Premier Christy Clark has ordered all cabinet ministers and their political staff to keep every email they send until new procedures are in place to decide what is necessary for the public record and freedom of information requests.
Clark issued the instruction Friday after B.C.’s Information and Privacy Commissioner condemned the widespread practice of “triple deleting” emails so they can’t be stored in daily computer backups.
Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said her investigation showed records were intentionally destroyed to avoid public release. One of those requests was for records related to meetings with leaders of remote communities on risks of travelling along Highway 16 in northern B.C.
Clark said Friday she accepts Denham’s recommendations, but there are different legal opinions on what is a “transitory document” that is required to be destroyed and a record that is required to be kept.
“We thought, I thought that everything was being done properly, and that’s because there has been really almost no change in the way things have been done for a decade,” Clark said.
NDP leader John Horgan said the investigation shows the conduct of B.C. Liberal government staffers, including Premier Christy Clark’s deputy chief of staff Michele Cadario, reveals “a culture of deception, a culture of deceit, a culture of delete, delete, delete.”
Clark said she is taking no action against Cadario, who told Denham she deletes almost all of her sent emails every day. Clark now wants everything kept until former privacy commissioner and deputy attorney general David Loukidelis reviews the situation and decides what must stay and what must go.
Clark said she seldom uses email for official business, preferring face-to-face meetings, official records kept for cabinet and its committees, and phone calls.
Transportation Minister Todd Stone said Friday he has made a practice of triple deleting emails that he considers transitory.
A complaint from Tim Duncan, Stone’s former ministerial assistant, triggered Denham’s investigation of a freedom of information request regarding Highway 16 between Prince George and Prince Rupert.