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B.C. to pay ex-privacy czar $50,000 for advising on deleted information report

Assistant Privacy Commissioner of Canada Elizabeth Denham’s report highlights a failure by the B.C. government to keep adequate e-mail records or document searches and the wilful destruction of records in response to a freedom of information request.

Adrian Wyld/The Canadian Press Images

A former privacy czar will be paid $50,000 to tell the British Columbia government how best to implement recommendations in a stinging report that said officials – including those in the premier's office – routinely deleted information.

Technology Minister Amrik Virk said Monday David Loukidelis has until Dec. 15 to complete a report that advises the government on addressing 11 recommendations and five findings made by Information and Privacy Commissioner Elizabeth Denham.

Ms. Denham's October report, Access Denied, highlighted a failure by the government to keep adequate e-mail records or document searches and the willful destruction of records in response to a freedom-of-information request.

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Her report was prompted by former whistle-blower Tim Duncan, who said his supervisor deleted potentially sensitive e-mails about the Highway of Tears investigation into murdered and missing women in central B.C.

The Opposition New Democrats have targeted the government's information practices since the release of Ms. Denham's report, saying it exposes a culture of deception that includes tactics of mass deletion of potentially sensitive e-mails.

Ms. Denham's report said high-ranking officials in the premier's office were found to have no e-mail records during freedom-of-information requests and attempts to obtain Premier Christy Clark's e-mail records also found nothing on her e-mail account.

The NDP tabled documents Monday in the legislature dated Oct. 10, 2012, that indicate e-mail deletion practices were widespread in the government.

The e-mail records between Liberal bureaucrats in the Jobs Ministry include a directive to "please delete all drafts and email correspondence, [e-mail] should be treated as transitory."

NDP technology critic Doug Routley said despite several reports calling for more information transparency, the government continues to develop new methods to hide information.

"What they have done is develop an ever-more sophisticated way of avoiding transparency by stretching beyond the breaking point the principles and regulations within the Freedom of Information and Protections of Privacy Act," he said.

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Mr. Virk said the terms of reference for Mr. Loukidelis includes advising the government on policies, procedures, structures and technical measures that government can implement to ensure compliance with management of records requirements.

He said the former privacy commissioner will also provide advice on training ministers, their office staff, including the premier's staff, and other public servants on records management.

"Part of that adding clarity is what defines transitory and what is kept and not kept," said Mr. Virk. "I'm looking forward to his report and what can help define those very answers."

Shortly after the report was released, Ms. Clark ordered her ministers and political staff to save their e-mails. The premier said she thought that everything was being done properly.

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