including the executives in each organization, including the crown corporations.

However, because of their distinct employment status and security concerns, the Communications Security Establishment,the Canadian Security IntelligenceService, the uniformed members of the Royal Canadian MountedPolice and members of the CanadianForces will not be subject to this law. In the case of the latter two groups, however, civilian employees will be covered by the bill.

Nevertheless, these organizations will be expected to establish comparable procedures for their members and employees, including a code of conduct and a mechanism for protection against reprisals. This means that if these agencies do not establish a code of conduct, the Treasury Board will ensure that they implement one in the same spirit as the bill before us today.

The bill requires the Treasury Board to establish a code of conduct for the entire federal public sector. Chief executives may establishacode of conduct applicable to the portion of thepublic sector for which they are responsible, but these codes must be consistent with the one established by the Treasury Board.

The code will also be referred to the committee of the House for examination. So, in order to deal properly with the issue of the democratic deficit both with the framework legislation and the code of conduct, we are committed to having the House committee carry out a thorough study of these two aspects.

Let us look at the definition of wrongdoing. The bill defines wrongdoing as: a contravention of any acts or regulations; a misuse of public funds or a public asset;a gross mismanagement in the publicsector;an act or omission that creates asubstantial and specific danger to the life,health or safety of persons or to the environment;a serious breach of a code of conductandthe taking of a reprisal against a publicservant who has acted in good faith in making a disclosure.

These are clear criteria for disclosure allowing public sector employees to determine misconduct and decide on disclosure.

The bill also sets out how employees can properly make a disclosure and what happens with that information.

First, each deputy head or CEO in the federal public sector must establish an internal disclosure mechanism, including the appointment of a senior officer to take disclosures and investigate possible wrongdoings.

Second, to ensure there is an additional avenue for disclosure in cases where internal mechanisms do not suffice, a public sector integrity commissioner will be appointed by the governor in council. The commissioner will serve for a term of seven years following approval by resolution of the Senate and the House of Commons. This position is similar to the current public service integrity officer, but with a wider legislative mandate.

The commissioner will be able to investigate alleged wrongdoings, including reprisal, and make representations to deputy heads and CEOs on his or her findings. Chief executives and all public sector employees must, and I repeat must, cooperate with the commissioner, and provide him or her with any information, assistance and access to premises required for investigations.

The commissioner will be able to make a report to the minister of the department or to the board of a crown, in cases where a deputy head or CEO does not follow the commissioner's recommendations, or if the commissioner's investigations led him to believe there was a substantial, serious and immediate danger to public health and security or to the environment from an alleged wrongdoing.

If the issue is still not resolved, the commissioner could make a special report to a minister who will be designated by the governor in council. A special report of this kind, like the commissioner's annual report, would be tabled in Parliament.

Let us talk about reprisal protection. Reprisal is defined as disciplinary action against a person because he or she reported a wrongdoing or cooperated in an investigation of wrongdoing. Reprisal can include actions such as demotion, termination of employment, or anything else that adversely affects the employment or working conditions of a person, or even a threat to do any of these things.

Under the proposed legislation, reprisal is defined as a wrongdoing and can be investigated as such. A person who feels that a reprisal has been made against him or her may make a complaint to the public service integrity commissioner or the appropriate board that deals with staff relations, such as the Public Service Staff Relations Board or the Canada Industrial Relations Board. If a reprisal is found to have occurred, these boards would have the power to order that the employee be reinstated in his or her position, if the employee had lost his or her job as a result of reprisal, or be compensated for other penalties or losses.

These are strong measures to ensure that public sector employees can have confidence that reprisal will not be tolerated if they disclose a wrongdoing.

Now, for confidentiality. The commissioner is required to ensure that the right to proceduralfairness and natural justice of all personsinvolved in investigations is respected.

In order to increase the trust of public servants and provide them with the assurance that they can make disclosures without risk and that their identity and information will be protected as much as possible, the commissioner has the capacity of an investigative bodyunder the Access to Information Act and the Privacy Act.

In other words, the commissioner would have some degree of latitude in disclosing information which would identify the person making the disclosure and the person alleged to be responsible for wrongdoings. This is not an absolute latitude, but will enhance confidentiality compared to the present system and increase people's trust of the system.

I would also like to make it clear that the internal disclosure system remains fully operational until such time as the bill has moved through the entire parliamentary process. Employees within the public service can still report wrongdoings to their immediate superior or to the public service integrity officer.

Moreover, the government has changed the internal disclosure policy in order to ensure that no employee would become a victim of reprisals, including administrative or disciplinary measures, for having disclosed a wrongdoing in good faith, in accordance with the policy, or as part of a parliamentary proceeding or an investigation related to the Auditor General's 2003 report.

Increasing confidence, providing protection, ensuring that investigations are held, are essential elements of this bill being presented, a bill that recognizes the integrity of the public sector and provides sound mechanisms for addressing reprehensible acts and protecting whistleblowers.

As hon. members know, the bill is of great interest to the public. There are indeed many well-informed and trustworthy stakeholders. Given the importance of the bill to the future of the federal public administration, I am pleased that my parliamentary colleagues can debate it and examine it from all angles. I am especially pleased at the idea of actively debating the substance and the spirit of the bill.

A lively debate has already begun in the public domain. I would like to address some of the concerns that have been raised recently. These issues include access to the commissioner, exclusions, boundaries of investigation, as well as the independence and powers of the commissioner.

