Stronger protection coming for whistleblowers in Alberta
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Stronger protection coming for whistleblowers in Alberta

In a Canadian first, ordinary citizens will be able to blow the whistle on Alberta MLAs and the premier following changes to the province's Whistleblower Protection Act.

Whether Albertans will ever find out about wrongdoings will be in the hands of a commissioner, who will ultimately determine whether public interest outweighs the potential harm to an individual by releasing details.

Labour Minister Christina Gray introduced the changes Tuesday.

If approved, Gray said, it will be some of the most comprehensive whistleblower legislation in Canada, and she hopes it encourages more people to come forward.

"I don’t want to see someone losing their job and not having recourse when they’re trying to do the right thing," she said.

Instead, the changes see greater protections for workers who cry foul, and they will be able to report wrongdoing directly to the commissioner's office. Protection kicks in for complainants as soon as they tell their boss about an issue.

The changes also allow for restitution to workers who are fired, have their duties changed or experience reprisals as a result of whistleblowing.

Bill 11 stems from a report last year by the legislature's special ethics committee, which started reviewing whistleblower protection in September 2015.

The committee proposed 21 changes to broaden the powers of the act, one of which was deferred.

The government is looking for a new public interest commissioner after Peter Hourihan stepped down earlier this year. Ted Miles took the reins as acting commissioner.

Other changes

Extended coverage: Service providers such as care and senior homes that have a business relationship with government will now be covered under the new act, as will physicians in "alternative arrangements" with government (such as academics who are also conducting medical examinations).

More clarity: The term "gross mismanagement" will now be defined in the act as an action that shows a reckless or wilful disregard for the management of government resources. The commissioner's office will have to report more information each year, including types of proven wrongdoings and summary findings in those cases, penalties meted out and specific recommendations to public entities.

Greater powers:
The Labour Relations Board will decide on restitution for workers who feel the sting of reprisals. Its decision will be enforceable as if it were a court order. The commissioner will have more access to information, much like the auditor general. However, the commissioner and his staff will not be compelled to give evidence in judicial proceedings.

Extending timelines: The commissioner will have 20 days to figure out if there will be an investigation, up from 10 days.

egraney@postmedia.com

twitter.com/EmmaLGraney

source : Calgary SUN
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