Premier bans political interference in records

Premier Christy Clark stops practice of ministers, political staff triple-deleting emails, promises 'duty to document' government business

Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham

There will be no more political staff deleting email records in ministry offices, Premier Christy Clark promised Wednesday.

Clark said she accepts all of the recommendations made by Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham and a follow-up study by a former commissioner to preserve email records that could be requested under freedom of information law.

“The practice of ‘triple deleting’ will be prohibited, ministers and political staff will continue to retain sent emails and a new policy and specific training will be developed,” Clark said. “As soon as practicable, public servants will be made responsible for the searching of records responsive to information requests on behalf of ministers and political staff.”

Denham reported in October on investigations into three complaints, and determined in at least one case that emails had been intentionally deleted in an effort to avoid public release. She also condemned the practice of political staff such as Clark’s deputy chief of staff to delete all of their sent emails at the end of each day.

A political staffer in Transportation Minister Todd Stone’s office resigned when Denham’s report came out. She said he denied under oath deleting another staffer’s emails related to meetings with remote communities on safe transit options for Highway 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert.

NDP leader John Horgan said giving non-partisan public servants responsibility for records searches is an important step, but the government needs to legislate a “duty to document” policy decisions of government.

Clark told reporters Wednesday that step will be taken once legislation is prepared to build on existing requirements.

The government brought in former information and privacy commissioner David Loukidelis to recommend new practices. Among his recommendations was to adjust government email systems so even deleted records are kept long enough to be captured in monthly computer backups, to allow later examination in cases where they may be the last location kept.

Loukedelis said it not practical for any government to keep all email records, and attempting to archive such a massive volume of data would not only increase costs but would harm the public’s ability to get timely access. And any attempt to vet each email to determine if it should be kept would cause government to “grind to a halt.”

B.C.’s Chief Information Officer reported that the B.C. public service now receives 284 million email messages each year, and sends out another 86 million.

“To suggest, as some have, that all information should be kept is akin to suggesting it is good household management for homeowners never to throw away rotten food, grocery lists, old newspapers, broken toys or worn-out clothes,” Loukidelis wrote.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Unemployment surpasses historic high in Greater Victoria, tourism hit hard

Hospitality and tourism sectors hurting as pandemic continues

Victoria tattoo shops respond to sex assault allegations against male artists

Carne Tattoo and Painted Lotus Studios respond to allegations

Mayor not in favour of low barrier housing at Oak Bay Lodge

Process is already in place to determine future of Oak Bay Lodge

Sidney asking tourists to respect health guidelines

Messaging says Sidney is ‘excited to welcome smart, safe, and respectful visits’

Victoria seeks court order to enforce sheltering rules in Beacon Hill Park

People being asked to move out of environmentally sensitive areas of park

VIDEO: Langford cat missing 18 months reunited with family

Blue the cat found at Victoria museum 17 kilometres from home

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers wanted list for the week of July 7

Greater Victoria Crime Stoppers is seeking the public’s help in locating the… Continue reading

POLL: Would you get a vaccine for COVID-19 when it is available?

With the number of positive COVID-19 tests skyrocketing across much of the… Continue reading

VIDEO: Alberta man rescues baby eagle believed to be drowning in East Kootenay lake

Brett Bacon was boating on a lake in Windermere when he spotted the baby eagle struggling in the water

Vancouver Island business ad unintentionally features OK gesture linked to white supremacy

Innocuous ‘OK’ gesture in cleaning franchise advertisement gets flak on social media for ‘supposedly’ promoting white supremacy

Comox Valley RCMP looking for missing woman

Ami Guthrie was last seen in Courtenay in early July

Conservationists raise concerns over state of care for grizzly cubs transferred to B.C. zoo

‘Let them be assessed now before their fate is sealed,’ urges B.C. conservationist Barb Murray

B.C.’s COVID-19 job recovery led by tourism, finance minister says

Okanagan a bright spot for in-province visitor economy

National Kitten Day aka the ‘purrfect’ day to foster a new friend

July 10 marks National Kitten Day, a special day to celebrate all things kittens

Most Read