First, employees should normally use, and be able to trust, internal mechanisms before going to a third party, but public sector employees also would have direct access to the commissioner if they believe the nature of their disclosure requires it.

Second, in respect of the excluded organizations, as I explained earlier, these organizations are not exempt from having similar disclosure regimes and protecting their employees from reprisals. This point needs to be emphasized again. Employees in these organizations will have access to a similar disclosure regime.

Third, with regard to the commissioner's ability to investigate wrongdoing outside the public sector, I would like to make it clear that the bill does authorize such investigations. They would be carried out by a competent authority, such as the RCMP or the proposed ethics commissioner, on the basis of information provided by the public sector integrity commissioner.

Another point related to this is that even though the bill applies only to public sector employees, they will be able to make disclosures about those who are not covered by this legislation. They can make these disclosures through the normal channels and will be protected if they do so.

Finally, there has been a great deal of discussion about the independence and powers of the commissioner. It is my belief that the commissioner will have everything he or she needs to play an independent and effective role while at the same time holding government accountable for the good operations of the federal public sector.

The commissioner's appointment will be recommended by Parliament and he or she will report to Parliament.

Consequently, I support the motion to refer the bill to committee before second reading.

Canadians have asked the current government to enhance and ensure integrity and accountability. We have listened and acted swiftly. The government will not tolerate having the improper behaviour of a handful of people overshadow the good work of the majority.

We will keep the promise we made in the Speech from the Throne. We will build upon the integrity, professionalism and impartiality of the public sector. We will promote the excellence and sense of accomplishment of the public service. And we will achieve our goal of having nothing short of the best public service in the world.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

10:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Lynne Yelich Canadian Alliance Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to contribute to the debate on Bill C-25, the Public Servants Disclosure Protection Act, commonly understood to provide enhanced protection for whistleblowers in the public service.

In many respects, today's debate is not an occasion to celebrate efforts to foster greater openness and accountability in government as my Liberal colleagues would have us believe. We are first debating this legislation on a Friday, the last day before a two week break, which may be extended if an election is called.

It is true that the government fulfilled its promise made in January that this legislation would be introduced before the end of March. Regrettably, the Treasury Board president also promised that this legislation would not be passed before the public accounts committee had completed its investigation into the sponsorship scandal, not prior to the public inquiry into the same scandal.

The end result is that whatever the benefits of this legislation, and those benefits would appear to be dubious at best, it will not be in place to encourage frank disclosures by civil servants with respect to the past transgressions of senior government officials or ministers. This state of affairs is highly regrettable since Canadians of all political persuasions want to believe that the current government is sincere in its professed desire to root out corruption in government. Public service unions are equally concerned that the changes in government culture that the Prime Minister has widely proclaimed will in fact occur.

For example, following on the heels of the disgraceful behaviour of former privacy commissioner George Radwanski, we learned of the case of Norman Steinberg, the public works official responsible for ethics in his department. He spent $22,000 for an entertainment system for his office, including a widescreen plasma television. He attended 33 conferences that cost $86,000.

As Public Service Alliance of Canada president Nycole Turmel said at the time, unless the Prime Minister puts an end to the free-spending ways of public servants like Radwanski, who is no longer employed, and Steinberg, who continues to be employed, all federal employees look bad. In fact, it is these very employees by way of public sector unions who are leading the way in calling for whistleblowing legislation.

For example, some commentators have criticized the apparent silence of employees in the Office of the Privacy Commissioner during the period of abuses by Mr. Radwanski. Lynn Ray, the president of the Union of Solicitor General Employees, recently wrote to correct public perceptions. As she pointed out:

The problem was not that people did not know of the problems. The problem was that the people who knew could not speak out. Government workers have seen what happens to people who blow the whistle on wrongdoing. Even when their allegations are proved accurate, they still pay a horrible price. The careers of whistleblowers are destroyed and their family lives are devastated.

Whistleblowers perform an important service to the public. Their actions save not only public money. By exposing dangers to safety and health, they save the very lives of Canadians. Whistleblowers should be praised, not punished. They should not pay for their public service by putting their jobs on the line. Employees and the Canadian public need strong and effective legislation to protect those who reveal wrongdoing.

Unfortunately, this legislation does little to effect the Prime Minister's wishes, assuming that he is sincere in addressing government corruption and waste. It also does not address the concerns of employees who want to be protected when they speak out. It is even deficient in the eyes of Canada's first public service integrity officer, noted ethicist Dr. Edward Keyserlingk. Not much has been heard from him since his appointment in November 2001. He currently reports to the President of the Treasury Board.

At the time, the integrity officer was operating under a Treasury Board policy to encourage employee disclosure of wrongdoing. The problem was there were no perceived legislative protections that would protect employees from reprisals.

In addition, as Dr. Keyserlingk pointed out in September 2003, at the time of his first annual report tabled in Parliament through the President of the Treasury Board, he was being regarded in much the same light as the ethics counsellor. He was not regarded as being functionally independent of the government.

Dr. Keyserlingk called for legislation to create a revised agency to better enable the disclosure and correction of wrongdoings in the public service and protection for whistleblowers from reprisals. This same individual called the current legislation before the House a disappointment.

One of the main reasons the legislation is disappointing in the eyes of so many is because the whistleblower is compelled to make his or her disclosures through internal government channels and, in particular, through either a superior or the newly constituted public sector integrity commissioner.

