Questions By Members, 5 June 2015
Source: Legislative Assembly of PEI

Legal Profession Act reform

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

There was much talk during the recent election campaign, and indeed it’s carried on in the first two days of the House, on ethics and accountability. It appears that all parties are in agreement that steps need to be taken to facilitate good governance and sound government management.

It is clear that a proper and thorough examination and reform of several pieces of legislation, like the Legal Profession Act, is the most effective way to ensure that the problems of the past do not get repeated. Yet in the throne speech we have only vague promises of policies rather than legislation to address ethics in government, as well as a legal framework to prevent conflict of interest and to protect whistleblowers.

A question to the Premier: Will your government commit to a reform of the Legal Profession Act in order to address the rules that define the incompatibility in the exercise of the profession of lawyer, notably for public employees, and define new rules for these lawyers who advise the decision-making of senior management and executives of the public service?

Speaker: The hon. Premier.

Premier MacLauchlan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

I have to confess to the Leader of the Third Party that this is not an issue that I have taken up with my officials at this stage in my new role as Minister of Justice and Public Safety, and Attorney General, but I can undertake that I will discuss it with them right away now that you’ve raised the question.

Thank you.

Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Third Party.

Whistleblower legislation

Dr. Peter Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Mr. Speaker, and thank you, Mr. Premier.

A supplementary question to the Premier: Will your government enact whistleblower legislation rather than just policies?

Speaker: The hon. Premier.

Premier MacLauchlan: Mr. Speaker, our officials and I have done research on the situation across the country with whistleblower protection initiatives, and our view is that a policy implemented in full consultation with the public service and in conjunction with the Commissioner of Ethics and Integrity, is the best way to proceed with full protection for employees who have issues that would be raised through an established procedure.

What we’ve learned in looking at jurisdictions where whistleblower legislation has been enacted is that there has not been particularly very much activity under those regimes.

If I may expand on this, our view generally on questions of openness and transparency is that there are two primary institutions that we work through. One is the Legislative Assembly and one is a professional public service. In this case, we believe that it’s through a professional public service, and to work at it work them and to implement together with the public service, a whistleblower policy that we will proceed.

Of course, we’ll keep the House fully aware of everything that’s proceeding on that front.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Speaker: The hon. Leader of the Third Party.

Second supplementary.

Conflict of interest legislation

Dr. Bevan-Baker: Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

Second supplementary question to the Premier: Will your government enact conflict of interest legislation rather than just guidelines?

Speaker: The hon. Premier.

Premier MacLauchlan: Mr. Speaker, we did bring forward, and expand the scope of, conflict of interest policy and guidelines very shortly after the swearing in of government in February and this is something to which we’re fully committed.

At this stage the important thing is to implement that and to gain experience with those policies, and to really continue to work at the senior level and throughout the public service to see that those expanded and reinforced conflict of interest policies are really acted upon.

Again, to repeat what I said before, the way we see this, it’s not a question of legislation or policy, it’s actually just set out to have these objectives to commit to openness and transparency, and in this case to act on conflict of interest, which we’ve done. We’re prepared to report to the House as to the progress that we’re making under those policies.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

 

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