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Tough penalty for deleting P.E.I. emails not tough enough: Opposition

Education Minister Doug Currie has introduced changes to the Archives and Records Act, which include new penalties for anyone who destroys public records or emails. The Opposition says the $10,000 fine does not go far enough.
Education Minister Doug Currie has introduced changes to the Archives and Records Act, which include new penalties for anyone who destroys public records or emails. The Opposition says the $10,000 fine does not go far enough.

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – The P.E.I. government is introducing penalties for those who destroy public records in the wake of revelations by the auditor general that government emails of insiders involved in the province’s e-gaming scandal were deleted.

Education Minister Doug Currie has tabled a bill that makes a number of changes to the Archives and Records Act. The changes are aimed at ensuring better monitoring and oversight of government records, including emails.

The bill also adds penalties to anyone who violates the act, as currently no provincial penalties exist.

Once the bill comes into effect, anyone who intentionally destroys, damages, erases or conceals any public document or record will be guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a maximum fine of $10,000.

But the Opposition Progressive Conservatives say this is not enough of a deterrent for future government insiders who might want to make controversial emails or documents to disappear. 

“If someone were to break the act the way it’s written now, they could pay the fine and show up for work the next day and that’s where we have concerns and the public has concerns,” said Opposition MLA Sidney MacEwen.

“People are coming to us and wondering why aren’t we creating more of a deterrent so this doesn’t happen again?”

As part of her audit into the controversial e-gaming venture, auditor general Jane MacAdam found emails of key government players involved in e-gaming had been removed entirely after these individuals left government.

MacAdam told the province’s public accounts committee there were important government records contained in these email accounts that should have been kept and saved.

In the course of her investigation, MacAdam discovered these records were not retained, as is required by law.

But because P.E.I.’s Archives and Records Act does not contain penalties, no one has faced consequences for the destroyed records.

The bill was debated at length earlier this month, with Opposition MLAs trying to make amendments to add more transparency over when government emails or records are closed or destroyed.

Opposition MLAs pressed government on why no provisions were included in the new penalties to ensure those who violate the act could not continue to work for government.

Premier Wade MacLauchlan explained it is not possible to write into legislation that people will lose their job, as that is a matter of employment law.

But he did say there would likely be job implications for anyone who breaks the act.

“I don’t want it to be left as a given that someone will pay a fine and go back to work the next day,” MacLauchlan said.

“If someone is convicted for a criminal offence in relation to their duties, there is a very good chance there is going to be a consequence.”

Steven Myers remains unconvinced the changes go far enough.

“I’m significantly disappointed in this bill. I don’t think a monetary fine is enough, I really don’t,” he said.

“I would suggest when this bill hits the floor on another day that we should be adding clauses to say, ‘You’re going to jail.’ Because (Justice) Nancy Orr puts them in jail for way less than what you fellows let these guys away with.”

The bill has not yet completed second reading in the P.E.I.

 twright@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/GuardianTeresa

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