Copycat legislation

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You could give the provincial government some credit for finally addressing an election promise and bringing in legislation to protect whistleblowers.

You could, if it wasn’t for the fact that the legislation was promised seven years ago.

And even moreso if it wasn’t for the fact that the vast majority of the act that has taken so long to prepare was cribbed almost word-for-word from legislation the New Brunswick government put in place — seven years ago.

Some simple comparisons?

Here’s section 13 of our legislation: “The purpose of an investigation by the citizens’ representative into a disclosure of wrongdoing is to bring the wrongdoing to the attention of the chief executive of the appropriate department or public body and to recommend the corrective measures that should be taken, when appropriate.”

Section 19 in New Brunswick: “The purpose of an investigation into a disclosure of wrongdoing is to bring the wrongdoing to the attention of the appropriate officials in that portion of the public service in respect of which the disclosure is made, and to recommend corrective measures that should be taken.”

Section 3 in Newfoundland and Labrador: “The purpose of this Act is to facilitate the disclosure and investigation of significant and serious matters in or relating to the public service that an employee believes may be unlawful, dangerous to the public or injurious to the public interest, and to protect persons who make those disclosures.”

Section 2 in New Brunswick: “The purpose of this Act is (a) to facilitate the disclosure and investigation of significant and serious matters in or relating to the public service, that are potentially unlawful, dangerous to the public or injurious to the public interest, and (b) to protect persons who make those disclosures.” You get the point.

But then it gets even stranger: New Brunswick’s law seems to match up almost exactly with Manitoba’s, made a year earlier. Here’s Section 1 in Manitoba. “The purpose of this Act is (a) to facilitate the disclosure and investigation of significant and serious matters in or relating to the public service, that are potentially unlawful, dangerous to the public or injurious to the public interest; and (b) to protect persons who make those disclosures.” Sound familiar?

Newfoundland’s proposed bill has 29 sections; 21 of them are word-for-word matches to the seven-year-old New Brunswick legislation.

Now, in the land of legislation, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. If other jurisdictions have workable legislation, then by all means, take advantage of their work.

But the question such cribbing raises is a simple one: if the law was just coming off the shelf in someone else’s legislative library, why did it take so long to put it in place here?

The simple answer is that, despite all its claims, our provincial government is only newly converted to the idea of public disclosure.

Perhaps credit for doing the right thing should be offset by the years upon years of foot-dragging.

Geographic location: New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Manitoba

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