The B.C. New Democrats say they are collecting a growing body of evidence that proves a Liberal government practice of deleting emails was “systemic” and explicitly for the purpose of preventing the release of information to the public.
In a telephone interview, David Eby, MLA for Vancouver–Point Grey, said the NDP will forward the documents it has collected to the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner for B.C. (OIPC) and that body can then decide if a formal investigation is warranted.
The Opposition member’s claims come on the heels of an October 22 OIPC report that details how employees in the premier’s office, plus staff at two ministries, had “triple deleted” emails, taking extra steps to expunge records from computers. The results of that investigation implicate the premier’s deputy chief of staff, Michele Cadario. In addition, the OIPC has accused one government employee, George Gretes, of giving false testimony about the practice while he was under oath. That case has been forwarded to the RCMP.
“The practice we observed was the routine emptying of the Recover Deleted Items folder to ensure that emails were permanently deleted from an employee’s system,” the OIPC report reads. “This is not the intention of the Recover Deleted Items folder and for employees managing their mail account it serves no legitimate purpose.”
The file the NDP is building already includes information on a number of additional email addresses that were not the subject of that investigation, Eby said, one of those being an account that belongs to the premier herself.
Eby explained the NDP filed a freedom-of-information request that asked for all correspondence to and from Premier Christy Clark’s public and private email addresses for a two-week period in December 2014 (coinciding with an announcement about the Site C dam). That request resulted in the government stating it could find no records meeting the criteria of the request.
A subsequent freedom-of-information request asked for the “message tracking logs” for the same account and same period, Eby continued. The government’s response to that request, however, stated that there were more than 150 emails sent from the premier’s public account during that time frame.
Eby said the NDP has similar evidence of missing emails for accounts controlled by Tobie Myers, chief of staff to Rich Coleman—who oversees several ministry portfolios, including liquefied natural gas—as well as the email account of John Dyble, deputy minister to the premier. (B.C. NDP leader John Horgan provided more information related to the case of Myers in an October 26 blog post. An October 27 report by the Vancouver Sun adds details to accusations regarding Dyble.)
Eby maintained that those discrepancies—a number of which were reviewed by the Straight—suggest that hundreds of emails pertinent to government business were deleted from the premier’s account as well as the accounts of top government officials.
Meanwhile, freelance journalist Bob Mackin has stated publicly he may have proof that emails were deleted from accounts belonging to Sam Oliphant and Maclean Kay, both of whom work in the premier’s office as media relations officers.
The premier’s office did not respond to a request for comment by deadline. Clark has said her government is cooperating with the OIPC and has emphasized that she has ordered all government employees to refrain from deleting emails.