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EDITORIAL: Government fumbles file on emails

Prince Edward Island Auditor General Jane MacAdam
Prince Edward Island Auditor General Jane MacAdam

What was all the fuss about? It’s a question many Islanders are asking today about the deleted emails associated with the ill-fated e-gaming file.

Last week, Auditor General Jane MacAdam told the public accounts committee the names of three people whose emails were missing from the public record. The emails became a daily issue during the fall sitting of the legislature. Every day, Opposition MLAs asked the government whose e-gaming emails were deleted and every day, cabinet ministers and the premier had different excuses why they could not answer.

Chris LeClair was chief of staff to former premier Robert Ghiz. He was the top candidate. Melissa MacEachern was former deputy minister of Tourism and Innovation and another obvious choice. Rory Beck, former clerk of executive council, was a person likely to have also handled the file. Mr. Beck died of a heart attack in April 2012 and is blameless. Let him rest in peace.

So we know whose emails were deleted. But the auditor general doesn’t think there was any criminal activity involved. And the Opposition is frustrated because there are no repercussions for Mr. LeClair and Ms. MacEachern – no jot of blood or pound of flesh.

What would be interesting to know is who deleted them, when and why? Was it done deliberately and if so, who gave the order? Or is this just another example of sloppy government record keeping?

The auditor general doesn’t know but is clear on this point. This was not simply a matter of emails removed after these individuals left government. There were important government records contained in these three email accounts that should have been kept and saved as the legislation requires.

Had government simply released the names, assured the legislature that it wouldn’t happen again and brought in tough new rules and penalties, it would be a story for a one or two-day news cycle and we’d move on.

The Liberal government fumbled this file from the start. It had an obsession with secrecy and delay. And for what? Nothing really. Two former senior public servants were publicly shamed. They had both left the public service several years ago so you can’t fire them. There was no penalty under the official records act so what action could government take?

So Mr. Premier, there is no need – as you threatened in a year-end interview - to flood the legislature with the names of 2,500 former government employees whose email accounts have been removed since 2007.

The Opposition is in the legislature to ask questions on behalf of taxpayers and citizens. And government should answer those questions. The speaker of the house should direct the premier and his cabinet minister to stop grandstanding or stonewalling and answer questions raised by the Opposition.

And Islanders are left to wonder how they are supposed to have faith that important government records have been properly maintained and saved? After all, as the auditor general said in her report and again at Public Accounts this week: “Management of government records has not been a priority of government.”

 

 

 

Last week, Auditor General Jane MacAdam told the public accounts committee the names of three people whose emails were missing from the public record. The emails became a daily issue during the fall sitting of the legislature. Every day, Opposition MLAs asked the government whose e-gaming emails were deleted and every day, cabinet ministers and the premier had different excuses why they could not answer.

Chris LeClair was chief of staff to former premier Robert Ghiz. He was the top candidate. Melissa MacEachern was former deputy minister of Tourism and Innovation and another obvious choice. Rory Beck, former clerk of executive council, was a person likely to have also handled the file. Mr. Beck died of a heart attack in April 2012 and is blameless. Let him rest in peace.

So we know whose emails were deleted. But the auditor general doesn’t think there was any criminal activity involved. And the Opposition is frustrated because there are no repercussions for Mr. LeClair and Ms. MacEachern – no jot of blood or pound of flesh.

What would be interesting to know is who deleted them, when and why? Was it done deliberately and if so, who gave the order? Or is this just another example of sloppy government record keeping?

The auditor general doesn’t know but is clear on this point. This was not simply a matter of emails removed after these individuals left government. There were important government records contained in these three email accounts that should have been kept and saved as the legislation requires.

Had government simply released the names, assured the legislature that it wouldn’t happen again and brought in tough new rules and penalties, it would be a story for a one or two-day news cycle and we’d move on.

The Liberal government fumbled this file from the start. It had an obsession with secrecy and delay. And for what? Nothing really. Two former senior public servants were publicly shamed. They had both left the public service several years ago so you can’t fire them. There was no penalty under the official records act so what action could government take?

So Mr. Premier, there is no need – as you threatened in a year-end interview - to flood the legislature with the names of 2,500 former government employees whose email accounts have been removed since 2007.

The Opposition is in the legislature to ask questions on behalf of taxpayers and citizens. And government should answer those questions. The speaker of the house should direct the premier and his cabinet minister to stop grandstanding or stonewalling and answer questions raised by the Opposition.

And Islanders are left to wonder how they are supposed to have faith that important government records have been properly maintained and saved? After all, as the auditor general said in her report and again at Public Accounts this week: “Management of government records has not been a priority of government.”

 

 

 

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