While acknowledging that the government had other urgent matters to attend to due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Whitehouse said he has repeatedly contacted the department to ask when they want to enforce the consultation.
A copy of an email thread made available to WP shows how Whitehouse reached out to numerous department executives from July 6, 2020 to December 22, 2020, including former Minister Morneau and current Treasury Secretary Chrystia Freeland Associate Finance Minister, at no point did the email thread reflect a response to his inquiries.
“Without this public comment, there cannot be a constructive opportunity to uncover flaws in the FCAC review,” said Whitehouse in his most recent letter to the publication.
He noted that the FCAC’s review recognized that banks were using the title of “ombudsman” to refer to the most senior person they have hired to deal with complaints internally. However, his report uses the title “Senior Complaints Officer” (SCO) instead to prevent consumers from mistakenly assuming that the employee is separate or independent from the bank – a point of confusion about which consumer advocates have repeatedly sounded the alarm to have.
According to internationally recognized ethical principles, a real ombudsman must be “independent of all parties to the dispute,” said Whitehouse. Internal ombudsmen appointed by the bank cannot make truly impartial recommendations or decisions, he said, noting that current or past agents at five major banks were senior officials who had previously worked with the institutions for extended periods.