Monday, July 22, 2013

What happened to Harper's cheques for whistleblowers?

In the 2006 election, the Conservatives talked some good talk about whistleblowers. They got a whistleblowing former federal civil servant to run for them as a candidate, and they made protecting whistleblowers a key part of their election platform.

Here’s what they promised:

They won that election, and several since. And how are they treating whistleblowers? Here’s just the latest of many examples:

A federal fraud investigator has been suspended without pay, after she leaked documents showing that investigators had to cut people off their employment insurance benefits in order to meet quotas.

Sylvie Therrien told CBC News that she and other investigators were given a target to recover nearly $500,000 in EI benefits every year.

"It just was against my values, harassing claimants… trying to penalize them in order to save money for the government. We had quotas to meet every month," Therrien said.

According to their own policy, not only should the Conservatives not be suspending Therrien without pay, they should be protecting her… AND writing her a cheque.

This is far from an isolated situation, however. Harper’s war on whistleblowers is long-standing. There was Linda Keen, fired as head of the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission for daring to raise issues of nuclear safety. There’s the muzzling of federal scientists, who can no longer speak to the media on routine matters of research, for concern their science could contradict the Conservative worldview.

And then there's the Agriculture Canada whistleblower who raised serious concerns about food safety. Not only did he face punishment, but Gerry Ritz -- lauded last week for his long tenure in the portfolio -- praised the person who leaked the whistleblower's identity.

Indeed, it seems most federal civil servants have gotten the message: if you value your job, keep your head down and your mouth shut:

Federal public servants remain fearful of disclosing wrongdoing, years after Stephen Harper's Conservatives rode to power promising protection for whistleblowers.

A government-commissioned study completed in December 2011 found that most federal workers see job reprisals as the likely outcome of any effort to expose a wrong.

In fact, bureaucrats said they believe that it's typically the whistleblower who gets punished.

Maybe the cheques are in the mail?

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