09 December 2010

Freedom from Information: Not exactly the news

For starters, there is no news in telling us that the provincial Conservatives are not delivering on their promised whistleblower legislation in 2010.

Thanks, CBC, for that bulletin.  Maybe we can get an update on that Lindberg guy flying the Atlantic next.

What really stands out in this bit of non-news from the provincial legislature’s extremely short fall sitting is what the mighty Ceeb tells us about Danny Williams and this bit of legislation.

Williams committed to bringing in whistleblower legislation during this term in office, but would not specify when the public might expect to see it.

There’s no question Williams promised it.

There’s also no question he promised it for the very first sitting of the legislature after the October 2007 provincial general election.

Here’s what the Telegram reported on October 7, 2007 [quoted at labradore]:

Progressive Conservative Leader Danny Williams pledged Saturday a new Tory government will implement whistleblower laws in the first session of the legislature after the Oct. 9 election.

"We'll get that on at the very earliest opportunity," Williams said in response to questions from reporters at a Carbonear shopping mall.

"The very first session of the House that we have, that's something we'll have a look at. As a matter of fact, there'd be no reason why we wouldn't get it on."

In other words, CBC’s claim is factually incorrect.

Then there’s the line that in 2009 Williams “reiterated his government's promised [sic] to create the legislation.”

That would be a huge “not exactly” on that one too.

In June 2009, Williams started inventing excuses for the lack of legislation.  He claimed that there wasn’t much experience with whistleblower laws even though the first one was enacted in the United States in 1863.  By one count, there are no fewer than 18 separate federal whistleblower protection statutes in the United States.  Then there are ones in various state jurisdictions, provinces, the United Kingdom, Australia and elsewhere.

What the Ceeb is referring to in its story are comments Williams made in may 2009.  At that time he linked whistleblower laws to access to information legislation.  The record shows he had a chronic problem with those laws that allows people to access such secrets as his public speeches.  Williams said he was worried about people with a personal vendetta against the government.

So basically the real story is that we are now long past the third anniversary of Williams’ broken promise. Williams has skedaddled and his former caucus colleagues are left holding the bag.

CBC might not be quite that blunt, but at least they could try and report accurate information rather than things that are – quite obviously – false.

- srbp -