Leadership and Accountability: Former Mountie on Integrity in Canadian Politics

In Calgary Herald May 2013-05-24


OTTAWA — With the deepening of the Senate’s multi-front expense scandal, several senators are speaking about the need for change in the red chamber.… Senator Vern White, who was Ottawa police chief before being appointed to the Senate early last year, said watching events unfold has been “frustrating.”“In policing for 31 years I’ve dealt with people who have done the wrong thing. In the last 11 years I was in a position to be able to hold them to account — personally, in some cases. I’m not in that position today. But I still expect them to be held to account. I do expect transparency, I expect expediency and I expect accountability.“And I guess more than anything else, regardless of what party they belong to … for me, loyalty can never override integrity. And I hope everyone else in the Senate starts to get their head around that. Now, some have that, but I hope everybody starts understanding that integrity’s all we have, that loyalty can’t be more important than integrity.

White, who sits as a Conservative senator, said party loyalty is not the only problem. To some extent, he said, members of the red chamber have a fellow feeling for their colleagues, regardless of party affiliation.Yet he said the time has come for some senators to go.In policing, I’ve fired people and asked for people’s jobs who I worked with, who I liked and I thought were good cops. But at the end of the day what they had done damaged the organization so badly that they couldn’t continue to exist within the organization. And I believe that today as well in the Senate, that some people — what they’ve done is so poor, without integrity, that they can’t continue to exist within the Senate. White said he was not ready to name names, since more information still needs to emerge on each file.I don’t have the (reports) I would have had as chief,” he said.

The other aspect of the story that has frustrated White, he said, is the way the information has been coming out. He said the public deserves better from the government.That communications piece needs to be looked at again as to what the public expects. You can’t give them everything they want — the public sometimes want blood, and sometimes the timing is not at a point where you can give them what they want. But you can be honest with them and forthright with them and I think we have to understand why that’s so important to the public, in particular in this position right now.Because, you know what? I understand exactly why the public is upset at us. You know, somebody said, ‘We do very good work in the Senate.’ I said, ‘The public doesn’t care when they think we’re ripping them off how good a work we’re doing.’ They demand integrity and they don’t feel like they’ve received that and we have to understand it when we communicate with them.White says he learned in managing scandals his policing career how much goodwill can be earned by telling the public everything you can.Sometimes we have to tell the public what we have the day we have it,” he said.More Tory Senators add their voices to call for changeBy Zev Singer, OTTAWA CITIZEN May 21, 2013


In Calgary Herald May, 2013

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