Alberta privacy commissioner investigates leak of MLA’s cellphone bill

Alberta's privacy commissioner is investigating a government department for leaking a politician's cellphone bill.

EDMONTON — Alberta’s privacy commissioner is investigating a government department for leaking a politician’s cellphone bill.

Commission spokesman Scott Sibbald said Monday that the controversial bill belonged to former cabinet minister Thomas Lukaszuk.

It was leaked to the Edmonton Sun in August, and showed Lukaszuk had rung up more than $20,000 in international data roaming charges on a personal trip to Poland and Israel in 2012.

Lukaszuk has said that another cabinet minister called him in distress at the time, and his office fought with the service provider to have the bill reduced.

He said the cabinet minister told him violence was involved and police were on the way, so he stayed on the line with the person until officers came.

The next day, Lukaszuk – who was deputy premier at the time – said he contacted the premier’s office. After documents were transmitted and a video conference was held via cellphone, it was determined it was a personal matter involving the cabinet minister’s sibling, and not work-related. He says that was the end of it, and adds he was just doing his job.

He apologized for the cost and said that it had only become an issue because of the Tory leadership race.

The bill was sent to the newspaper a couple of weeks before Lukaszuk lost his bid to become premier.

Sibbald said no one complained to the office about the leak and it was the commissioner who initiated the investigation into Service Alberta because the bill contained the private information of other people.

“There were other cellphone numbers which are deemed personal information,” said Sibbald. “They were not released in accordance with the (Freedom of Information and Privacy) Act.”

Privacy Commissioner Jill Clayton said in a statement that she advocates proactive disclosure of information to promote accountability and transparency.

“However, there are ways to protect personal information when disclosing this type of information under the FOIP Act, and I’m concerned about the security of Service Alberta’s system to protect the privacy of individuals.”

A spokeswoman for Service Alberta did not return calls for comment.

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