British Columbia Premier Christy Clark has apologized to New Democrat Leader John Horgan over her accusations that the Opposition was involved in criminal hacking of her Liberal party’s website.
Clark said she made a mistake and jumped to conclusions.
“And I have no problem saying sorry because I made a mistake,” she told reporters at the legislature.
The acknowledgment is the latest twist in a spiralling storyline that unravelled Friday when Independent member of the legislature Vicki Huntington came forward to say her staff had access to the private information — without any attempt at hacking.
It was actually a Liberal party privacy breach, Huntington said in a telephone interview.
“Somebody goofed in the Liberal party headquarters,” she said laughing.
Huntington, who represents the riding of Delta South, said she came forward when Clark accused someone of hacking into her party’s website to uncover private information in an effort to “subvert the democratic process.”
“That’s when I thought: This is too rich,” Huntington said. “Making false accusations in not the way to conduct politics.”
She said her staff uncovered the private information on the B.C. Liberals website while looking for 2016 donations to the party.
“No passwords were used, no usernames, no encryption devices. Just the clicking of the mouse and they found a number of documents, one of which contained personal information that was obviously publicly accessible on their website.”
A brief statement issued Friday by B.C. Liberal Party spokesman Emile Scheffel said they appreciate Huntington coming forward and will update the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner in support of its review into the allegations.
Scheffel said they remained concerned about what appears to be “previous attempts to break into the back end of our website.”
Clark blamed the NDP earlier in the week for hacking the confidential information supplied to the Liberal party by people who responded to an online survey.
She backed off the accusation on Thursday saying she had been angry and was too hasty in drawing conclusions.
Clark didn’t apologize at the time, but said if Horgan felt he needed an apology, he could raise the issue with her when the legislature sits again on Tuesday.
Horgan couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Friday.
Huntington said Clark’s previous attempt at deflection made her miss the point of why she went to the media when her staff found the information.
“From my perspective, the entire issue is there was private information publicly accessible on the Liberal party website and they’ve basically deflected that entire story. Which I think is the broader issue here.”
Hamish Telford, a political scientist at the University of the Fraser Valley, said the twists and turns of the hacking issue could not have come at a worse time for the Liberals, who are preparing to deliver a throne speech and a budget.
“This has certainly become a distraction and it’s quite possible the Liberals have derailed the message,” he said Friday. “They’ve got a throne speech coming up next week and a budget the week after. They should have been focused like lasers on those events to set themselves up for the ensuing election campaign.”
It appears the premier was trying to capitalize on debates that took place during the U.S. presidential race around allegations of hacking, but it seems to have backfired, Telford said.