P.E.I. whistleblower legislation faces further delays

Legislation to protect Island whistleblowers still hasn't been enacted, despite being passed two years ago and a recent commitment from the current government.

Government had promised to enact 2-year-old legislation during fall sitting of the legislature

Legislation to protect whistleblowers in P.E.I.'s civil service was passed in December 2017 by the previous government of Wade MacLauchlan, but has never been brought into effect. (Kerry Campbell/CBC)

More than two years after a bill to protect whistleblowers was passed in the P.E.I. Legislature — and despite a commitment to have that bill come into effect during the recent fall sitting — 2019 will end without legislated protections for Island public servants who want to raise the alarm about possible government misdeeds.

P.E.I.'s Public Interest Disclosure and Whistleblower Protection Act was passed on Dec. 20, 2017, by the former Liberal government of Wade MacLauchlan.

But the final step needed to bring the legislation into effect — having a proclamation date set by cabinet — has never taken place.

A spokesperson for the office of current Premier Dennis King told CBC via email "The legislation is being brought before cabinet for proclamation within the first few weeks of January."

Commitment to 'finalize and proclaim' during fall sitting

In November, the King government announced it had reached a settlement with three women who sued the province after their privacy had been breached under the Robert Ghiz government back in 2011.

In announcing the settlement, government released a statement attributed to King saying the three women were to be recognized as the "motivation and driving force behind the whistleblower legislation government will work to finalize and proclaim this fall session."

But no legislation was brought forward during the fall sitting.

While cabinet can enact the legislation and create or change any associated regulations at any time, the legislation itself can only be amended by the legislature.

The Official Opposition has said the bill that was passed needs to change — but first, that legislation should be brought into effect.

Until that happens, P.E.I. has a policy — rather than legislation — to protect civil servants who want to come forward with reports of government wrongdoing. In a 2016 report, the province's auditor general said that policy "falls short" of assuring government workers they can come forward "without fear of reprisal."

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