The problem persists. The public sector integrity commissioner will not function independently of Parliament. He or she will instead report through a minister as yet to be designated by the Prime Minister. The deficiency is obvious. If the wrongdoing emanates from or involves the office of the minister, what possible protection is there for a whistleblower?

There has now been testimony from several sources that the sponsorship program was directed by the then minister of public works. There is also testimony that directions to this program were also emanating from the office of the Prime Minister.

As but one example, my colleague from Winnipeg Centre has publicly disclosed information received by him from a civil servant who was told to write a cheque for $100,000 for work he knew was never performed. When the civil servant objected, his superior advised him that they were taking their instructions directly from the PMO and that he should sign it. As my colleague from Winnipeg Centre has stated, we believe it goes to the highest level of the Prime Minister's Office, including the former prime minister.

Consistent with the legislative weaknesses already noted is the fact that whistleblower protection is not accorded to the House of Commons staff, the RCMP or members of Canada's armed forces, among others, yet we know that none of these entities are free from scandal. In particular, we have a recent example from this past January of the very public RCMP raid of the residence of Ottawa Citizen reporter, Juliet O'Neill, seeking information in her possession concerning the Maher Arar case. In that case, Mr. Arar contends that it was the RCMP and related security personnel who conspired to have him diverted to Syria where he spent one year in jail without trial.

The raid on Ms. O'Neill's residence also sends another message concerning the deficiencies of the legislation before us. It does not protect whistleblowers who make their disclosures to the media or otherwise, apart from the approved channels of disclosure, the non-independent public sector integrity commissioner.

Similarly, the stories of a veteran RCMP officer condemned for leaking the allegations of corruption at the Canadian high commission in Hong Kong and a civilian fire chief fired for revealing what he considered unsafe conditions on a Canadian military base in Afghanistan highlight the need for comprehensive whistleblower legislation that does protect those who speak out when they see problems.

What is particularly important under the proposed legislation is that the public sector integrity commissioner would not necessarily be appointed by an all party committee. Instead, we have the potential for the ethics counsellor appointment process where there is no independent review of qualifications or effectiveness.

From examples we know about, we can see that in many respects the legislation will actually discourage whistleblowers from coming forward because the protections available to them are substantially as empty as the ones they have at present.

As one commentator noted, conscientious people who want to serve the taxpayers honestly should have no fear of reprisals at all. The proposed legislation does not provide that assurance.

The kind of environment that punishes people who speak out is not exclusive to this federal level. In my home city of Saskatoon there is a case where a hospital head of emergency medicine was removed from his position after he wrote a letter to the province stating patient care was compromised because of a lack of resources. Is there a connection?

Those types of cases are the reason I am interested in this legislation. We have a real opportunity to set an example that could be followed at other levels of government and administration, and that is very important. Canadians deserve better.

I can only hope that members opposite will agree with this sentiment and work with all members of the House to make the much needed improvement to the legislation before it is subject to a vote.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

10:30 a.m.


Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, if I understand correctly, I think there will be serious discussions in committee among the Conservatives, NDP and the government.

It is unfortunate that there had to be a sponsorship scandal for this legislation to be introduced in the House today. It is unfortunate, because if such legislation had existed, we would not have needed to do this. I want to say, nonetheless, that this is a good start by the President of the Privy Council, and we will support the principle of the bill. This does not mean that we are agreeing to it as is, on the contrary.

This is a nice gesture, and I hope that we will have the time to consider this bill. It is well known that, with an election looming, because there is one on the horizon, the government is making itself look good by introducing legislation on whistleblowers. Yet, we must ask, will there be time to go through the whole process and make all the necessary amendments?

Such legislation cannot be passed secretly, with a one, two, three, go and it is over. Many improvements need to be made. Witnesses must be heard. It is important that representatives of the public service be able to appear before the committee. It is also important to hear from people personally affected.

We have all already heard from employees both in and outside the public service who say that they were aware of illegal acts being committed or such and such a thing going on, but that they were powerless to say anything because they might have lost their job.

We must act. We agree with this bill. However, many amendments will be needed to satisfy the Bloc Quebecois.

First, the legislation should be retroactive to January 1, 2004. I will explain why. It goes without saying that all those who disclosed information about the sponsorship scandal should be protected under this legislation. The legislation should be retroactive, so that whistleblowers can benefit from the protection that it provides. Therefore, we hope that it will be retroactive to January 1, 2004. Of course, we will have to be able to consider the bill this year, before an election is called, but there is no guarantee this will happen.

The bill does not include any provision allowing a whistleblower to ask for a transfer, a deployment or a paid leave should his or her situation at work have become unbearable, particularly during the commissioner's investigation.

As we know, an investigation may take some time, it may take longer than expected. It may even take months to complete. If the whistleblower remains in the same work environment, he or she could be exposed to threats, blackmail or harassment. We must be able to relocate this person. If this cannot be done, that person must be protected as required. This is why this bill is being presented. This person must at least be entitled to paid leave and not be financially penalized because he or she reported some wrongdoings. This is not included in the bill, and I hope that we can bring in amendments to change that.

Who appoints the commissioner and to whom does the commissioner report? Based on our interpretation of the wording of this bill, and we will discuss it more thoroughly in committee, the status of the integrity commissioner will be similar to that of the ethics commissioner. We do not want a commissioner of this type, who reports to a minister, because Parliament will not necessarily be kept informed of everything the commissioner may have to say. We would prefer the commissioner to report directly to Parliament, that is to all political parties, so that we can draw our own conclusions.

