(Updated with more references/links at bottom)
City Councillor Adriane Carr has this motion before City Council for Tuesday, May 2, 2017: “Increasing Whistleblower Protection for Vancouver City Staff.” Below is text of the motion, plus some additional references we put together.
Coincidentally, CBC Radio (“Ideas” programme) just carried a story (April 27) entitled “Don’t Shoot the Messenger: the value of whistleblowing” (53 minutes). We also provide the summary and link to the podcast below.
A crucial part of this motion is a comparison of good practice, showing Vancouver’s policies to be inferior. For convenience, we have extracted the points and put into a table, comparison of whistleblower policies between Toronto versus Vancouver:
MOTION ON NOTICE: Increasing Whistleblower Protection for Vancouver City Staff
MOVER: Councillor Adriane Carr
SECONDER: Councillor George Affleck
- Recent investigative stories by journalists regarding the City’s waiving of development cost levies (DCLS) or possibly undervaluing its land are raising public concern of possible wrongdoings by the City of Vancouver that may favor real estate developers at the expense of the public interest;
- The investigation of Madame Justice Charbonneau of corruption by City officials in Montreal and nearby municipalities (recently released in English) recommends several key measures to reduce the possibility of corruption: specifically to prohibit corporate financing of local political parties (which the City of Vancouver has requested of the Province of BC but the Province has not enabled), and to provide strong whistleblower protection for City staff;
- A comparison of the City of Vancouver’s Whistleblowing . Reporting, Investigation and Protection Policy (2008) and the City of Toronto’s Municipal Code Disclosure of Wrongdoing and Reprisal Protection Provisions (2014) reveals that:
- the purpose of the Toronto by-law “is to facilitate the disclosure of wrongdoing that is contrary to the public interest” whereas the Vancouver policy contains no reference to the public interest but instead on staff acting “in a way that enhances public confidence in the City”;
- oversight of investigations into alleged wrongdoings is by an independent outside authority, the Auditor General, in Toronto whereas such investigations are the responsibility of internal authorities, the City Manager and General Manager of Human Resources, in Vancouver;
- employees may remain anonymous when reporting suspected wrongdoing in Toronto, whereas the Vancouver policy discourages whistleblowers from remaining anonymous;
- Toronto’s by-law requires the City Manager to “take appropriate actions to stop, reverse or remedy a reprisal against an employee” whereas Vancouver’s policy does not call for action to reverse or remedy a reprisal.
THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED THAT City Council direct staff to review the City of Vancouver’s Corporate Policy: “Whistleblowing . Reporting, Investigation and Protection” and report back with recommendations to modify the policy to:
- Include protection of the public interest as the primary purpose of whistleblower protection for city staff;
- Provide independent oversight and investigation of alleged wrongdoings;
- Enable and protect anonymity if a whistleblower so chooses to be anonymous;
- Ensure City staff who in good faith report wrongdoing are protected from reprisal to the fullest extent possible including actions to reverse or remedy a reprisal.
* * * * *
CBC Radio: Ideas (April 27, 2017)
Don’t Shoot the Messenger: the value of whistleblowing
Recorded at Ryerson University’s Centre for Free Expression, Paul Kennedy hosts a panel on why whistleblowers are vital to the public interest…and how their exposure of wrongdoing can ultimately be helpful, even to their workplace. Investigator Sandy Boucher, international expert Anna Myers, and Canadian advocate David Hutton join forces to explain why they believe whistleblowers should be heard and protected.
MEDIA ABOUT THIS MOTION
City of Vancouver whistleblowers may get better protection after Global News investigations (Jill Slattery, Global News, 27-Apr-2017). Excerpt of Adriane Carr quote: “I work by the precautionary principle. Vancouver’s whistleblower policy is weak compared to other cities. The goal of my motion is to strengthen it.”
Vancouver city hall whistleblowing details largely kept quiet
FOI request fails to uncover much complaint content posted to website (by Bob Mackin, Business in Vancouver, 30-Nov-2016). Excerpt: How serious is Vancouver city hall in stamping out fraud and waste? It is hard to tell, because the details of nearly 60 complaints over a 10-month period are secret. Last fall, the city published a form on its website for members of the public to confidentially report incidents of serious misconduct, fraud, waste or wrongdoing. A spreadsheet obtained under freedom of information (FOI) by Business in Vancouver shows 57 reports were received in the period of November 4, 2015 to September 19, 2016. February 2016 was the most-active month with 12.
… Vision Vancouver, in power since 2008, has resisted calls by the opposition Non-Partisan Association to set up a civic auditor general. City hall’s five-person, internal audit department is not independent, as it falls within the office of the city manager. For instance, a 2015 internal audit department report revealed there were no criteria for vendor checks and procurement staff lacked knowledge of the conflict of interest policy. However, the report stated the audit was “not designed to detect fraud.”
Why whistleblowers are crucial for democracy: Linden MacIntyre (CBC’s The Fifth Estate) essay: CityHallatch, February 8, 2014.
Nine actions to reform our municipal government – No reason to delay: CityHallWatch, 27-May-2017.
What Can Quebec’s Anti-Corruption Inquiry Teach BC? Sonia Lebel speaks Mar 21 (Tues) – Lead lawyer of Charbonneau Commission, CityHallWatch, 17-Mar-2017.
Do Vancouver & B.C. need a Charbonneau Commission? South Vancouver Parks Society might be showing the way: CityHallWatch. 27-Feb-2017.
Text of the “Whistleblowing – Reporting, Investigation and
Protection Policy” that went before an NPA-dominated City Council on May 15, 2008. (Vision Vancouver was elected with a majority in the fall of that year.)
Vancouver whistleblowers get some protection (CBC News 16-May-2008). Excerpts: The City of Vancouver has responded to the demands of civic workers with a policy designed to let them report perceived misconduct without fear of retaliation. The new whistleblower policy settles an issue that figured prominently in last summer’s strike by civic workers. Paul Faoro, president of Local 15 of the Canadian Union of Public Employees, said the union had been calling for such a policy for years. And while the new process isn’t perfect, Faoro said Thursday, it’s a start.
… City councillor Raymond Louie said the process is still not without risk. If an allegation is “not proven out or they [complainants] can’t prove it fully, then they themselves are in trouble,” Louie said. “That’s something we should think carefully about.” Louie said that while there is a need to prevent frivolous claims, workers who believe something wrong is going on should not fear coming forward simply because they don’t have all of the information. Faoro said he will ask for changes to the policy if a complainant is harassed. Council will review the policy in a year.