Saturday, August 23, 2008

Harper’s war on whistleblowers: What would Allan Cutler say?

If I were an enterprising young political journalist, or even a lazy middle-aged political journalist, I’d be looking to get on the phone with Allan Cutler and ask him what he thinks about this story:

Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz praised an unnamed public servant yesterday for fingering former Canadian Food Inspection Agency biologist Luc Pomerleau as the source of a politically embarrassing leak.

"Some people have likened him to a whistleblower. I di
smiss that," said Mr. Ritz in a phone interview. "The whistleblower was the gentleman who turned Mr. Pomerleau in."

Mr. Ritz went so far as to predict Mr. Pomerleau "will face charges," but his office later said the minister misspoke.

Word of CFIA plans to save money by giving industry a greater role in food inspections, among other cutbacks, first became public last month when Mr. Pomerleau was fired for emailing what has since been termed a cabinet document to his union.

Mr. Pomerleau, who was also a union representative, said yesterday that he found the document on an internal server that was available to all CFIA employees and forwarded it both because of
its impact on CFIA jobs and public policy.

So in Conservative-land, it’s not the guy that made public plans to gut the public food inspection system in favour of an “industry-led” program that's the whistleblower, it’s the guy that fingered him as the leaker and got him fired.

I mention Allan Cutler, because his claim to fame is as the sponsorship scandal whistleblower. The Conservatives were so eager to get him as their candidate in Ottawa-South in the last election, they paid another candidate to step aside and then denied it until he sued (they settled). They trumpeted Cutler (who went on to lose to David McGuinty) as a model civil servant and the principled whistleblower. And they promised in their campaign platform to take greater steps to protect whistleblowers such as Cutler:

Oh how far they’ve come, eh Mr. Cutler? And this is far from the first hostile anti-whistleblower act by the Harper conservatives:
*A doctor in Northern Alberta who previously drew action to increased cancer rates he believes may be related to carcinogenic pollution from the tar sands development is now the subject of a complaint to the College of Physicians and Surgeons regarding his claims. The complainant is none other than Health Canada.

*A contract worker arrested for allegedly leaking the Conservative government's climate-change plan is portraying himself as a defender of the public interest and a victim of a politically motivated "witch-hunt."

Jeff Monaghan was arrested Wednesday and led out of his Environment Canada office in handcuffs by the RCMP. He was quickly released, but still faces possible charges of breach of trust for allegedly sending documents to a journalist and environmental activists.
I recall something about a scientist in B.C., I think from Natural Resources, but I can’t find the background. And of course the biggie:
*Federal Natural Resources Minister Gary Lunn defended his decision to fire the head of Canada's nuclear safety watchdog Wednesday, arguing she lost the government's confidence over the way she handled the shutdown of a medical isotope-producing nuclear reactor late last year.

From trumpeting a whistleblower as their star candidate and promising to protect them, the Conservatives have gone to firing whistleblowers instead, and musing about criminal charges. As I said, I wonder what Allan Cutler would say? It seems he now offers advice on these issues for a living:

UPDATE: I'm informed that Allan Cutler is actually now the president of Canadians for Accountability. According to their Web site, they're a group of a volunteers dedicated to:
  • Educating Canadians about whistleblowing and abusive management situations through counselling, education and assistance in accordance with the law,
  • To promoting an understanding of whistleblowing: what it is, the dynamics, the culture, mechanisms and solutions,
  • Promoting public awareness of the importance and value of whistleblowing in the Canadian context, including labour unions, senior management and employees, and
  • Advocating for a culture of truth, transparency and integrity in Canada's public and private sector institutions and Canadian society in general.
And it looks like perhaps some of the whistleblowers wronged by the government should perhaps give these guys a call, maybe they can help:

If you've witnessed wrongdoing in the workplace, and don't know what to do, we're a sympathetic ear. Call us or meet us, and we'll do our best to help you understand your situation and what you can do about it.

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Red Tory said...

Nicely done.

Doesn't surprise me that these guys can't tell the difference between a sleazy fink and a whistleblower.

Jeff said...

They'll probably give the fink a cash reward too.