Hill staffers pressured to sign lifetime confidentiality agreements about their time in Parliament


A wicked scheme’s afoot in Ottawa, and all the parties are in on it.

CBC News reported last week that Members of Parliament were asking their staff to sign a new confidentiality agreement that would ban them from ever revealing anything “politically sensitive” about their bosses — a gag order that would last for the rest of their lives.

All Parliament Hill staff are being asked to sign the restrictive new contract, one that was cooked up in the all-party Board of Internal Economy. Apparently even raises are contingent on agreeing to the new rules.

One or more disgruntled Hill staffers forwarded a copy of the new agreement to the CBC complaining of its vague language that would, in effect, permanently ban staff from speaking about their time in Parliament.

“If a MP staff member wanted to write a book about their time working in Parliament they couldn’t … but their MP could. Talk about a double standard,” the staffer wrote in an email to the public broadcaster.

Some of the new rules established by the confidentiality agreement:

  • staff can’t take any extra work without MP approval, including volunteer work;
  • staff can’t share any information learned while in Parliament unless compelled to do so by law;
  • possible termination of employment without notice;
  • possible fines and other penalties if the contract is breached, even after the staffer has left the job.

Obviously this has alarmed some staffers; the vague definition of what constitutes something embarrassing or politically sensitive to an MP and the indefinite term of the contract would open someone up to possible consequences years or even decades after leaving Parliament.

According to the Hill Times, the mandatory new agreement only takes effect if staffers are new to their jobs, or if their status of employment changes through a promotion or raise. Thus, som staffers are apparently even refusing raises in order to avoid a lifetime gag based on the vaguest of language.

The insider who tipped off Ottawa media to the new agreement suggested there was discomfort among many staffers about the new confidentiality agreement.

“I feel that this agreement only furthers the veil of secrecy around the business of Parliament and the Board of Internal Economy,” wrote the tipster, using the pseudonym Nanker Phelge. “It serves only to protect MPs’ reputations, and to further squeeze the rights of staff.”

How widespread the revolt is remains unclear, but the chosen nom de plume Nanker Phlege was used by the Rolling Stones as a group credit on some early songs. That would suggest more than a single person behind the leaked document.

[CBC News | Hill Times]

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