Alberta Premier Alison Redford and Service Alberta Minister Manmeet Bhullar.
Credits: MIKE DREW/CALGARY SUN/QMI Agency
Touted by Service Alberta Minister Manmeet Bhullar as the nation’s toughest such law, the proposed act offers some protection to those in the public sector who report illegal activities, dangers to the public or environment and gross mismanagement of public funds.
“With this new legislation, Albertans have the assurance that the protection of the public interest is absolutely paramount. It protects employees, provides an avenue for ethical disclosure and opens government in a new way,” Bhullar said.
The act seeks to keep whistleblowers safe from reprisals, such as wrongful dismissal, demotion or pay cuts.
“This legislation is a significant move toward ensuring integrity in the operation of public bodies,” said Don Scott, associate minister of accountability, transparency and transformation.
The act carries fines ranging from $25,000 to $100,000 per conviction, but it’s specific to employees of the Alberta Public Service, boards, health and academic institutions and other agencies.
However, Scott said Section 21 would allow anyone to lodge a whistleblowing complaint to the Office of the Public Interest Disclosure Commissioner.
Not everyone was in favour of the act as it’s written.
NDP MLA Deron Bilous said the bill will just silence any whistles blown.
“Bill 4 shows that the government is only pretending to be accountable and transparent, but they’re actually hiding between a complicated and patchy piece of legislation that doesn’t give full coverage to the private sector and creates a culture of confusion surrounding whistleblowing,” he said.
Bilous said a good bill would apply to both the public and private sectors and would protect whistleblowers whenever, wherever and to any audience, including the media.
Wildrose MLA Shayne Saskiw said whistleblower legislation is essential to restore faith in Alberta’s democracy.
“There have been dozens of recent examples of public servants, especially in the health care system, being bullied and intimidated into silence by the PC government when they tried to raise concerns,” Saskiw said.
Liberal Leader Raj Sherman cited the Alberta Health Quality report that cited widespread evidence of intimidation of doctors among the reasons whistleblower protection is needed.
Liberal MLA Dr. David Swann cited his own case as an example of an instance where the proposed bill, as it’s written, wouldn’t have aided him as a former whistleblower.