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Ottawa MP Paul Dewar outlines the NDP's plan to strengthen whistleblower protection at a Parliament Hill news conference on May 12, 2011. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Ottawa MP Paul Dewar outlines the NDP's plan to strengthen whistleblower protection at a Parliament Hill news conference on May 12, 2011. (Adrian Wyld/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

NDP proposes better protection for government whistleblowers Add to ...

The newly invigorated NDP's approach to Opposition is becoming clear.

In the 10 days since electors gave them an unprecedented 103 MPs, the NDP has proposed three policy priorities, along with several different approaches to dealing with a Conservative majority.

On policy, they'll argue for pension reform, improved linguistic rights for francophones working in federal institutions in Quebec and better protection for government whistleblowers.

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As for strategy, they'll rely on appeals to public opinion, creative use of the legislative process and committees, alliances with provincial governments and unions, as well as private members' bills.

"We will get things done and we will pressure the government to do it," veteran Ottawa MP Paul Dewar told reporters. "And if they decide not to, then they'll not only have to contend with us, but also public opinion.

"Public opinion is extremely important when you're dealing with majority government."

On Thursday, the party put forward proposals to improve protection for federal-government whistleblowers by forcing employers to prove they didn't retaliate against employees.

Mr. Dewar and Nycole Turmel, a newly elected MP and former public service union leader, said they will use a government-mandated review of the Accountability Act to push their views.

They'll also encourage parliamentary committees to bolster the power of the federal integrity commissioner.

Christiane Ouimet, the former commissioner, left her job last fall after the Auditor-General investigated her office and found that no whistleblower complaints were ever allowed to proceed.

Commentators have suggested that the NDP will have less power under a Conservative majority than it had under the previous Tory minority. That's because the NDP then held the balance of power and could use its position to negotiate concessions.

But Mr. Dewar and Ms. Turmel insisted that their new caucus is backed by so many voters and popular support that Conservative MPs will be inclined to listen.

NDP Leader Jack Layton campaigned on "fixing" Ottawa, promising a less bitter, more productive dynamic in the capital. But he has also vowed to oppose the Conservatives vigorously if he disagrees with their direction.

Earlier this week, he said his first priority when the House of Commons resumes will be to revive a private member's bill that would protect the linguistic rights of French-speaking employees in federally regulated industries.

The party has made extensive use of private members' bills in the past and hopes they will continue to find success under a Conservative majority. That's because MPs are not obliged to vote with their party on most of these bills.

Mr. Layton is also asking provincial premiers to back his call for major pension reform.

In a speech in Vancouver on Wednesday, Mr. Layton asked the premiers to help him pressure Prime Minister Stephen Harper to expand the Canada Pension Plan.

Many provinces are sympathetic to expanding the CPP, but Alberta and Quebec are not - a point Mr. Harper often makes when defending his preference for pension reform led by the private sector.

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