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Whistleblower tips up

Last year saw a significant increase in whistleblower disclosures compared with previous years, Manitoba's ombudsman says.

In a report released Tuesday, acting ombudsman Mel Holley said his office received 47 disclosures of wrongdoing under the Public Interest Disclosure (Whistleblower) Act, which resulted in 16 investigations in 2013. In 2012, there were eight investigations.

"What strikes us is that some of them are pretty serious," Holley said of the investigations. "We believe this demonstrates the people are getting more confident in it."

Examples of the 16 investigations include abuse to and risk to health and safety, fraudulent income, inappropriate conduct, favouritism in hiring and misuse of public funds.

Whistleblower protection was put in place to encourage the reporting of wrongdoing in the public service. Under the act, the confidentiality of disclosers is protected.

Of the 16 cases, one was resolved, one was referred to the province's auditor general and four were declined after it was determined the allegations did not amount to a significant and serious matter under the legislation. Eight disclosures remain under investigation. One is awaiting additional evidence and one is being reviewed internally by the public service.

Chief, councillors booted

The chief who evicted the owners of a gas station in dramatic fashion from an urban reserve outside Winnipeg has been shown the door himself.

Chief Ken Henry and three councillors, were removed from office Tuesday, according to reports from Roseau River Anishinabe First Nation.

Henry did not respond to Free Press inquiries.

The custom council, the First Nation's ultimate governing body, considered a delegation's request to remove the chief and three councillors and order a financial audit of millions in dollars from an $80-million settlement.

By 4 p.m. Tuesday, custom council had granted the petition brought forward by band members. The custom council will set dates for byelections.

Social media carried the news.

Winnipeg lawyer Norm Boudreau, who represents the only band councillor left in office, confirmed the reports. "It is my understanding custom council took a vote and it was 14 to six to remove all the members of the band council, except my client," he said.

 

Grit leader had least cash

Rana Bokhari won the leadership of the Manitoba Liberal Party despite raising less money than her two competitors and topped a rival who had financial help from the previous leader, financial statements filed with Elections Manitoba indicate.

The documents say Bokhari raised $9,270.49 in contributions and from fundraising activities en route to a first-ballot victory last October.

Runner-up Dougald Lamont raised $18,748, while third-place finisher Bob Axworthy collected $14,684.

Axworthy got $500 from outgoing leader Jon Gerrard, who announced his resignation following a 2011 election in which the party got one seat.

Gerrard, who had said he was remaining neutral, said Tuesday he only gave Axworthy the money after the race was over: "Bob had lost and he had a debt, so I helped him out as a friend."

 

Dams too risky, PUB told

Manitoba Hydro is putting too many eggs in one basket by planning to build two multibillion-dollar dams to capitalize on power sales to the United States, says a consultant.

The market for Hydro's dependable and spot export sales has yet to fully recover from the 2009 recession, making the proposed Keeyask and Conawapa generating stations potentially losing propositions, Virginia-based consultant Whitfield Russell told the Public Utilities Board Tuesday.

"Exports will not recover the full costs of Keeyask and Conawapa," Russell said.

Russell was hired by the Manitoba Metis Federation to argue its case against further northern hydro development before the PUB, which is in the waning days of its hearing into the need for the dams and a new transmission line from Winnipeg to Duluth, Minn. Its report is due June 20.

Manitoba Hydro argues it's lining up firm power sale agreements with utilities in the U.S. Midwest that are dealing with the closing of coal plants and state laws that require a percentage of the power they provide to come from renewable sources, such as hydro.

 

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 14, 2014 B2

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