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Whistleblowers say P.E.I. PNP privacy breach ruling took too long

From left, Cora Plourd, Susan Holmes and Svetlana Tenetko, gathered at the Delta Prince Edward in Charlottetown for a news conference outlining their allegations of fraud and bribery in the Provincial Nominee Program in 2011. -Guardian file photo
From left, Cora Plourd, Susan Holmes and Svetlana Tenetko, gathered at the Delta Prince Edward in Charlottetown for a news conference outlining their allegations of fraud and bribery in the Provincial Nominee Program in 2011. -Guardian file photo

Two government whistleblowers whose personal information was leaked to the media by the Liberal party of P.E.I. in 2011 say a recent ruling by the privacy commissioner took far too long.

The decision was released Tuesday after an investigation, which was launched more than six years ago.

Susan Holmes, one of three women who came forward in 2011 to blow the whistle on alleged wrongdoing within the Provincial Nominee Program, says the length of time it took to get a decision is “unacceptable”.

“The ruling took forever to be delivered. That is unacceptable. An election was won, and this obfuscated the truth from the electorate,” she said.

Related - PNP whistleblower leak during 2011 election violated law: P.E.I. privacy watchdog

Privacy commissioner Karen Rose’s decision found that private emails, a human resources complaint response and personnel files of the three former government employees were leaked to the Liberal party by someone in government in a breach of P.E.I.’s Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy (FOIPP) Act.

She also found the premier’s office, the Department of Economic Development and the executive council offices failed to properly investigate this privacy breach.

“Severe damage can happen to a victim's reputation, and the only compensation is that the government receives recommendations for further breaches - this presupposes the government was acting in good faith, which it clearly was not.”
-Susan Holmes

Another one of the whistleblowers, whose HR complaint was part of this privacy breach, says she, too, is upset at the length of time they were left to wait for closure on this matter.

“I was disappointed that the file wasn’t acted on in a timely manner,” said Cora Plourd, adding that she is “thankful Ms. Rose finalized the report.”

All three of the women have said the impact of coming forward with their allegations and subsequently being called “crazy” by then-premier Robert Ghiz at the time had a significant impact on their lives.

That’s why Holmes says she was disappointed in the privacy commissioner’s recommendations to government in her ruling, calling it a “slap on the wrist.”

“Severe damage can happen to a victim's reputation, and the only compensation is that the government receives recommendations for further breaches - this presupposes the government was acting in good faith, which it clearly was not,” she said.

“When are we going to have honour restored to the office of government?”

The Guardian was unable to reach Svetlana Tentetko for comment.

The allegations made by the three whistleblowers were forwarded to the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency in 2011, but neither of these agencies pursed any charges.

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