The Auditor General of Manitoba showed, in an audit in 2014, that there was a need to address the ethical environment within government. The audit showed that one third of the employees of Manitoba Government departments were aware of unethical or fraudulent activities within their department and yet only half of these were reported to management. I asked why, in view of these facts, the Pallister government has not yet acted to address the Auditor General's recommendations.
Auditor General Recommendations
Hon. Jon Gerrard (River Heights): Madam Speaker, last month, the Auditor General released a report following up on past recommendations.
One of the many unimplemented recommendations is the framework for an ethical environment, first tabled in 2014. It said, a well‑constructed values and ethics framework is a key element in ensuring a strong ethical environment. However, the report says, no action has been taken with respect to recommendation 14, which is to develop and implement a process to enable employees to report concerns of ethical misconduct.
Why is this government ignoring this recommendation 'despide' the need for it being now more than ever?
Hon. Heather Stefanson (Minister of Justice and Attorney General): This government takes the issue of ethics very seriously. It's why we have introduce a number of pieces of legislation to work towards that.
I'm also very proud of our Premier and the Clerk of Executive Council and–along with the Minister responsible for the Status of Women (Ms. Squires), who have introduced a new harassment in the workplace policy. I want to thank them for the hard work that they've done.
We take that very, very seriously and we will continue to ensure that those ethical standards are maintained here in Manitoba.
Madam Speaker: The honourable member for River Heights, on a supplementary question.
Mr. Gerrard: Madam Speaker, two years in government and still no ethics policy. It's obviously not a priority.
The Auditor General's report continues: Employees need to be aware of where and how to report ethical issues and feel safe doing so.
The Premier has promised a no‑wrong‑door approach, but it 'accears' that when it comes to ethics there is no right door, and when it comes to meeting the Premier, there is no door at all.
How is the government going to make sure that civil servants can be protected when reporting ethical concerns? [interjection]
Madam Speaker: Order. Order.
Mrs. Stefanson: The facts are, Madam Speaker, that the Premier's had more than 3,000 meetings with Manitobans across this great province of ours, and we continue to listen to Manitobans each and every day.
We are also very proud of the fact that recently our government introduced that–which the member talked about, the no‑wrong‑door harassment in the workplace policy, Madam Speaker, and again, I want to thank the Clerk of the Executive Council for his role.
It's important, Madam Speaker, that we get rid of the culture of concealment under the previous NDP government. We are committed to doing that.
Madam Speaker: The honourable member for River Heights, on a final supplementary.
Mr. Gerrard: Madam Speaker, the Auditor General reported that in a survey a third of his government's departmental employees are personally aware of ethical misconduct or fraudulent activity within their workplace, and yet only half have been reported to management. These are shocking statistics.
The Premier claims to want to improve the civil service. Instead, he wants to freeze wages, lay them off, score them, make sure they have nowhere to report ethical violations and then blame their leaving on a lack of loyalty.
Will this government immediately implement ethical codes of conduct and ethics reporting mechanisms for everyone covered under the whistleblower protection act?
Hon. Brian Pallister (Premier): Well, to torture the analogy, Madam Speaker, the member was tripping over that question. He was part of a federal government that made the largest reductions in health‑care support in the history of Canada. He supported it. He denied it was happening at the time, but it did happen, and it's happening again, Madam Speaker, and he sits quietly by, does nothing. He speaks about ethics in his ghost‑written question but he forgets about the sponsorship scandal and the Gomery behaviour and the various things that the federal Liberal government seems to be wanting to repeat in latter days.
What we would like to see is progress and co‑operation on the front of ending harassment in the workplace. That's why we'd like to see the NDP make public their two‑month‑old inquiry. Their little closet inquiry hasn't revealed anything to anyone about harassment as a consequence of their own internal investigations, and if they fail to release that report, Madam Speaker, they may well be accused of continuing the culture of concealment when it comes to harassment.