News / Edmonton

Alberta rolls out bill to better protect whistleblowers

Bill 11 will improve whistleblower protections, and clarify that all government members, ministers and the premier can be investigated.

A protestor blows a whistle and chants during a protest in Montreal. The Alberta government is changing its whistleblower rules, offering more protection for those who come forward.

PHIL CARPENTER/AFP/Getty Images

A protestor blows a whistle and chants during a protest in Montreal. The Alberta government is changing its whistleblower rules, offering more protection for those who come forward.

EDMONTON — The Alberta government is changing its whistleblower rules to offer more protection for those who come forward.

A proposed bill makes clear that government members, ministers and the premier can be investigated under any whistleblowing complaint. The bill was introduced in the legislature Tuesday by Christina Gray, minister responsible for democratic renewal.

"This bill would help ensure government accountability, ethics and transparency," Gray told the house. "It will do this by helping to increase the chances of wrongdoing being both reported and addressed."

It's the first major revision to the Public Interest Disclosure Act, which was passed by the former Progressive Conservative government in 2013.

The act already sets out rules for bureaucrats who report gross mismanagement of public funds. The proposed amendments would broaden that mismanagement to include bullying and harassment.

Anyone who currently comes forward with a complaint is not safe from reprisal until a formal complaint has been filed. Under the proposed changes, that protection would begin as soon as someone complained to a supervisor.

Also, under current rules, if a whistleblower is punished or reprimanded for coming forward, there is no recourse. The proposed legislation would give the Labour Relations Board the power to weigh in with the equivalent power of a court order.

The act also ensures that the names of whistleblowers, or other information that could identify them, are not released in freedom-of- information requests.

Whistleblower complaints are investigated by the public interest commissioner, who is only obliged to reveal statistics of cases investigated. The amended act would direct the commissioner to deliver annual summaries of wrongdoing and measures taken to deal with it.

The proposed legislation is based on recommendations from an all-party special committee tasked with suggesting improvements in democratic processes, including conflict-of-interest laws, election financing and election rules.

The committee managed to only make recommendations on whistleblower legislation before its mandate ended last September amid angry finger-pointing.

NDP panel members accused opposition members of obstruction, while the other parties said the NDP was determined to use its majority on the committee to ram through self-serving rules on fundraising.

The government did not renew the committee's mandate. 

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