09/20/2011 02:08 EDT | Updated 11/20/2011 05:12 EST

P.E.I. cabinet minister won't explain how emails were released to Liberals

CHARLOTTETOWN - A woman who alleged bribery in an immigration program has filed a complaint with Prince Edward Island's privacy commissioner after the governing Liberals released emails she sent to a cabinet minister.

Svetlana Tenetko, who worked for the province's failed immigration nominee program, said she would have thought that two emails she sent to Innovation Minister Allan Campbell would have remained confidential.

Instead, they were included in a Liberal news release sent to the media last week after she alleged that senior P.E.I. immigration officials were bribed in order to fast-track applications under the nominee program.

Tenetko said she is angered and has filed a complaint with the province's privacy commissioner.

"Who revealed it except him?" she said in an interview. "It is confidential, only to his hands."

Campbell said he is waiting to hear back from the privacy commissioner before explaining how those emails ended up with the Liberal party.

"The privacy commissioner has indicated that she has some questions about the file, and we're waiting to hear back from the privacy commissioner before I make any comment," he said while campaigning in Souris, P.E.I., for the Oct. 3 election.

"I'm a believer in her role and the process and I'm not going to jeopardize it at this point in time."

The Liberals say the bribery allegations are politically orchestrated by the provincial Tories to blindside them during the election campaign — a charge that party denies.

Conservative Leader Olive Crane said Campbell and Premier Robert Ghiz should speak publicly about what happened.

"Is the premier suggesting that somebody is hacking into the provincial government's computer system?" she said. "If he's saying that, it's an even bigger, bizarre accusation."

A spokesman for Ghiz said he was unavailable for comment Tuesday. But on Monday, Geoff Townsend said the premier's office spoke to Campbell and concluded that the minister did not know who gave his emails to the Liberals.

Tenetko said she doesn't accept that argument.

"I don't believe these people at all," she said. "I don't even know how to respond."

In one of the emails, Tenetko said she would go to federal Immigration Minister Jason Kenny and the Globe and Mail if she did not get another job with the government after her contract was not renewed.

"I would welcome an interview to further discuss job opportunity and hope to hear from you soon at your earliest convenience," said the email dated Dec. 7, 2010.

"If I get a negative answer, I will go to Ottawa to Minister Kenney and the Globe and Mail."

Privacy Commissioner Maria MacDonald has said she became concerned after reading media reports about the release of the emails.

But she could not confirm Tuesday if she is investigating Tenetko's complaint. She said provincial legislation prohibits her from disclosing whether she is conducting an investigation without the permission of the complainants.

The federal Immigration Department has referred the bribery allegations to the RCMP's commercial crime unit, which is considering whether to launch an investigation.

The immigration nominee program was a federal-provincial initiative in which the province nominated people for immigration to Canada in exchange for an investment of $200,000 into a local business.

Immigrants were to pay a $25,000 good-faith deposit that would be returned after living in the province for one year. The program was suspended in 2008 by the federal government.

At dissolution, there were 24 Liberals, two Conservatives and one vacant seat in the legislature.

— By Michael Tutton in Halifax