However, a commissioner should not be appointed just to look good, and not have any real power akin to the Auditor General's.

When the Auditor General tables her report or conducts an investigation, she does so before all the political parties, unhindered in what she can say. The commissioner should be able to play this role and be entirely free to provide us with information without having to go through a department.

That is quite important to us because we think exceptional transparency is vital when it comes to this legislation, and we do not see it here.

The Public Service Alliance already has some concerns. I will read a small paragraph:

Potential whistleblowers do not have the unfettered right to go directly to the agency, but are instead obligated to first go to their supervisors. For example, before commencing an investigation, the commissioner must be satisfied that the employee has exhausted all other avenues prior to taking the matter to the commissioner.

The government is in the process of creating the very obstacles that it is trying to remove. If we really want someone to be able to disclose a wrongdoing, then we must try to avoid having numerous obstacles and allow this person to achieve their objective. Creating other obstacles will not help the cause and wrongdoings will not be disclosed.

In fact, people will not want to. They will still be afraid of taking this path. This may also take long. So, it is a serious decision. Therefore, if someone makes the decision to disclose bad practices, illegalities or mismanagement of public money, it is really a significant decision to make. This person must be protected in every possible way. In this respect, there are shortcomings in the bill.

This bill also says that the individual, the person making a disclosure, must make that disclosure to his or her senior officer. This senior officer, the boss, is very often the source of the problem. In such a case, the whistleblower would not go to the boss, if that person is the guilty party, and say, “Listen, I have a problem; I have seen some things and I am going to blow the whistle on you”.

The whistleblower must be able to turn to someone else, and that must be clarified. It is not clear in the bill, since it says that the individual must first go through the senior officer. But if the senior officer is guilty, what should be done?

Consequently, there are some things to clarify. I know that a bill is never perfect. Work must be done, however, and we will help make the necessary improvements, in order to make this bill acceptable.

There must also be provisions for protection from psychological harassment. We know that an employee may be told, “It is fine; you can stay on the job. You have made your disclosure. We will protect you”, but the whistleblower may be subject to psychological harassment. There is nothing, no law, no provisions in any law to protect people from psychological harassment. One of my colleagues has introduced a private members' bill on this subject. We know there are many cases here in the public service.

There are no provisions for this in the bill. Nor are there any in any other law nor in the labour code. This absolutely must be considered.

I could go on longer, but I only have 10 minutes, and I know that we will be able to examine this bill in committee. I sincerely hope that the basic work will be done. We will introduce interesting amendments and we will call witnesses. Our list of witnesses is ready. I hope that the minister is ready for some serious work and ready to bring in the amendments needed for this bill to become a law that truly respects those who make disclosures and enables them to be totally and completely protected when they do so.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

10:35 a.m.


Pat Martin NDP Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, good managers welcome whistleblowing. Good managers want to know what is really going on in the enterprises over which they have control, and it is only people with something to hide who resist the introduction of whistleblowing protection measures.

As a way of introduction, the red book of 1993 specifically promised legislated whistleblowing protection, stemming from the outrageous scandals of the Mulroney government where a cabinet minister a week seemed to be hauled off to jail. In this case it was a Liberal government promising measures so that public servants could feel protected in coming forward with information about wrongdoing, and that was 11 years ago.

Now we have the minister with the gall, the temerity, to introduce Bill C-25. Then the Prime Minister in his latest ad scam, which are the television ads now running, has a banner running along the bottom of the ads stating that whistleblowers have legislative protection. It is misleading the public to think that whistleblowing legislation, as they contemplate it, will protect civil servants. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The bill should be called an act to protect ministers from whistleblowers, not an act to protect whistleblowers. It should be called an act to plug leaks, an act to stop civil servants telling what they know about what the government is doing with public finances. If there were any honesty associated with the bill, that is what is should be called.

The minister has a lot something to stand up and tell us today that he is sincerely committed to protection for whistleblowers. The bill blatantly contradicts the recommendations and findings of no fewer than three recent task forces, including the Keyserlingk task force. These are some of the most knowledgeable people on this subject in the country. The leading authorities in the country on whistleblowers have spoken and everyone of them unanimously have said whistleblowing protection will be meaningless unless the whistleblower commissioner or officer reports directly to Parliament.

If nothing else is clear in the bill, it should have been that the newly commissioned whistleblowing protection officer has to report to Parliament. To report to or through a minister, as is the language in the bill, is reporting to the executive of government. It is a 180° contradiction from what was unanimously recommended by no fewer than three independent task forces on the subject, which they have ignored. It is contradictory to no fewer than 12, I believe it is, private members' bills that have been put forward in good faith by members of all parties in the past 11 years, since the Liberal government promised this.

Everyone agrees that there has to be that arm's length independence to give confidence to civil servants who may have knowledge of the maladministration of funds or wrongdoing.

This is a travesty, and it is so clearly just an illusion. This is smoke and mirrors so the Liberals can say to the people of Canada, “We embrace real whistleblower protection,” and they can honestly say to the public, “We have introduced legislation regarding whistleblowers.” They cannot say that they are offering whistleblowers in the civil service true legislative protection because that would be a lie. What they are saying is that they have introduced whistleblowing legislation.

I can tell the Canadian public that this whistleblowing legislation is so flawed that public servants are better off with no legislation than with this bad legislation because it gives the illusion of safety. In actual fact, with the narrow prescribed route that whistleblowers would have to take, they would be better off with no protection at all. They would be better off with the status quo than with this flawed bill. There were so many models from which to choose.

