VANCOUVER — British Columbia's premier has apologized to the leader of the provincial NDP in the culmination of a week-long political back-and-forth that saw Christy Clark accuse the Opposition of criminally hacking her party's website.
It's an ordeal that New Democrat Leader John Horgan describes as "the weirdest thing in the world."
Clark said she jumped to conclusions after allegations surfaced Tuesday suggesting someone had illegally accessed private information through the B.C. Liberal party's website.
"I have no problem saying sorry because I made a mistake," she told reporters in a conference call on Friday. "You know I was really mad about it and I jumped to conclusions too quickly. And when you make a mistake like that you should apologize, which is what I did today."
Premier Christy Clark is photographed at the Provincial Legislature in Victoria, B.C. in December 2016. (Photo: Chad Hipolito/The Canadian Press)
The premier said she couldn't reach Horgan and left a message on his phone.
The mea culpa is the latest twist in a spiralling storyline that unravelled Friday when Independent member of the legislature Vicki Huntington came forward to say that her staff had accessed the private information without any hacking.
It was actually a Liberal party privacy breach, Huntington said in a telephone interview.
"Somebody goofed in the Liberal party headquarters," she said laughing.
"I have no problem saying sorry because I made a mistake."
Huntington, who represents the riding of Delta South, said she decided to come forward when Clark said earlier in the week that the hacking was someone trying to "subvert the democratic process."
"That's when I thought: This is too rich," Huntington said. "Making false accusations in not the way to conduct politics."
She said the private information on the Liberal website was discovered while they were looking for 2016 donations to the party.
"No passwords were used, no usernames, no encryption devices. Just the clicking of the mouse and they found a number of documents, one of which contained personal information that was obviously publicly accessible on their website."
"Making false accusations in not the way to conduct politics."
Horgan said the premier initiated the storm.
"She's been making a bigger problem for herself as each day goes by, and now it's incumbent on me to get into the madness with her?'' he said. "If you don't make stuff up, you're probably on good footing."
A brief statement issued Friday by B.C. Liberal party spokesman Emile Scheffel said they appreciate Huntington coming forward and will update the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for its review into the allegations.
Scheffel said the Liberal party remains concerned about what appears to be "previous attempts to break into the back end of our website."
B.C. Premier Christy Clark said people are more interested in her government's plans to create jobs than inside issues between political parties. (Photo: The Canadian Press)
Clark blamed the NDP earlier in the week for hacking the confidential information supplied to the Liberal party by people who responded to an online survey.
She backed off the accusation on Thursday, saying she had been angry and was too hasty in drawing conclusions.
Horgan told reporters Friday after a speech to a Vancouver business group that Clark tends to "make stuff up" when she gets into trouble, and he criticized her for using anger as an excuse for her behaviour.
"She said at some point during this week of bizarreness that she was mad, she was angry, that someone had accessed their website," he said.
"Why is she not angry that children are dying in care? Why is she not angry that children in our public education system haven't been getting the education they deserve? Why are those things not motivating her? Why is it always politics with her?"
Horgan considered legal action
Horgan had previously threatened to take legal action over the hacking claim but said he may reconsider after listening to her apology.
Hamish Telford, a political scientist at the University of the Fraser Valley, said the twists and turns of the hacking issue could not have come at a worse time for the Liberals, who are preparing to deliver a throne speech and a budget.
"This has certainly become a distraction and it's quite possible the Liberals have derailed the message," he said Friday. "They've got a throne speech coming up next week and a budget the week after. They should have been focused like lasers on those events to set themselves up for the ensuing election campaign."
It appears the premier was trying to capitalize on debates that took place during the U.S. presidential race around allegations of hacking, but it seems to have backfired, Telford said.