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HomeBusinessIt took five years, but the B.C. Legislature won’t call it a whistleblower policy

It took five years, but the B.C. Legislature won’t call it a whistleblower policy

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Bob Mackin 

British Columbia’s Legislative Assembly is finally getting a whistleblower policy. 

But it won’t be called a whistleblower policy.

Parliament Buildings, VIctoria, on Aug. 13, 2020 (Mackin)

On May 7, the all-party Legislative Assembly Management Committee approved the “reporting wrongdoing” policy in principle, five years after the corruption scandal involving ex-Clerk Craig James and ex-Sergeant-at-Arms Gary Lenz. 

The Legislative Assembly is not subject to the NDP government’s 2018-passed Public Interest Disclosure Act, but the new policy is intended to “encourage and support” current and former members and employees to report unlawful acts and acts of wrongdoing “in a manner consistent with the arm’s-length provisions of the Public Interest Disclosure Act.”

In 2019, then-Speaker Darryl Plecas recommended a whistleblower policy and LAMC committed to establish an arm’s length policy. Plecas’s final report, after the 2020 election, said he reported cases to LAMC, including one described as a “#MeToo-style allegation involving the Legislative Assembly.”

“As far as I am aware, neither the allegations, nor my memorandum, have been investigated or acted upon to date,” Plecas wrote.

The policy requires certain officeholders in the Legislature’s administration to report wrongdoing in good faith and includes protection for reporting and a prohibition on retaliation against an employee who reports known or suspected wrongdoing in good faith. 

“The policy is intentionally named ‘reporting wrongdoing’ rather than ‘whistleblowing,’ as research on best practices indicated that the words ‘whistleblowing’ and ‘whistleblower’ carry a certain connotation that may not necessarily be conducive to the best outcomes with such a policy,” said the report to LAMC.

“It is proposed that the policy be administered by an arm’s-length and independent disclosure entity to be appointed by the Legislative Assembly Management Committee.”

James and Lenz both resigned in disgrace in 2019. In July 2022, a B.C. Supreme Court judge sentenced James to a month of house arrest and two months of curfew for breach of public trust. James was ordered to repay the public treasury $1,886.72 for a custom suit and shirt. 

Also at the May 7 meeting, LAMC approved new policies on information security, IT resources for members and caucus employees, and constituency office leasing. 

The latter opens the door to the possibility of an MLA co-locating with a Member of Parliament or a local government politician. It also includes requirements to ensure health, safety, security and accessibility for those that work in and access a constituency office. Lease arrangements will shift from the MLA to the Legislature’s administration. 

Clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd (Association of Former MLAs of B.C./John Yanyshyn)

Meanwhile, Clerk Kate Ryan-Lloyd told the meeting that a new website is coming in June and 21 constituency offices had new security systems installed in the last fiscal year. The chamber will be renovated in July and August, ahead of the October election, to add six new desks. The next parliament will feature 93 members. 

Not discussed at the meeting was a new policy to automatically delete Microsoft Teams chat messages after 120 days. The new policy, which applies to anyone with a leg.bc.ca account, will come into effect on Oct. 1 and it is intended for security and cost-saving. 

“We encourage all users to review their Microsoft Teams chats and archive any critical messages or attachments that need to be retained,” said IT director Brent Lee’s memo, which said deleted messages will be unretrievable.  

A copy of the memo, provided to theBreaker.news, shows that it was sent to Legislature offices just before the noon hour meeting. 

Ryan-Lloyd said the policy aligns with other public sector organizations, including the central government, which instituted a 30-day retention period for MS Teams messages in 2021. 

“The Legislative Assembly opted to proceed with a 120-day retention period at this time to help with the organizational change considerations, and may look at revising the time period in the future,” Ryan-Lloyd said.

The NDP government broke Deputy Premier Mike Farnworth’s 2019 promise to add the Legislature to the freedom of information law. In 2020, after that year’s snap election, the Legislature suffered a cyberattack. The details have never been made public. 

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