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September 28, 2017

United Conservatives mark Right to Know Week, call for investigation into deleted government records

Shocking results from a Freedom of Information request echo triple delete scandals in other Canadian jurisdictions that resulted in charges being laid and police investigations, and have led the United Conservative Party caucus to demand answers from the NDP government and formally request the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner to launch a full investigation.

The documents, obtained through Freedom of Information, reveal flagrant disregard for records creation and retention policy from both department and political staff within the Government of Alberta. The documents also call into question how often private email accounts or servers are being used for official government correspondence. The most egregious examples include:

  • Senior officials, including Deputy Ministers, Chiefs of Staff and political staff having sent ten or fewer emails through their official accounts;
  • Two of the Premier’s closest officials, Anne McGrath and Brian Topp, disclosing only one sent email after 10 months on the job;
  • Eight individuals appearing to have deleted all emails following the initial FOIP request, and;
  • Approximately 800,000 emails “missing” when comparing numbers of emails between the initial and subsequent FOIP requests.

“The NDP has a dismal track record when it comes to transparency, accountability and access to information,” said UCP Interim Leader Nathan Cooper. “These documents reveal a number of actions taken on both the political and bureaucratic sides of government to deliberately avoid being accountable to Albertans, and that is why I have taken action to ask the Privacy Commissioner to investigate.”

The obtained documents also show senior officials in Alberta Education holding high-level meetings focused on reducing email volume, regardless of content.  Concentrated efforts were made in at least one other government department to encourage employees to dramatically reduce the amount of emails retained, placing strong emphasis on reducing volume rather than keeping proper records. They even offered gift cards to employees who deleted the most email.

“It’s deeply troubling to see senior government officials delete records or worse, fail to create them in the first place as is required under established records retention policies,” said United Conservative Party Caucus Service Alberta Critic Scott Cyr. “We demand answers on behalf of Albertans, who have a legal right to scrutinize public records, including emails. It is obvious that the NDP has clearly and consistently violated this right.”