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BC info and privacy commissioner's office examining outreach scandal

Aspects of the multicultural outreach scandal originating in Premier Christy Clark's office have drawn the attention of British Columbia's independent information and privacy commissioner.

Elizabeth Denham has launched a preliminary investigation into the outreach plan, which included strategies calling for government officials to share information with the BC Liberal Party.

Clark's former deputy chief of staff Kim Haakstad circulated the draft multicultural outreach plan from a personal email address to the personal email addresses of several people who worked for the government, the Liberal caucus and the BC Liberal Party. Denham said she had reviewed all that was publicly available on the plan, including the report released last week by John Dyble, deputy to the premier.

“These documents raise important questions about whether personal email accounts were being used in an attempt to evade access to information law, and whether personal information was inappropriately shared," Denham said in a prepared statement.

“We will review all relevant records and meet with parties involved in order to determine whether a formal investigation is required under the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act and the Personal Information Protection Act, which applies to political parties," she said.

Denham is also reminding all public bodies that freedom of information laws include personal email accounts when they are used for government business and she is calling on the government to create a "duty to document" to reverse the trend towards oral government.

A legislated duty to document "would ensure that a record of key decisions, actions, advice, recommendations and deliberations of government is created, secured and preserved. A duty to document is not only in the public interest; it promotes openness and transparency, good governance, and provides documentation of government's legacy for future generations."

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee's Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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