03/05/2015 03:19 EST | Updated 05/05/2015 05:59 EDT

NDP To Watchdog: Probe Emails Deleted By Former Jason Kenney Aide

OTTAWA - A New Democrat MP is asking the federal information watchdog to investigate a former Conservative ministerial staffer's systematic deletion of emails.

Charlie Angus, the party's access to information and ethics critic, wants information commissioner Suzanne Legault to look into Michael Bonner's practice of deleting his electronic messages every two weeks.

The former Jason Kenney aide's actions came to light in a recently published ethics commissioner's report that found Bonner had contravened the Conflict of Interest Act by accepting invitations to social galas from private organizations.

Bonner was a senior policy adviser to Kenney in 2013 when he served as minister of employment and social development. Kenney is now defence minister.

In conducting her investigation last year, ethics commissioner Mary Dawson was told Bonner could not provide any emails related to her examination because he had deleted them, as his usual practice was to discard them every two weeks.

She learned that deleted emails of ministerial staff remain on the computer server for about four weeks, but are then "lost forever" as they are not archived, her Feb. 26 report says. A request to the government's chief information officer for Bonner’s emails turned up nothing, it adds.

The regular wiping of emails is deeply troubling, Angus says.

"If people are acting on the up-and-up, they should have nothing to worry about," he said Thursday in an interview.

"I'm very worried that we're starting to see a pattern of obstruction of legitimate access to information by just deleting the files."

In a letter this week to Legault, he pointed to past instances of missing electronic government records — most notably in the Senate expenses scandal.

The Toronto Star reported in December that the federal revenue agency had destroyed all text message records of its employees and stopped electronically saving such messages.

The newspaper cited documents released under the Access to Information Act that said Shared Services Canada — the federal organization responsible for information technology services — had wiped the records last August.

That revelation prompted a complaint to Legault's office from Angus. He said Thursday the file remains open.

The information commissioner's office had no immediate comment on Angus' latest complaint.

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