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Privacy commissioner blasts Dalton McGuinty gov't email erasure

By Antonella Artuso, Queen's Park Bureau Chief

Ontario information and privacy commissioner Dr. Ann Cavoukian. (Toronto Sun files)

Ontario information and privacy commissioner Dr. Ann Cavoukian. (Toronto Sun files)

TORONTO - 

Any claim that senior political staff in the Dalton McGuinty government innocently erased their emails “strains credulity,” Ontario information and privacy commissioner Dr. Ann Cavoukian says.

New Democrat MPP Peter Tabuns complained to Cavoukian’s office after learning that internal emails, including those related to cancelled gas plants in Mississauga and Oakville, were wiped clean after the departure of staff.

“Someone … said it strained credulity that no one thought they should maybe retain some of the emails,” Cavoukian said Tuesday. “There are retention obligations.

“Suffice it to say, I was not pleased, putting it mildly and you will see that reflected in the report that comes out,” she said.

Cavoukian said she’ll go into much greater detail in the report which will be released in June.

Government House Leader John Milloy said he couldn’t provide any information on specific incidents of missing emails.

“We take it very seriously,” Milloy said. “The last number of months as a new government’s been formed, we’ve had a number of sessions with staff to provide them with better information and better training on how they can properly archive and retain documents.”

Tabuns said his complaint to Cavoukian centred around testimony heard at gas plant hearings from a former chief of staff to the Ontario energy minister who testified that he had deleted all his emails.

The committee has been attempting to secure documents produced by the government and the bureaucracy that explain why the gas plants were cancelled and when senior officials knew that the costs were in excess of original estimates provided publicly.

The cost of cancelling and relocating the two plants has climbed to at least $585 million, after an initial pricetag of $230 million.

Tabuns said he believes that information and privacy law was broken when staff hit the delete button.

“A number of premier’s office staffers wound up in a situation where they have no emails left,” Tabuns said.

Tory MPP Vic Fedeli said he doesn’t believe that the email destruction was inadvertent.

“The IT department here within Queen’s Park has told us that they cannot recover the emails at all,” Fedeli said. “Not only have they been deleted, but the deleted would have been deleted, and somebody would have gone to great pains to destroy the backup as well.”


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