Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise again on behalf of the constituents of Newton—North Delta to participate in the third reading debate on Bill C-11, an act to establish a procedure for the disclosure of wrongdoings in the public sector, including the protection of persons who disclose the wrongdoings.
It has taken more than a decade for this weak government to fulfill its promise and produce this whistleblower legislation. Canadians have had to endure the tainted blood scandal, the HRDC boondoggle, the ballooning gun registry, and the sponsorship scandal, not to mention the numerous other smaller scale spending scandals which have been regularly occurring in this mismanaged government and which have emerged on a regular basis since the government came to power in 1993.
In each and every case, the existence of effective whistleblower legislation could have made a significant difference, but the government has not been interested. It lacks the political will. The Liberals have been more interested in protecting their own reputations than in ensuring good government and the careful handling of taxpayers' money.
It took the sponsorship scandal for the Liberals to finally make good on their 1993 campaign promise, coupled with the pressure from members of the opposition and the Conservative Party. However, even now it is obvious that their hearts and souls are not in this legislation. Up to now, it seems that the Liberal government's policy has been to control occupational free speech rather than permit it.
Rather than rewarding whistleblowers, like governments do in the United States and many other countries, the Liberals have bullied whistleblowers, intimidated them, harassed them, fired them, and ruined their professional and personal lives. The Liberals have always believed in secrecy, confidentiality and cover-ups rather than transparency, accountability and corrective actions.
Let us take a moment to remember some well publicized whistleblowing cases. Bernard Dussault, the chief actuary of the Canada pension plan, reported that he was asked to modify numbers to paint a more positive state of the CPP. He was fired from his job.
Michèle Brill-Edwards, senior physician in Health Canada's prescription drug approval process, was pressured to approve medication that had caused deaths in the United States. She went public. She had to resign from her job.
Joanna Gualtieri, DFAIT portfolio manager for Latin America and the Caribbean at the time, blew the whistle on waste and lavish spending on diplomatic housing and embassies. The inspector general and the Auditor General later supported her allegations. She was harassed and marginalized within the department. Finally she had to quit and go through the expenses of court, her career completely ruined.
Marilla Lo, senior analyst at the Treasury Board, claimed abuse and harassment, including discrimination for promotions, layoffs, and abusive management practices. She was ultimately fired from her job. Of course she later won a wrongful dismissal suit, but was then forced into retirement.
Brian McAdam was a 25 year veteran foreign service officer, an honest officer in Canadian diplomatic missions in the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East, South America and Asia. In 1991 he documented evidence of corruption at Canada's foreign mission in Hong Kong, real evidence, which I have mentioned in my earlier speeches. He was demeaned and ostracized by his colleagues. He finally gave up and had to take early retirement.
Michael Sanders, a financial analyst with the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions, blew the whistle on the absence of sufficient safeguards to protect taxpayers against the collapse of major financial institutions. His fate was to be fired from his job.
Dr. Shiv Chopra, a senior veterinary drug evaluator in Health Canada's therapeutic products and food branch, blew the whistle on the drug approval process for bovine growth hormones, saying that human health concerns were being completely ignored due to pressure from drug companies. His fate was to be fired from his job.
There are many other cases, including those of Corporal Robert Reid of the RCMP, Dr. Margaret Haydon of Health Canada, Bob Stanhouse, again of the RCMP, and Dr. Barry Armstrong of the Canadian armed forces. The list goes on and on, but my time is limited.
Canada is well served by professional and independent public servants, who are often the first to spot problems such as those in the sponsorship scandal. They know when their department has been told to suppress test data. They know when someone is submitting inflated travel expenses or phony invoices or when the work is not being done but the invoices are being submitted. They know what laws they are supposed to enforce and they know when they are not being enforced.
However, federal public servants who disclose wrongdoing in the workplace have little or no recourse if their manager chooses to retaliate against them. Bill C-11 proposes an improvement over the status quo, but it is far from protecting the real whistleblowers and it is not nearly as effective as legislation in other countries.
Five years ago, in the face of government opposition, I introduced legislation to protect bureaucrats who reveal wrongdoing in the workplace. In 2003 the Liberals refused to vote in support of my private member's bill because they did not have the political will to introduce any effective whistleblower legislation. They simply lacked the political will, and that is well reflected in Bill C-11.
When I blew the whistle on whistleblowing, the Liberals had their ears plugged. My private member's bill, Bill C-201, was debated in the House. It was written with the assistance of real-life whistleblowers, many of whom I have named before. They have suffered harassment and reprisals for doing what was right, for doing what was in the best interests of this country but not the Liberal Party.
One whistleblower, Joanna Gualtieri, was of great assistance. She founded the institution called FAIR. Ms. Gualtieri has highlighted a number of points that must be included in whistleblowing legislation if it is to be effective. The following points were included in Bill C-201 but are not found in Bill C-11.
First is full free speech rights. Protected whistleblowing should cover any disclosure that would be accepted in a legal forum as evidence of significant misconduct or would assist in carrying out legitimate law enforcement functions. There can be no loopholes for this one.
Second is to permit all disclosures of illegality and misconduct. Whistleblower laws should cover disclosures of any illegality, gross waste, mismanagement, abuse of authority, substantial and specific danger to public health and safety, and violations of policies, rules and conventions. They are missing from this bill.
Third is the duty to disclose illegality. It is also missing from the bill.
Fourth is that the coverage under the bill should extend to all personnel and affected communities. This is also missing.
Last, and of course, there should be safety from harassment after blowing the whistle.
Bill C-11 serves more as a tool to manage whistleblowing and rein in potential whistleblowers than it does to encourage disclosing wrongdoing. We need effective legislation that would really protect whistleblowers.
The Conservative Party deserves kudos. It is through our efforts that we have these amendments, such as whistleblowers now reporting to an independent commissioner rather than to the president of the public service, the commissioner reporting to Parliament rather than to a minister, the RCMP being included in the group of whistleblowers and the Access to Information Act restrictions being reduced to five years from twenty years. In fact, there should be no restrictions. However that goes to the Conservative Party's credit.
Similarly, there is the amendment on the removal of government bodies. The government had the arbitrary authority to remove certain bodies from coverage of whistleblower protection, such as the public service commission, the pension commission, CPP commission, Bank of Canada and many others. Compensation should be given by the commissioner and the penalties against reprisals should be given by the commissioner, not by anyone else.
All those things were the accomplishments of the Conservative Party.