BRITISH COLUMBIA

Christy Clark Orders Ministers, Staff To Save Their Emails After Damning Privacy Report

10/23/2015 04:04 EDT | Updated 10/23/2015 05:59 EDT
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VICTORIA - British Columbia Premier Christy Clark has ordered that her cabinet ministers and all political staff save their emails.

The directive comes in response to a stinging report released by the provincial information and privacy commissioner that identifies major failures in the access to information practices in Clark's office and two of her government ministries.

Elizabeth Denham's report uncovered negligent searches for records, failure to keep adequate email records, a failure to document searches and the wilful destruction of records in response to freedom of information requests.

"What I have said to staff today: all political staff and all ministers, I have directed that none of them delete any emails they have sent, starting today," Clark said Friday in a telephone interview from Merritt, B.C.

The premier said she expects her government members to do their utmost to follow the regulations of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

She said the directive remains in effect until former B.C. privacy commissioner David Loukidelis advises the government on addressing the 11 recommendations in Denham's report. Loukidelis, a former B.C. deputy attorney general, was called in by the Liberal government in response to Denham's report released on Thursday.

"If we have to make any changes, and I'm sure we will, then all of those emails from today on will have been preserved and we can properly dispose of them according to the act or properly preserve them according to the act," said Clark.

Denham's report said the government's practices threaten the integrity of the access to information process in British Columbia. She said the broad interpretation of so-called transitory records in the premier's office resulted in almost all daily emails sent by the premier's deputy chief of staff being deleted.

She recommends in her 65-page report that legislation be created that enforces a duty to document key government decisions. The report also calls for installation of technology preventing employees from permanently deleting emails.

The issue came to light when government whistleblower Tim Duncan said his supervisor in the Transportation Ministry deleted emails last November from his computer about the Highways of Tears investigation.

Duncan submitted a complaint to Denham's office last May alleging ministerial assistant George Gretes ``triple deleted'' his computer records that were needed for a freedom of information request about the Highway of Tears investigation into murdered and missing women.

Duncan was fired from his job with the B.C. Liberals last March.

Denham's report stated she interviewed Gretes under oath multiple times and concluded he didn't completely respond to freedom of information requests and allegedly lied about it under oath. She said she alerted the RCMP in connection to the man's testimony.

Gretes resigned his government position on Thursday, the day Denham's report was released.

The report contains unproven allegations against Gretes, who could not be reached for comment.

His Victoria lawyer, Chris Considine, had no comment. RCMP Staff Sgt. Rob Vermeulen said Thursday that they were reviewing the allegation.