N.B. minister accused of violating resident's privacy

The Opposition is calling for the resignation of a Liberal cabinet minister accused of violating the privacy rights of a Fredericton-area woman.

Opposition calls on Bernard LeBlanc to resign over email to kennel owner

The Opposition is calling for the resignation of a Liberal cabinet minister accused of violating the privacy rights of a Fredericton-area woman.

In November, an email sent from then-minister of local government Bernard Leblanc's account identified Nancy Allen as the individual who complained to the government about a kennel owner who was mistreating her dogs. The dogs were subsequently seized by the SPCA.

Allen denies that she was the one behind the complaint but says the minister's actions will deter people from reporting problems to authorities.

"They're not going to want to do it if they think their name is going to be revealed," Allen said.

"But what tops the whole cake here is that I didn't do it, so that makes it even worse."

The SPCA seized more than 60 dogs from Saltbox Kennel near St. Stephen in Charlotte County in 2005. The owner of the kennel, Wendy Weeks, who is Allen's sister, initially pleaded not guilty to charges of failing to provide adequate food, water, shelter and veterinary care for the dogs but in April 2006, changed her plea to guilty.

A provincial court judge barred her from owning any animals for two years.

Last year, Weeks demanded the province reveal who complained about her.

An email sent to Weeks from LeBlanc's government account in November 2009 identified Nancy Allen as the complainant.

"I feel like you can't trust anybody," said Allen.

A statement issued Wednesday night by Bonny Hoyt-Hallett, deputy minister of local government, said LeBlanc did not approve or even know about the email sent to Weeks.

Departmental staff received several emails from Weeks in October and November 2009 enquiring about the dog seizure, the statement said. One of these emails named an individual, alleging that person was the complainant. That name was then "inadvertently" included in a subsequent email back to Weeks, the statement said.

The statement didn't explicitly name Weeks or Allen and didn't confirm whether Allen was the complainant.

Government investigating

Allen declined to say how she found out about the email from LeBlanc's account, but she showed it to her MLA, Conservative Carl Urquhart.

"Every New Brunswicker has got to be protected [if] reporting criminal offences," Urquhart said.

"Whether she was the person that reported it, whether she wasn't the person that reported it, her rights have been violated by a minister."

LeBlanc, who is now the justice minister, wouldn't speak to reporters on Wednesday.

Liberal house leader Greg Byrne said the government is investigating.

"Government believes it's important to respect confidentiality, but again, as to whether there was a particular breach of the [privacy] legislation, let's look at the facts first," he said.

Allen said she received an apology from the government two weeks ago.

She said she's not sure whether LeBlanc should resign, as the opposition suggests.

Hoyt-Hallett said she plans to "tighten" the department of local government's protocols about correspondence and email.