N.S. whistleblowers who exposed mismanagement at job agency deserved protection: MLA

HALIFAX – A member of the Nova Scotia legislature from Cape Breton says employees who came forward with complaints of financial mismanagement at a local employment agency should have been protected.

Kendra Coombes, NDP MLA for Cape Breton Centre-Whitney Pier, says the whistleblowers were among 30 workers at the Island Employment Association who lost their jobs after the province pulled the agency’s funding in 2021.

Coombes told the legislature today that four of them remain unemployed after they lost their jobs at the company that provided services to the provincial government.

Following the whistleblower complaints, the Nova Scotia Ombudsman released a 2021 report saying the agency was responsible for gross mismanagement of public funds.

Earlier this week, Nova Scotia’s auditor general released a report supporting the Ombudsman’s findings, detailing alleged mismanagement totalling more than $1 million, including about $340,000 in transactions that involved alleged conflicts of interest.

Coombes says the province should have stepped in at the agency and ensured the employees were not let go.

Deputy Labour Minister Ava Czapalay says the province went above and beyond its obligation to the employees, offering them a two-month working notice before Island Employment shut down, and eight weeks of severance pay.

Cape Breton Regional Police confirmed today their investigation into Island Employment is ongoing.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 23, 2023.

This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.


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