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Cabinet shouldn’t choose whistleblower watchdog, says Steven Myers in P.E.I. legislature

MLA Steven Myers, left, shown in the legislature with Opposition Leader James Aylward, raised concerns Thursday evening about the new Whistleblower Act.
MLA Steven Myers, left, shown in the legislature with Opposition Leader James Aylward, raised concerns Thursday evening about the new Whistleblower Act. - Mitch MacDonald

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – A law to protect whistleblowers in government has been tabled in the P.E.I. legislature, but concerns were raised Thursday evening about the involvement of cabinet choosing a new whistleblower commissioner.

As part of the new Public Interest Disclosure and Whistleblower Protection Act, a commissioner will be appointed to oversee the law, receive disclosures and make investigations.

Opposition MLA Steven Myers took issue with the fact cabinet will play a role in choosing this commissioner.

He questioned Premier Wade MacLauchlan extensively, asking whether this could create a chilling effect on civil servants who witness wrongdoing in government but feel unwilling to report to someone chosen by the premier and cabinet.

He introduced an amendment to remove cabinet from the appointment process and instead make it a mirror process to the one used for choosing the province’s privacy commissioner.

“You’re actually setting the commissioner up to not be trusted right off the bat because you refuse to make them independent,” Myers said.

“Are you trying to foil the act before it comes in by putting your fingerprints on it so that the person who comes in can’t be trusted?”

MacLauchlan stressed this was not the case, but rather that cabinet needs to be involved in choosing the new whistleblower commissioner because it recognizes that there is an executive branch of government.

“The work that is to be done under this legislation is about the executive branch of government,” he said, noting the commissioner, once chosen, must be accepted by a two-thirds majority vote of the legislature.

Myers’ amendment was defeated, but he continued to raise questions about further involvement of cabinet, including in setting the commissioner’s salary.

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