In 1996 a member from the Bloc Quebecois put forward a very good private member's bill on whistleblowing protection. His name escapes me. His model was borrowed from a previous private member's bill. Subsequently, a member from the Alliance and myself both introduced whistleblowing legislation modelled after the same essentially agreed upon process that the leading authorities are now point out was the correct way to go.

Therefore, we did not need another bill to protect ministers from whistleblowers. They enjoy that already. However, now we are given this busy work to keep our committee occupied in trying to craft garbage into something useful. I do not think it can be done. We are not Rumplestiltskins. We cannot weave gold out of straw. We do not have time. This Parliament is in its twilight hours, and frankly it is unnecessary because we all know what needs to be done.

Ask Mr. Keyserlingk, ask the leading authorities around the country how to craft good whistleblowing legislation. They can tell us clearly in 10 minutes. Read any national newspaper in the country. They have done assessments, and in the narrow confines of a simple one column article, they have pointed out everything that is wrong with this bill and everything that could be done to fix it.

I encourage the minister to have his staff read the Regina Leader Post, The Ottawa Citizen, Globe and Mail. Every one of the authorities who have reviewed this legislation point out that it is so fatally flawed it is not only meaningless, it is actually harmful. It is actually detrimental because civil servants will be worse off. It excludes the RCMP.

I think my colleague who will speak later will point out some of the flaws there. We know there are whistleblowers waiting within the RCMP with information that they wish to bring forward, but they do not feel safe under this bill or under the status quo.

I lived through the Radwanski scandal, as a member of the government operations committee. It really drove the message home to me the need for comprehensive whistleblowing legislation when the good people who came forward with information about Radwanski, who came to our committee, showed up with their lawyers.

Honest civil servants in the public service, who come forward and do the right thing by sharing their information with the committee of members of Parliament, feel it necessary to bring their own privately hired legal counsel with them for their own protection. That is so fundamentally wrong. It just breaks my heart to think that is what we have stooped to around here.

Here was a golden opportunity. Finally there was an opportunity to flesh out and to give meaning and definition to what we have been calling for so long. The minister has chosen not to in the most cynical of ways. Not only has he failed to introduce meaningful legislation, he is trying to mislead the Canadian public in the television ads that are running in the country. In the ad the Prime Minister is talking to a group of people in some kitchen. Along the bottom a little banner, like CNN has, says “Whistleblowers now protected by legislation”. That is not true.

The bill will not pass in this Parliament. Even if the bill did pass, whistleblowers would not be protected by legislation. In fact the inverse is actually true. It is a ruse. It is a well orchestrated deception. It is electioneering. It is smoke and mirrors. It is anything but legitimate whistleblower protection.

If the minister is being honest, he will withdraw this bill. He would listen to the Canadian public and to all the authorities across the country who have the answer. He could frankly take good legislation right off the shelf, introduce it and table it before the end of this Parliament, if he were serious.

Public Servants Disclosure Protection ActGovernment Orders

10:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Paul Forseth Canadian Alliance New Westminster—Coquitlam—Burnaby, BC

Mr. Speaker, after much delay, the government finally has tabled its whistleblower legislation, Bill C-25 the public servants disclosure protection act, but the bill is so poor it should be withdrawn and replaced with a legitimate one.

I recall when the Liberals were in opposition, they railed against the Progressive Conservatives, outlining the desperate need for such legislation. Once they were in power they forgot all about it.

Years later a timid attempt was made through an internal memo policy but it did not work. Then I managed to get the Treasury Board minister to up the stakes and recognize the memo policy in statute. However, the whole matter clearly needed a comprehensive stand-alone regime with a full budget and a completely independent and powerful authority to investigate and remediate.

The bill establishes a procedure for the disclosure of wrongdoing in the public sector and tries to provide for the protection of persons who disclose the wrongdoing. The bill fails to deliver. Unfortunately, it took two high profile scandals, the Radwanski affair and the sponsorship debacle, to push whistleblower legislation to the top of the government's agenda.

The bill should bring a culture change. The old poisoned culture became painfully evident during a parliamentary investigation into the conduct of the former privacy commissioner, George Radwanski, who threatened to destroy the career of the rat who exposed his lavish overspending, forgeries and frauds.

My service in the middle of that committee process unlocked the pent up knowledge of many who knew of the multiple wrongdoing. No one had talked up to that point because they were all afraid.

Upon reflection from that experience, I was convinced that comprehensive legislation was needed. Also, the depth and extent of abuses in the current sponsorship scandal of ad scam, the plumbers unit, and the Gagliano papers, underlines the need to encourage a new approach within the public service.

The current integrity officer, Edward Keyserlingk, who has long criticized the policy under which he operates for its toothlessness, says that he expected a lot more from the legislation given the climate in which it was drafted. The bill stops short of giving the new integrity commissioner full investigative powers, including the ability to subpoena and gain access to cabinet documents. In addition, the commissioner will report through a minister rather than directly to Parliament.

We put the matter directly to the government the other day, and I said:

Mr. Speaker, whistleblower legislation must be seen to be trustworthy and workable by the faithful public servant who may need it.

In the bill tabled yesterday, the government still wants to politically control the independent oversight role of Parliament.

Why is the government insisting on undermining employee confidence in this new office by injecting a ministerial filter for reporting wrongdoing?

