VICTORIA — B.C.’s minister of advanced education says she doesn’t have to release her sent emails under freedom of information laws because any final decisions she makes are kept with her deputy minister.
Melanie Mark was responding to a second day of questions in the legislature about how an FOI request for all her sent government emails in the month of February returned no records. She ducked barbs during question period from the Opposition Liberals, but emerged to tell reporters afterwards she had done nothing wrong.
“The decisions and direction I make with the ministry are all on public record with the deputy minister’s office, that’s how records are kept,” she said. “They are not kept secret, with respect. There’s no secret here. I’m in full compliance with the legislation.”
The NDP government is under fire for shoddy record-keeping that appears to mirror the same culture of deletion that plagued the previous Liberal government, after it was revealed the minister responsible for FOIs uses a personal email account and five senior staffers in Premier John Horgan’s office improperly mass deleted their sent emails for the first four months in office in 2017.
Mark said she organizes all the emails she sends and receives into folders and turns them over to staff when FOI requests come in. She said a blanket “no records” response for those emails for an entire month is the way the FOI law is supposed to work.
“I follow best practices in terms of records management,” she said. “I follow the law with respect to what has been recommended from the privacy and information commissioner.”
Cabinet ministers have been routinely releasing their emails under FOI for several years. A Vancouver Sun survey in 2016 obtained the emails from 20 cabinet ministers and showed the process was plagued by delays and political interference. Nonetheless, hundreds of pages of records were released outlining how ministers use emails to sign off on public statements, review briefing materials, set up meetings, ask questions of staff, flag media articles, prepare for interviews, and field questions from the public.
Mark’s comments appear to indicate some kind of change in government policy to return no records. A 2018 internal NDP government guide titled “managing minister’s office records” sets out what offices hold original records, but also outlines how it is government’s job to gather those records from multiple locations to fulfill …read more
Source:: Vancouver Sun – Politics