NEWS
01/11/2017 17:16 EST | Updated 01/12/2018 00:12 EST

Whose emails were deleted? P.E.I. opposition finally has an answer

Chris LeClair. Melissa MacEachern. Rory Beck.

Those are the three names the Official Opposition was searching for when members asked government over and over during the fall sitting of the legislature — "whose emails were deleted?"

  • E-gaming emails deleted, text messages not provided to AG
  • Emails deleted or disabled?

It wasn't anyone from the MacLauchlan government that provided the answers today however. It was Auditor General Jane MacAdam.

Her investigation into the province's failed e-gaming plan included a special section on government records management, which concluded safeguards to protect records were not being followed, thus, "government records can easily be destroyed."

In particular, MacAdam said in her report some emails from key players in the e-gaming initiative which should have been provided to her, were not.

Lack of records limited e-gaming investigation, says AG

Today MacAdam told the province's Standing Committee on Public Accounts those emails were from three accounts: those of LeClair, former chief of staff to Robert Ghiz; MacEachern, former deputy minister of innovation and also tourism and culture; and Beck, who passed away in 2012 while serving as clerk of executive council.

MacAdam said she knew there were emails which existed that were not provided to her because she received copies of some of them from other parties, including sources outside government.

In her report, MacAdam said the lack of these and other records limited the scope of her investigation.

MacAdam was called in by Premier Wade MacLauchlan in March 2015 to review the province's failed e-gaming initiative.

Between 2009 and 2012 the P.E.I. government and the Mi'kmaq Confederacy were involved in a plan to set up a system to license internet gaming sites. Government spent more than $1.5 million on the initiative, but it was scrapped in 2012.

'No conspiracy,' says backbench MLA

"They were following the policy or lack of policy in government records management," said backbench Liberal MLA Bush Dumville. "There's no conspiracy or ill-will to delete anything, it's just what's been transpiring in government over a number of years in records management."

Dumville was referring to government's stated IT policy of disabling email accounts when someone leaves government service. A year later, those emails are unable to be recovered.

MacAdam said she'd found nothing to indicate emails were deleted on purpose. However, she said certain emails were required under provincial legislation to be saved in some form.

"The issue is not so much that the accounts were removed. The issue is that when the accounts were removed there were records, government records, that were not retained."

MacAdam said that MacEachern told the AG's office that she didn't recall specifically doing any work with her records just prior to her leaving.  And MacAdam added that, "Chris left abruptly and said he didn't take any specific actions with his records."

Under questioning from PC MLA Steven Myers, MacAdam said ultimately cabinet ministers are responsible for ensuring records in their departments are maintained — in the case of MacEachern's emails that was Allen Roach, minister of innovation at the time. In LeClair's case, it was Robert Ghiz.

'Ramifications' needed to enforce rules

During the fall sitting of the legislature government announced a new three-year records management strategy. But today, the Opposition pointed out there were rules before, that weren't followed. If there are no consequences for that, argued Opposition MLA Brad Trivers, why would government expect the new rules will be followed any more closely.

"It seems to me right now if policies aren't followed, there are no ramifications," he said.

"Maybe it's not just enough to introduce new policies as the AG recommends, but it's to make sure that we actually have some teeth so that if the policies aren't followed, there are ramifications."

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