Outrage is growing over the B.C. Finance Minister’s admission that he doesn’t use email.
“I just never got into it,” said Finance Minister Mike de Jong Tuesday, responding to questions regarding a freedom of information (FOI) request that found he only corresponds on paper.
“It’s a tool that I think has useful application, but I’ve said it before, when people start getting four and five hundred emails a day, when are they working?” said de Jong.
The FOI request was sparked by a damaging report by B.C.’s Privacy Commissioner, which found government staff guilty of triple deleting emails.
“Here we go again,” said Vincent Gogolek, executive director of BC Freedom of Information and Privacy Association (FIPA). “It’s part of a trend we’ve seen that keeping records or not using email has been a pattern.”
In an Ipsos poll commissioned by FIPA released in February, 2016, 96 per cent of British Columbians said that it is important for government officials to be legally required to keep complete and accurate records. The poll also found that 84 per cent believe that government officials who interfere with access to information rights should face penalties.
“I think its entirely proper for people to ask questions about this, like really?” said Gogelek.
De Jong’s office released a response to CKNW’s FOI Tuesday stating:
“Minister de Jong has the long standing practice of requiring information such as briefing notes, decision notes, memos and other correspondence to be delivered to him through his office on paper, rather than to an email account.
His direction and decision are recorded and communicated on the briefing and decision notes retained in the ministry, are issued by letter or memo or Treasury Board minute, or by public servants who participate in meetings and then undertake or convey that direction. records of meetings are recorded in his office calendar, which is regularly released in response to FOI requests.”
Gogolek wonders how a government official can maintain accurate records without email correspondence.
“E-mail is one of the most common ways that we communicate with each other these days, especially in terms of the work that we do, everybody does it. So to not be on email means that special arrangements have to be made to make sure that stuff happens,” said Gogolek.