What with the muzzling of Canadian scientists by the former federal government, and the difficulty media have these days getting anyone from a ministry — federal or provincial — on the phone we have been aware for some time that access to information and government transparency were at an all-time low.
But, shockingly, the provincial government managed to lower the bar yet again last week with the “delete, delete, delete” scandal (thank you NDP opposition leader John Horgan for the great quote that’s now defined the subject).
It all stems from a scathing report from Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham.
It’s so bad that a political staffer, George Gretes, has resigned and his conduct has been referred to the RCMP over things he said under oath.
The particular deletions in question cover emails requested under a Freedom of Information request for records related to public hearings on risks of travelling along Highway 16 in northern B.C.
Transportation Minister Todd Stone also went on record stating that he triple deletes emails, and disagrees with Denham’s interpretation of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act.
Triple deleting refers to moving an email into the “deleted” folder, deleting it from that folder, then manually overriding a backup that allows the system to recover deleted items for up to 14 days.
That’s not just deleting emails like everyone does on a daily basis.
That’s making sure they are obliterated from the face of the earth as if they never existed.
It’s an extremely troubling practice for a democratically elected government.
Clearly in damage control mode and trying to distance herself from the scandal, Premier Christy Clark said that she had no idea what triple deleting was until last week’s report and that she’s now ordered all political government staff and ministers to keep their sent emails.
But her own deputy chief of staff Michele Cadario was singled out for criticism in Denham’s report.
Denham cited her for contravening freedom of information laws by bulk deleting emails on a daily basis. Apparently, Cadario has very, very few email records and the ones that do exist are seemingly only there because she didn’t realize she hadn’t completely deleted them. This after working in Clark’s office for two years.
Even with the broadest definition of what a “transitory” (allowed to be deleted) email is, one would think you’d have kept something in two years.
It makes one ask, what are they hiding? The whole thing stinks.