10/31/2017 15:15 EDT | Updated 11/02/2017 19:23 EDT

Alberta's privacy chief reviewing 800,000 deleted government emails

EDMONTON — Service Alberta Minister Stephanie McLean says her department will work with the privacy commissioner on a probe into 800,000 deleted government emails.

"What I'm looking forward to is an opportunity to work with the investigator to ensure that we have good processes in place and to ensure that all the documents that we have are treated appropriately," McLean said Tuesday.

Privacy commissioner Jill Clayton is investigating the deletion of the emails by government and political staff in four areas: the transportation and education departments, along with McLean's department and Premier Rachel Notley's cabinet office.

McLean says emails pertaining to government decisions must be kept for posterity, but the rest can be deleted.

She says staff are urged to delete non-essential emails.

"We encourage officials to delete emails that are not records of decision, and emails, for the most part, do not constitute record of decision," she said.

"There's a lot of innocuous stuff that goes on in people's email in-boxes and frankly we don't want them to keep those kind of innocuous emails because they take up server room."

The former Wildrose party opposition discovered the deletions during a freedom of information search in recent months and asked Clayton to investigate.

The numbers also revealed that Notley's then chief-of-staff Brian Topp had just one email in his sent folder and 78 in his in-box.