12/15/2014 01:55 EST | Updated 02/14/2015 05:59 EST

Thomas Lukaszuk's Cellphone Bill Leak To Be Investigated

EDMONTON - Alberta's privacy commissioner is investigating a government department for leaking a politician's cellphone bill.

Commission spokesman Scott Sibbald said Monday that the bill belonged to former cabinet minister Thomas Lukaszuk.

It was leaked to the Edmonton Sun in August and showed that Lukaszuk had rung up more than $20,000 in international data roaming charges on a personal trip to Poland and Israel in 2012.

Lukaszuk has said that another cabinet minister had called him in distress. The cabinet minister told him violence was involved and police were on the way, so Lukaszuk stayed on the line with the person until officers came.

The next day, Lukaszuk — who was deputy premier at the time — contacted the premier's office, he said. After documents were transmitted and a video conference was held via cellphone, it was determined it was a personal matter involving the cabinet minister's sibling, and not work-related. Lukaszuk said that was the end of it, and he was just doing his job.

He apologized for the high cost, adding his office fought with the service provider to have the bill reduced. He said that the bill had only become an issue because of the Tory leadership race.

The bill was sent to the newspaper a couple of weeks before Lukaszuk lost his bid to become the party's new leader and premier.

Sibbald said no one complained to the office about the leak. It was the commissioner who initiated the investigation into Service Alberta because the bill contained the private information of other people, he said.

"There were other cellphone numbers which are deemed personal information," said Sibbald. "They were not released in accordance with the (Freedom of Information and Privacy) Act."

Privacy commissioner Jill Clayton said in a statement that she advocates proactive disclosure of information to promote accountability and transparency.

"However, there are ways to protect personal information when disclosing this type of information under the FOIP Act, and I'm concerned about the security of Service Alberta's system to protect the privacy of individuals."

Premier Jim Prentice said the government will co-operate with the investigation.

"I have no knowledge personally whatsoever of these phone bills. I've never to this day seen them."

A spokeswoman for Service Alberta said the department has internal controls in place to support protection of privacy.


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