Premier-designate Rachel Notley ordered an immediate stop to all document shredding by departing Progressive Conservative ministers on Wednesday, hours after two watchdogs announced they would be investigating allegations that records were illegally destroyed by Alberta's outgoing government.
A call from a whistle-blower on Tuesday prompted a joint investigation of Environment Alberta by the province's privacy and public interest commissioners. The call to one office was corroborated with correspondence sent to the other investigative office.
"Our office takes allegations of wrongdoing very seriously," said Public Interest Commissioner Peter Hourihan. "It's encouraging that someone saw something wrong and took their concern to both our offices."
More ministries could be the target of the investigation, depending on what is uncovered in the coming days. While the whistle-blower was anonymous, Mr. Hourihan said he believes the complaint came from within the ministry and is credible. The office of Jill Clayton, Alberta's Information and Privacy Commissioner, received two letters, one with specific details on Environment Alberta.
On Wednesday, Ms. Notley asked the head of Alberta's civil service to direct ministers to immediately cease the shredding until her government assumes office. A spokeswoman for Ms. Notley said important documents needed to be preserved during the transition.
Opposition parties have raised concerns about the amount of shredding at government buildings after the province's New Democrats swept the Tories from office last week, ending nearly 44 years of uninterrupted rule. A stream of bags filled with shredded paper has been carried out of the provincial legislature since the morning after the election.
Trucks with special equipment to shred mass quantities of paper have also been parked outside the legislature, some with the company's motto "Better Shred than Read"– a twist on an anti-communist slogan from the Cold War. An official with outgoing premier Jim Prentice's office has said it's an unfortunate coincidence as the left-leaning NDP prepares to take office.
Minor documents and those that relate to a minister's role as an MLA can be shredded under government rules, but records that document a minister's portfolio should be archived.
Both Ms. Clayton and Mr. Hourihan can levy fines ranging from $10,000 to $100,000.