The President of the Queen's Privy Council, in part said:

--I do not agree with my colleague. The bill does not filter at all. The fact that the commissioner will be appointed by both Houses, the Senate and the House of Commons, I think shows that the position is pretty independent.

I asked further:

--the President of the Treasury Board admitted that he was wrong about being against whistleblowing in view of the Radwanski scandal, but the problem is that we need comprehensive stand alone legislation that creates a real system with officers and a proper budget, and with credible authority across Canada that is separate from politics.

The Treasury Board is the employer of the public service. Why is the President of the Treasury Board not ensuring that employees get everything they need to keep the system honest? Will he provide that?

Well, the minister, the President of the Treasury Board, just sat there in his chair, and again the President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada answered in the following way:

Mr. Speaker, I think the member should read the bill. Not only would we cover all the angles but we would provide all the tools in the budget for the future commissioner to do his job. With all the tools he will have, he will be able to not only go through every department but he will have everything he needs to seek all the information and then to make recommendations.

After that, when we look at the correct situation and it is not proceeding in departments, we are even able to deposit a special report to Parliament. Therefore it is pretty independent. I think the way we have planned it is pretty accurate.

Whistleblower legislation is no panacea to what ails government. Its potential downside is that it offers disgruntled and problem employees with the potential to make unfounded and nuisance allegations against their employers anonymously. However, the commissioner will have the power to vet such complaints in private to decide to proceed, ensuring that frivolous or vexatious complaints are quickly dismissed.

The mere existence of whistleblower legislation, no matter how strong, will not immediately result in a more ethical government and happier bureaucrats. Government needs to be competent in management so that the need for reporters of wrongdoing becomes the rare exception. Canadians should demand and expect line management that does not require reporting to the outside.

The bill does not cover workers in private industry who deal with the government, like the employees of the ad agency so entangled in the current scandals. It applies only to federal employees, with many exemptions. It covers most federal departments as well as crown corporations such as VIA Rail, but excludes police and intelligence officers and members of the armed forces. About 4,000 employees of the House of Commons, many of whom have access to sensitive information, are also exempt. Cabinet staff is exempt--perhaps where knowledge of most wrongdoing would come to light.

However, despite the problems, the legislation is a start. Had it been in place a few years ago, it is possible that the sponsorship scandal, which saw millions in federal funds flow to Liberal-friendly ad agencies, would have been stopped a lot sooner. The few people who tried to speak out about the sponsorship abuse were reprimanded. Even now, one person has had his life threatened if that person dares to talk to my parliamentary committee.

Often it is in the higher levels, where discretionary decision making happens, where the real problems arise. There is no point reporting wrongdoing at first instance to those who are part of the swindle. Independence of reporting and investigation and powerful remedial action are vital elements for this whole scheme to work.

The culture of transparency must come from the Prime Minister so that we can put the access to information office out of business. Each person in the public service must exercise their own self-governance of probity. They will only do this if there is a system-wide culture of openness, where everything is on the open record and transparent and secrecy is accomplished only through a reverse onus process for justified need.

In governments, corporations and other big institutions, there are people who risk all by openly denouncing crooked behaviour. A healthy democracy needs such people and society must protect them.

Bill C-25 was eagerly anticipated and it is dismally inadequate. It would create a public service integrity commissioner who would report through a cabinet minister rather than directly to Parliament. That sabotages both the credibility and independence of the office, in the view of public employees.

Even worse, the bill fails to give the commissioner the right to subpoena witnesses, access cabinet documents or follow investigations into cabinet ministers' offices, the RCMP, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Communications Security Establishment, or National Defence.

In 1996, a junior manager in the federal public works department went to top executives with alarming information. There was something fishy with his supervisor's oversight of contracts for federal sponsorships which were intended to show the flag in the emotionally charged atmosphere after the 1995 Quebec referendum. What happened? The civil servant was ignored, then demoted and came close to being fired. His supervisor got a promotion.

So the Prime Minister brings in his first bill under his watch and it is a dud. The cabinet caved in to the deputy minister group, which does not want to be second guessed by upstarts. The Prime Minister just cannot get anything right. He finally brings in new legislation that he can honestly call his own, but he gets it all wrong. Canadians do not want an integrity commissioner who sits comfortably in the lap of a Liberal cabinet minister.

I say to the government, will it live up to the democratic deficit promise and let Parliament select, appoint and supervise Canada's first integrity commissioner? Many prominent Canadians with knowledge or an understanding of the importance of an integrity commissioner say the legislation is flawed. Whistleblower legislation should cover all aides to cabinet ministers and the Department of National Defence, the RCMP and all other federal agencies.

Will the government allow the committee to fix the bill and replace its flawed construction and give Parliament the responsibility of seeking out, appointing and supervising an integrity commissioner who will have a real and uncompromised independence in the House?

We want the concept to succeed. The government is going to call an election soon, and it will try to claim it has a bill, but I say it is not worth much. On this side of the House, we are sincere. May we find some on the government side who are as well.

Roméo DallaireStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.


Jeannot Castonguay Liberal Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, Roméo Dallaire, a former Lieutenant-General in the Canadian Forces, went through hell as a firsthand witness of the horrible genocide that took place in Rwanda.

Let us hope that our country and the whole world will learn from this tragic episode in history, which Mr. Dallaire had to watch helplessly. Let us also hope that we never forget the root causes of this tragedy and that we learn the lessons so that such acts can be prevented in the future.

