Case also demonstrates that Ontario’s whistleblower protection system needs strengthened.
From David Hutton
OTTAWA, February 22 —When Niagara Parks Commissioner Bob Gale began to question a secret deal that some board members had struck with the Maid of the Mist tour operator, he had no inkling that he would face a two-year battle pitched battle – against the very authorities who are supposed to be guarding the public purse in Ontario.
Gale was vindicated last year, when the controversial contract was finally cancelled, several board members replaced and the Maid of the Mist lease put out to competitive tender. But today we learned how much he has benefited Ontario. The increase in revenue to the taxpayer is at least $300 million – without taking into account the likely boost to local tourism because of much-improved services to be provided by the new operator. None of this would have happened without Gale’s persistence.
Had he been in the position of the typical whistleblower – a regular, vulnerable employee – he would surely have been crushed and silenced and the rigged contract would probably still be a secret. But he was a member of the NPC board, a prominent local businessman and philanthropist, and a former cop. He had the means, the moxie and the know-how to take on the Commission – and when necessary the government. After investigations instigated by Ontario’s Integrity Commissioner found nothing amiss, Gale went public. It was this relentless publicity, not ‘official channels’, that exposed the magnitude of the problem and finally forced corrective action.
David Hutton, executive director of FAIR observed “Three things should happen now to demonstrate that the Ontario government is serious about safeguarding taxpayers dollars: Ontario Tourism Minister Michael Chan should formally thank Gale for his efforts, which ultimately led the Ministry to intervene and which saved the taxpayer hundreds of millions; Premier Dalton McGuinty should commit to strengthening Ontario’s whistleblower protection regime, whose shortcomings were dramatically exposed by this case; and Ontario Integrity Commissioner Lynn Morrison should provide a detailed analysis of why her office was apparently ineffective in this case, and what improvements are required.”
David Hutton is Executive Director, FAIR (Federal Accountability Initiative for Reform, a registered Canadian charity organization that promotes integrity and accountability within government by empowering employees to speak out without fear of reprisal when they encounter wrongdoing. FAIR’s aim is to support legislation and management practices that will provide effective protection for whistleblowers and hence occupational free speech in the workplace. FAIR is a registered Canadian charity. For more information on this Ottawa-based group visit http://fairwhistleblower.ca/ .
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