POLITICS

New Brunswick Liberal bills seek to protect whistleblowers, end partisan ads

02/20/2014 07:24 EST | Updated 04/22/2014 05:59 EDT
FREDERICTON - New Brunswick's Liberal Opposition has set its sights on increasing openness and accountability within government, including enhancing protection for whistleblowers and putting an end to partisan advertising.

Liberal Leader Brian Gallant said the party wants to restore people's faith in government by introducing four bills in the legislature within the coming weeks.

He said proposed amendments to the Public Interest Disclosure Act would assess penalties for those who seek to punish or intimidate whistleblowers in government.

"It's not based on any one instance," Gallant said Thursday. "I think it's important that we continuously look to ensure that we do protect anybody that would have information that they think should be brought to light."

The Liberals said they will also introduce bills that would stop nepotism by requiring elected members to disclose immediate family members who work in government or those in possession of government contracts. Another would prevent government ads that are deemed partisan or political from being published or aired.

"Within the legislation, there will be some guidelines in terms of how you would judge whether an ad that was taken out by the government is partisan or not," said Gallant, adding than an independent body would ultimately make that call.

Last December, the Liberals accused the Progressive Conservatives of using partisan advertising in a provincial government television commercial. The ad depicted people from New Brunswick boarding an airplane for jobs in Western Canada.

Premier David Alward refuted the Liberal's assertion that the ad was a partisan election commercial. He said the ad showed the urgency of supporting the development of natural resources in the province to bring New Brunswickers home from jobs in the West.

The Liberals said the fourth bill would scrap special pensions they say are often given to political appointees once a government is defeated.

Gallant said the party wants to ensure that government jobs and contracts are awarded on merit.