Yesterday, the book written by Mr. Dallaire on the genocide in Rwanda and entitled Shake Hands with the Devil , won the Shaughnessy Cohen award of the Writer's Trust of Canada. This is undoubtedly small consolation for Mr. Dallaire, but this recognition deserves to be mentioned in the House.

This prize is awarded for books that help Canadians better understand current political and social issues. I urge my colleagues and all Canadians to read Mr. Dallaire's personal account.

Organ Donor Awareness MonthStatements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ted White Canadian Alliance North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, April is organ donor awareness month in B.C. and the British Columbia Transplant Society is making a special effort to urge more British Columbians to register as organ donors.

Unfortunately, more than 400 British Columbians are currently waiting for life-saving or life-enhancing organ transplants. Last year, 29 people in B.C. died while waiting for an organ transplant.

These needless deaths could have been avoided if there had been more names on the B.C. organ donor registry, but B.C. is not alone as a province with a shortage of pre-registered donors. All across Canada there is a critical need for more people to pre-register as donors.

It is for this reason that I rise today to urge everyone who hears or reads this statement to call 1-800-663-6189 to ask how they can pre-register as organ donors. That is 1-800-663-6189, Mr. Speaker, and I hope that you will do it this afternoon.

RwandaStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Shawn Murphy Liberal Hillsborough, PE

Mr. Speaker, recently the House of Commons adopted a motion to declare April 7 as a day of remembrance of the victims of the 1994 Rwandan genocide and to encourage all Canadians, including the Government of Canada, to take action to commemorate the tragedy.

It was 10 years ago this month that thousands of people in Rwanda lost their lives needlessly. Some Canadians have initiated an international movement to recognize the 10th anniversary of the 1994 Rwandan genocide across the country.

We must applaud the efforts of Canadians of Rwandan origin and others who are planning events to commemorate this tragedy. We must join with them in remembering the victims and making sure that a tragedy like this does not happen again.

Battle of Vimy RidgeStatements By Members

11 a.m.


John Harvard Liberal Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, MB

Mr. Speaker, April 9 marks the 87th anniversary of the Battle of Vimy Ridge. The victory by Canadian troops marked a profound turning point for the allies.

As General Byng, commander of the Canadian Corps, would write:

There they stood on Vimy Ridge on the ninth day of April, 1917... men from Quebec stood shoulder to shoulder with men from British Columbia and Alberta and there was forged a nation, a nation tempered by fires of sacrifice--

The Battle of Vimy Ridge would claim over 10,000 casualties, including 3,598 who would lie forever on French soil.

We remember their valour and bravery. Four Canadians, Private William Milne, Lance-Sergeant Ellis Sifton, Captain Thain MacDowell and Private John Pattison, would be awarded the Victoria Cross for their acts of supreme courage.

As we honour this battle, we keep our promise of remembrance we have made to all our veterans. Thanks to the initiative of the hon. member for Algoma—Manitoulin and the support of all members, April 9 is a National Day of Remembrance for those who fought and who made the ultimate sacrifice in the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Lest we forget.

New Horizons ProgramStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Yolande Thibeault Liberal Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, during the last budget speech, I was truly pleased to hear the Minister of Finance announce the reintroduction of the New Horizons Program, with a budget of $8 million in 2004-05 and $10 million for the two following years. This was a recommendation of the task force on seniors, which I chaired last fall.

The New Horizons Program provides funding for community projects undertaken in every region of the country, thus contributing to the well-being of our seniors. This program also served as a foundation for the establishment of golden age clubs, including in my riding. It stresses the importance of the volunteer work done by seniors who want to maintain an active life, contribute to community life and take part in social activities.

Seniors play a major role in Canadian families and communities, and I am proud to be part of a government that helps them expand their horizons.

Airline IndustryStatements By Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Canadian Alliance Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, in my riding of Prince George--Peace River, federal cuts and reductions in airline service are threatening to put a chokehold on a recent surge in economic growth.

It has been predicted that a reduction in Nav Canada services at the Dawson Creek airport may compel airlines to avoid that airport altogether, amid concerns that pilots will have reduced support in judging the safety of landing conditions. This will negate the over two years of improvements to the facility designed to attract increased airline traffic.

Meanwhile, Air Canada Jazz has indicated it intends to eliminate its service to Fort Nelson and reduce service to Fort St. John, this despite a significant increase in air traffic and a track record of oversold flights propelled by a healthy economic boom.

It is ironic that services are being cut to the very airports that are projecting an increase in traffic. Airports are the very lifeblood of remote northern communities. I say shame on the Liberal government for ignoring the needs of rural Canada.

Burlington Teen Tour BandStatements By Members

11 a.m.


Paddy Torsney Liberal Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, on Sunday, April 4, the Burlington Teen Tour Band will present its sixth annual Lincoln Alexander Concert at Hamilton Place, the 27th annual concert at this venue.

This year it is an extra special event. On the eve of the 60th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, these talented young Canadians will pay tribute to our veterans.

The Teen Tour band is Canada's largest youth band with approximately 200 members between the ages of 13 and 21. A military-style precision marching band, its members are commonly referred to as Canada's musical ambassadors.

The band was formed in 1947 to welcome home soldiers at the end of the war. They have performed all around the world at amazing venues all across Canada, the United States, and internationally at the 40th anniversary of the liberation of Holland and at the 40th anniversary of the D-Day ceremonies in France.

