EDMONTON, AB (April 22, 2014): Former Deputy Premier and current Jobs, Skills, Training and Labour Minister Thomas Lukaszuk directed his cabinet colleagues to have their staff “gather information” about Freedom of Information requests and releases that could be damaging to the government, the Wildrose Official Opposition revealed today.
According to a hard copy of an e-mail hand-delivered to Wildrose, Lukaszuk circulated a memo to the Premier and cabinet on Nov. 29, 2013 to have their press secretaries “gather information about active FOIP requests which have the potential to generate media, session, political or other reputational issues for the government.” The memo also asked the information be forwarded to his office by noon on Fridays.
Wildrose Leader Danielle Smith said this is clearly political interference in the Freedom of Information process.
“Last week, Premier Hancock promised Albertans that no member of his government was undermining the integrity of the Freedom of Information process. Obviously, that is not true,” Smith said. “The reason we have a free and independent Freedom of Information process is precisely to avoid this kind of perception that information is being managed and possibly suppressed. The fact that the former Deputy Premier is actively inserting himself and political staff across government into this process is disturbing.”
The e-mail is from a privacy officer in Service Alberta advising colleagues of changes made to three cross-ministry FOIP requests. It mentions the Lukaszuk memo and says Service Alberta will look into his request.
“I can only hope that this project didn’t get off the ground,” Smith said. “But if Mr. Lukaszuk is regularly receiving briefings from his political advisors on what information is being requested and released, then we have a serious problem with the independence and integrity of the Freedom of Information process.”