Whistleblower protection bill needs many changes, Wildrose says

By Sarah O’Donnell, Edmonton Journal November 15, 2012

EDMONTON – Describing whistleblower protection laws crafted by the Alberta government as terribly flawed, Wildrose MLAs said they will propose 21 amendments to the legislation.

Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said Thursday her party will not support Bill 4, the Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower Protection) Act, as it is. Based on their party’s analysis, and comments from other experts, Smith said she does not have confidence the proposal will truly protect public servants who report serious wrongdoing within government.

Premier Alison Redford said she believes it is essential to have legislation in place to protect government workers who report corruption or mismanagement.

The proposed act, which has been given two of the three readings in the legislature that it needs to be approved, will apply to provincial agencies, boards and commissions, academic institutions, school boards and health organizations such as Alberta Health Services, as well as government departments.

It sets up both an internal process within each government department or agency to report wrongdoing, and an overarching public interest disclosure commissioner.

Redford defended the bill against critics last week, saying she believes the legislations is drafted in a way that is flexible enough to allow the commissioner to protect whistleblowers under a range of circumstances, not just those who go through the prescribed process.

Smith said she thinks those protections should be explicitly outlined.

“There’s a mismatch between what (the premier) says she wants the bill to do and some of the provisions that are in the act and what it actually does,” she said.

The Wildrose proposes a range of changes to the bill, such as altering it so that whistleblower protection extends to all provincially licensed health and seniors facilities, and the Crown prosecutors office. The party also wants the legislation to be retroactive to Jan. 1, 2003.

Liberal and NDP MLAs also have raised concerns about the bill and whether it does enough to protect whistleblowers.

Don Scott, associate minister of Accountability, Transparency and Transformation, said in an email Thursday he just received the amendments to review and is looking forward to the debate next week.

He did not offer any comment on the changes suggested by the Wildrose.

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