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Whistleblower protector a 'disaster' say watchdog groups

Thirty-one good government groups have joined in urging Prime Minister Stephen Harper to install a new public sector integrity commissioner with a rewritten job description.

Their news release today terms the commissioner's inaction regarding whistleblowers' claims a "disaster" and calls for "a new Public Sector Integrity Commissioner with a much stronger mandate, and key reforms of the federal whistleblower protection law (the Public Servants Disclosure and Protection Act)."

"The new Commissioner must be selected through a public, merit-based process overseen by a body independent of Cabinet, such as the Public Appointments Commission the Conservatives promised in 2006 but have still failed to establish," says the release.

"The federal government's good government laws are not enforced effectively because the watchdog agencies lack key powers or have not been doing their job properly, and that is why a strong system to protect anyone who blows the whistle on wrongdoing is needed, along with a strong Public Sector Integrity Commissioner," the release quotes Duff Conacher, coordinator of Democracy Watch and chairperson of the nation-wide Government Ethics Coalition whose member groups represent more than three million Canadians.

The coalition calls the system to protect whistleblowers "completely broken," noting "the government watchdog charged with protecting whistleblowers recently resigned suddenly, less than half way through her seven year term, and her office is under investigation by the Auditor General."

"During her three-year tenure the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner failed to uncover a single case of wrongdoing in the entire public service, nor a single case of reprisal against any whistleblower," claims the release.

David Beers is editor of The Tyee.

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