British Columbia Premier Christy Clark is alleging, without providing evidence, that the opposition New Democrats hacked her party's website – a suggestion that has prompted the NDP leader to threaten legal action unless Ms. Clark retracts the allegation and apologizes.
Ms. Clark declined Wednesday to back off on the suggestion, and said she did not know if there was evidence to back up the claim she made earlier this week that the NDP hacked into a party website to gain access to the party's Vancouver Island election platform.
"It's illegal. It's a criminal act. Whether or not they would admit to doing it, I don't know, but I'm not spending a whole lot of time thinking about whether or not and how the NDP is going to conduct the campaign," Ms. Clark told a news conference in Victoria on Wednesday, referring to the coming provincial election campaign.
"I mean, honestly, British Columbians do not care about that stuff, all that inside-baseball stuff."
But on Tuesday, Ms. Clark, during a Facebook Live interview with The Vancouver Sun and the Province, said the NDP was responsible for the hack. She was talking about NDP suggestions that the next provincial election will be a tough one when she said, "We saw them trying to hack into our website the other day."
She added that, "Hacking into websites with malicious intent is against the law. They haven't exactly admitted that that's what they have done."
On Wednesday afternoon, BC Liberal communications director Emile Scheffel said the party has identified numerous IP addresses linked to attempts to hack the party website, and said one of those IP addresses, common to an attempt to hack material relevant to the party's Vancouver Island platform and another previous attempt, has been traced to the legislature in Victoria.
John Horgan, the leader of the B.C. NDP, said his party is considering legal action over the allegations unless the Premier gives a public apology and retraction.
"Should she not do that, we are absolutely prepared to look at other options," he said. "That would be, of course, legal action. You can't just make stuff up."
Mr. Horgan said the party has contacted a lawyer, but declined to get into specifics about legal strategies. He said Ms. Clark has maligned members of the NDP and, also, maligned him.
"What she has alleged is that the NDP did this and we did not. There is no evidence to that and if there is, she should produce it," Mr. Horgan said in a conference call. "My concern is that she made allegations that the NDP was conducting illegal activity and that's not true."
He added, "We don't hack. That's not what we do."
All of this comes as the two parties are positioning themselves ahead of the May provincial election in which the Liberals will be seeking a fifth consecutive term in government, and the NDP is seeking a return to power for the first time since 2001. Later this month, the legislature will resume for a sitting that will include a throne speech and budget.
On Monday, Mr. Scheffel tweeted out a series of comments suggesting the BC Liberals had been hacked, but did not identify the parties responsible, only linking the action to "dirty tricks by our opponents."
On Wednesday, Mr. Scheffel issued a statement saying one or more "entities" with a "politically motivated agenda" retrieved and shared confidential information without authorization.
Mr. Scheffel said the Liberals are compiling a report to police and have notified the provincial Office of the Information & Privacy Commissioner for British Columbia.
Erin Beattie, communications director for the commissioner, confirmed in an e-mail that the Liberals reported a privacy breach, but said she could not comment on a specific case.
The office, she said, oversees and enforces the Personal Information Protection Act, which applies to private organizations, and that the commissioner's office offers advice to private agencies who report such breaches through a staff person who works with the complainant. The commissioner, she said, can order a more complete investigation.
Mr. Scheffel did not respond to a Globe and Mail query on whether the Liberal party was linking the hack to the B.C. NDP in its report to police.
"We are gathering and assessing a large volume of information related to these events and we will have more to share as that work continues," Mr. Scheffel said in an e-mail.
With a file from Justine Hunter in Victoria