03/01/2013 10:55 EST | Updated 05/01/2013 05:12 EDT

Alberta Education Minister, Jeff Johnson, Investigated For Emails Sent To Teachers

The Government of Alberta

EDMONTON -- Alberta's education minister is being investigated by the Information and Privacy Commissioner for emails he sent to teachers at the same time school boards are embroiled in contract negotiations with the province.

Jeff Johnson sent the emails on Feb. 6 but it's how his office obtained the addresses of the recipients that's at the centre of the probe.

It's alleged the addresses were obtained through information provided by teachers when they registered for their teaching certificates.

Privacy Commissioner Jill Clayton says she will investigate whether Johnson's office complied with the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.

Johnson was unapologetic Thursday, saying he'll continue to send out emails to teachers until he's told he made a mistake or crossed a line.

Carol Henderson, president of the Alberta Teachers' Association, said the message sent in the email was too political.

The timing of the message is also raising eyebrows, teachers have been in difficult contract negotiations -- just last week, teachers rejected another offer, and negotiations will now continue on the local level.

A number of teachers who received the e-mail thought it was inappropriate.

"I felt there was the implication that the ATA wasn't listening to me,'' teacher Greg Carabine said. "He's there for us, but the big ATA is not.

"That's not how it works.''

In the meantime, while negotiations continue Johnson said he'll watch proceedings closely, adding an imposed settlement is still not out of the question.

"That is an absolute last resort, something that we don't want to do,'' Johnson said. "The reality is we've been working very hard at this for the last two-and-a-half years already.''

The privacy commissioner's findings will be made public, however, there's no timeline for the investigation or the results.

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