Alberta government meddling in freedom of information rules, says Wildrose

Alberta Jobs Minister Thomas Lukaszuk denied Tuesday that as deputy premier he orchestrated government-wide interference in the freedom of information process for partisan political reasons.

EDMONTON — Alberta Jobs Minister Thomas Lukaszuk denied Tuesday that as deputy premier he orchestrated government-wide interference in the freedom of information process for partisan political reasons.

Lukaszuk said the system to have Progressive Conservative political appointees track and respond to ongoing freedom of information requests was for informational purposes only.

“What we tried to address was to give (cabinet) ministers an ability to have a heads-up on what has been released (under freedom of information),” said Lukaszuk.

Freedom of information requests are used by journalists, citizens and the opposition to uncover information not made public by the government.

Quite often, such revelations have proven embarrassing to those in power.

Documents released by the opposition Wildrose party and by Lukaszuk on Tuesday revealed that last November, Lukaszuk, then deputy premier to then-premier Alison Redford, directed changes to the process.

The Nov. 29, 2013, memo directed cabinet ministers to collect information on documents being released by their departments under freedom of information rules. Lukaszuk told the cabinet ministers to deliver the information to his office on a weekly basis.

He also directed that department press secretaries — who are political appointees — collect information on those freedom of information requests “which have the potential to generate media, session, political or other reputational issues for government.”

If necessary, added Lukaszuk, the press secretaries were then to “prepare key messages and mitigating strategies.”

Copies of the memo were also sent to Redford’s senior officials.

Lukaszuk stressed Tuesday that the project had the blessing of Information and Privacy Commissioner Jill Clayton.

He distributed to reporters copies of his Nov. 29 memo and the letter Clayton sent to him a week later.

However, Clayton, in her letter, expressed misgivings with Lukaszuk’s information collection plan.

Why, asked Clayton in the letter, are cabinet ministers being asked to submit to Lukaszuk updates on freedom of information requests in order for Lukaszuk to turn around and deliver that same information right back to them in the form of a heads-up note?

Clayton said that suggests a system designed, more than anything else, to keep Lukaszuk and Redford updated on all freedom of information requests.

That, said Clayton, “increases the potential risk of allegations of interference in the release of information.”

She said that giving press secretaries time to craft message strategies in anticipation of the release of the information also suggests this was not simply a heads-up exercise.

And she said having press secretaries get involved in the process raises the risk of further delays in information being released.

Lukaszuk made the information public after Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith presented an internal government email that referred to his Nov. 29 memo.

Smith told reporters it was a concerned freedom of information officer who leaked the information to her party in the first place.

“We need to make sure that the process is independent,” said Smith.

“They (the government) actually directed their press secretaries to get involved in active freedom of information requests. And that’s just not allowed.”

Just Posted

WATCH: Red Deer teacher engages students with “cool” science experiments

On Thursday, he made fire dance to the beat of the music

Province purchases land for new Red Deer courthouse

Construction to begin in the fall of 2019

Parking costs in Red Deer are going up — so are parking tickets

City council raises parking rates by 25 per cent starting July 1

WATCH: Alberta Party leadership candidates in Red Deer

Three people vying to be the leader of the Alberta Party were… Continue reading

In photos: Get ready for Western Canadian Championships

Haywood NorAm Western Canadian Championships and Peavey Mart Alberta Cup 5/6 start… Continue reading

WATCH: Red Deer city council debates cost-savings versus quality of life

Majority of councillors decide certain services are worth preserving

Got milk? Highway reopened near Millet

A southbound truck hauling milk and cartons collided with a bridge

Stettler’s newest residents overcame fear, bloodshed to come here

Daniel Kwizera, Diane Mukasine and kids now permanent residents

Giddy up: Red Deer to host Canadian Finals Rodeo in 2018

The CFR is expected to bring $20-30 million annually to Red Deer and region

Ice dancers Virtue and Moir to carry flag at Pyeongchang Olympics

Not since Kurt Browning at the 1994 Lillehammer Games has a figure… Continue reading

Beer Canada calls on feds to axe increasing beer tax as consumption trends down

OTTAWA — A trade association for Canada’s beer industry wants the federal… Continue reading

Most Read


Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $185 for 260 issues (must live in delivery area to qualify) Unlimited Digital Access 99 cents for the first four weeks and then only $15 per month Five-day delivery plus unlimited digital access for $15 a month