Alberta election 2015: Shredding government documents

Documents are being shredded at the Alberta Legislature as the Tories prepare to hand power to the NDP. But there's a difference between legal shredding and not-legal shredding, says an official with the province's information watchdog.

Government must follow strict rules during transition to new regime

Documents are being shredded at the Alberta Legislature as one political party prepares to hand the reins of power to another — a process that hasn't happened in the province in more than four decades.

But compared to 1971 when the Social Credit Party made way for the upstart Progressive Conservatives, government departments have more rules today about preserving documents, says Scott Sibbald who speaks for Alberta's office of the information and privacy commissioner.

"Determining such things as what information must be kept, how long it must be kept for, if and when it can be destroyed or if it will be provided to the provincial archives," he said.

Sibbald says anyone in government who has concerns about records being destroyed improperly has the right to file a complaint with commissioner Jill Clayton.

"She can open an investigation to ensure compliance with rules relating to the destruction of records if there is indeed a question whether that is not being complied with," he said.

Rules around shredding

But while each department has guidelines to protect government documents, the rules are muddier for political documents in ministerial offices, says Stephen Carter, who was chief of staff to former premier Alison Redford.

For example, policy proposals that have never been developed are fair game for the shredder.

"Chances are that's going to get shredded because that's an idea you're not going to give the next guy," he said.

"It's not a sensitive document in the sense that we would view 'the public has a right to know.' It's a sensitive document insofar as the politics of the situation."

A transition date for the swearing in of Alberta's new NDP government has not yet been set.