This concert will be an important opportunity to pass along the torch of remembrance to generations of future Canadians and help us all remember the sacrifices of our veterans.

Natural ResourcesStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Gilles-A. Perron Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, the federal government is refusing to create a petroleum monitoring agency, under the pretext of allowing multinational oil companies to control the market.

By so doing, this government is ignoring a unanimous recommendation by the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology to regulate an industry sorely in need of it and which is doing tremendous harm to the economy, particularly the transportation industry.

However, the situation is urgent and the threat of gas prices reaching $1 per litre very shortly means that this government should take this crisis, which has struck again, seriously by quickly creating a petroleum monitoring agency, essential to ensuring the sound management of this industry.

Cancer MonthStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Marcel Proulx Liberal Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, April marks the beginning of spring and Cancer Month.

In order to raise public awareness, the Canadian Cancer Society will sell thousands of fresh daffodils all weekend long. More than 300 volunteers will be working in the Outaouais region. Donations will be used to fund research, provide support for people living with cancer, distribute information and prevent cancer.

I want to thank all the volunteers who work so hard to raise funds, particularly the honorary campaign chair in the Outaouais, Roch Martel.

I invite the public to give generously when the volunteers pass by. Who among us does not know a family member, friend or colleague affected by this disease? Please give generously to stamp out cancer and improve the lives of those affected.

The Prime MinisterStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Canadian Alliance Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is actually kind of sad watching this Prime Minister, a man who came to office with such great promise, becoming such a disappointment.

Let us think about how he promised to fix Canada-U.S. relations, yet he cannot even find time to meet with the President of the United States. The border is still locked to our beef, and our lumber exporters are still being hurt by American protectionism.

He is a Prime Minister who promised to fix our military but has done nothing to stop the bankruptcy of our armed forces, a Prime Minister who promised to grow the economy when it actually shrank in the month of January, a Prime Minister who promised to fix the democratic deficit and who is now appointing candidates to his own party rather than allowing them to run for election, and a Prime Minister who will not even appoint to the Senate people elected by the people of Alberta to represent them in that place.

I hope the Prime Minister goes to the polls so that Canadians can pass a verdict on this great disappointment that is unfolding before our eyes.

Member for Niagara CentreStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


John Maloney Liberal Erie—Lincoln, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to my friend and colleague, the hon. member for Niagara Centre.

Due to the redistribution of electoral boundaries, the hon. member and I were recently faced with the unenviable task of competing for the Liberal nomination in the riding of Welland.

The recent months have not been easy for either of us but I want to point out that in a media full of stories about colleagues fiercely contesting colleagues in all political parties, the nomination process and meeting in Niagara were examples of how things should work. I compliment the hon. member for his decorum and gentlemanly conduct at all times.

I have worked with the member since his election in November 2000 and I have worked with many of the hon. member's staff since I first came to Parliament in 1993, as they worked for our former speaker and Niagara Centre member, Gib Parent.

On behalf of my family, my staff and all riding constituents, I wish the hon. member for Niagara Centre the very best, to he, his staff, his daughter Alex, his mother Maria and his partner Martine. It has not only been my pleasure to call him a colleague, but my honour.

Canada Customs and Revenue AgencyStatements By Members

11:05 a.m.


Alexa McDonough NDP Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, in 1987, 5,750 Nova Scotians lost their life savings when Principal Group collapsed.

In the early 1990s some of the investors received compensation from provincial governments. However a final settlement was not reached until May 2001 when investors had to settle for less than 1¢ for every $1 they invested.

That is bad enough but three years later Canada Customs and Revenue Agency has yet to issue the clearance certificate needed to enable disbursement of the settlement funds.

Seventeen years later, many seniors have passed away without recovering a dime of that settlement for their life savings invested in Principal Group.

When is the federal government going to do the right thing and issue the clearance certificate required?

Employment InsuranceStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Gérard Asselin Bloc Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, in spite of the unanimous report from the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in May 2001, which included a recommendation to adjust eligibility requirements for seasonal workers, the Liberals persist in ignoring the legitimate demands of the unemployed.

For months, years even, the jobless coalitions Sans-Chemise and Action-Chômage have been calling for changes to the EI program but the government turns a deaf ear.

Despite the promises made by the Prime Minister to the Sans-Chemise of the Charlevoix region when he was in Baie-Saint-Paul, the Liberals have again proven their total contempt for the unemployed by voting this past Wednesday against Motion M-475 to ensure specific status for seasonal workers.

While the shirtless, the Sans-Chemise, are out on the street, the heartless are here in Ottawa, forming the government.

Rotary Club of WolfvilleStatements By Members

11:10 a.m.


Scott Brison Liberal Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Rotary Club of Wolfville is continuing its proud tradition of “service above self”.

This Saturday evening the club is holding its 20th annual gala night at the Old Orchard Inn. It is a fundraising event, complete with dinner, dancing and a silent auction. The proceeds of this event will go to local students pursuing a post-secondary education.

Last year, six students from Horton District High School and North East Kings Education Centre each received a $2,500 entrance scholarship to help them continue their education. These scholarships reward the very best in achievement as each student is chosen because of a strong commitment to academic excellence and community involvement.

Since the first gala night in 1985, the Rotary Club of Wolfville has given $140,000 in scholarships and bursaries to local students.

I applaud the members of the Rotary Club of Wolfville and its gala night committee for their dedication to the Wolfville community.