Question re: Whistle-blower legislation – April 11, 2013

Mr. Silver: Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the Minister of Justice on whistle-blower legislation. Last winter, the Select Committee on Whistle-blower Protection tabled its final report. The report concluded that yes, whistle-blower legislation is needed in the Yukon and recommended that the government move ahead with a new law to protect workers who report wrongdoing in the government.

The ball, as they say, is in the government’s court. This law has been a long time coming and the Liberal caucus is pleased that we have reached this point. However, since the report was tabled, there has been no word from the government on how it plans to proceed.

The government simply said, and I quote: “We are looking forward to moving forward with whistle-blower legislation in short order.”

When will that legislation be coming before this House?

Hon. Mr. Dixon: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I am responding as the acting minister responsible for the Public Service Commission.

First, I’d like to thank the members of that select committee who did the excellent work to come up with recommendations for us. I know there were a variety of competing views and opinions around that table and, through hard work and collaboration, they were able to reach consensus on a number of recommendations.

Those recommendations have since been forwarded to government and we’ve indicated that we support them. Now the task falls upon us to move forward with implementing the recommendations and ultimately coming up with a new piece of legislation.

Presently the Public Service Commission is working with the Executive Council Office to coordinate an action plan for moving forward, and that includes speaking with and learning from other jurisdictions that have similar legislation, including Alberta, for instance, which recently passed a new piece of legislation there, to get a sense of what the best practices are and what other jurisdictions are doing to address this particular issue.

As we’ve said before, we’re committed to this and committed to bringing it forward within this mandate, and of course I look forward to providing further information, as the commission and the Executive Council Office do the good work it takes to bring forward that policy work.

As we’ve said, we intend to bring forward new legislation on this issue and it’s something we look forward to bringing to the House.

Mr. Silver: I would like to correct the minister. The work was fairly easy and the committee did an excellent job of working together, and it seemed we had consensus on most of the issues.

The implementation of the whistle-blower legislation doesn’t seem to be a priority to this Yukon Party government though. It has been in office for 10 years and this just never seems to make the cut. If something is a priority — like let’s say gutting the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy Act — it can be done overnight like it was done last fall. No consultation needed. No public discussion. No committee reports. Just straight to the Legislature and then it becomes law.

The government said in December that we would see whistle- blower legislation in short order. Will this legislation be in the fall sitting agenda — yes or no?

Hon. Mr. Dixon: Of course the committee provided its recommendations to the Legislature and to the government last year, and since then, a number of work action items have taken place, including the Public Service Commission beginning to work with the Executive Council Office to look at other jurisdictions and to determine what is the best way forward for Yukon. The work they’ve done includes looking at other jurisdictions like Alberta, which has new legislation of this type. In terms of when we get to this particular piece of the legislation, we have committed to doing it this term. We have indicated that we support the recommendations of the select committee. We do appreciate the work that was done by them in coming up with the consensus on a number of recommendations.

We look forward to implementing those recommendations, likely by the possibility of creating a new piece of legislation, which we hope to bring forward in this mandate.

Mr. Silver: I do appreciate the minister’s responses and, for the record, the Public Service Commission — yes, they are looking at other legislation and so did we, as a committee. We looked at all the other legislation across Canada.

A number of unanswered questions remain about what whistle-blower legislation will look like and, judging by the answers that I’m receiving, I’m still doubtful that they might be answered. So here are a few of those unanswered questions: After 10 years of stalling, will the government actually bring forward this legislation? Has drafting started? Is drafting already done? Will there be public consultation? Will there be targeted consultation? Will the bill follow the recommendations of the select committee? And finally, will the bill be ready for this fall, or perhaps next spring?

Hon. Mr. Dixon: I don’t think I was able to write down those questions as quickly as he was reading them, but I think, in general, I would say that, yes, we will be responding to the recommendations of the select committee. We have indicated that we support the recommendations. We appreciate the hard work that went into coming up with a consensus among the members of that committee. Despite the fact that they came from all different parties and viewpoints, they were able to come up with a consensus position and recommendations for government. Those recommendations are guiding our work going forward. As far as timelines, with regard to what has occurred and what hasn’t occurred — I don’t have the details on what level of drafting has occurred at this point, but I am in a position to commit that we would look to bring forward this legislation in this mandate.