Edmonton

Independent MLA Thomas Dang says he won't run again, or seek to rejoin the NDP

Beleaguered Edmonton MLA Thomas Dang, who is in legal trouble after admitting to testing the security of Alberta’s COVID-19 vaccine information portal, says he won’t run for re-election.

Dang is facing a charge of improperly accessing information after admitting to website hack

Alberta MLA Thomas Dang says he won't run for re-election after admitting to hacking into Alberta's COVID-19 vaccination records website. (Travis McEwan/CBC)

Beleaguered Edmonton MLA Thomas Dang, who is in legal trouble after admitting to testing the security of Alberta's COVID-19 vaccine information portal, says he won't run for re-election.

In a statement Thursday, Dang, the MLA for Edmonton-South, said he is no longer seeking to rejoin the NDP caucus, after the party asked him to leave in December.

"Given the lengthy nature of the investigation and proceedings into my actions related to the security test I performed on the Government of Alberta's COVID-19 Vaccination Records website, I believe my continued candidacy for the Alberta NDP distracts from the important work ahead," Dang's statement said.

Dang left the NDP caucus in December, after the RCMP searched his south Edmonton home related to a cyber attack on the vaccine portal website.

Three months later, Dang released a document describing how he used encryption tools to hack into the website after a constituent told him the website was insecure.

Dang has a background in computer science and cybersecurity.

At the time, he said he was trying to generate proof of the government website's vulnerabilities before alerting the province.

Court documents unsealed earlier this month after a Crown application showed that soon after the website launched, it came under a "brute force attack" and Dang's program ran 1.78 million queries on the site between Sept. 19 and 23.

The court records said Dang used his own personal information, his partner's information, and later, Premier Jason Kenney's birth date to try and retrieve records from the system.

Dang has said as soon as he obtained a stranger's record, he immediately shut down the program, and told NDP caucus staff about the problem.

Caucus staff relayed the information to the health minister's office, but did not say that it came from Dang.

Dang youngest Alberta MLA when first elected 

RCMP spent months investigating the security breach. In June, police charged Dang with illegally attempting to access private information in contravention of the Health Information Act. It's not a criminal charge, but could result in a fine of up to $200,000.

Dang is scheduled to appear in court next Wednesday.

In a statement Thursday, NDP leader Rachel Notley confirmed Dang had withdrawn his request to rejoin caucus, and had told the party executive he was no longer seeking the nomination for the riding.

"I am committed to electing an exceptional Alberta NDP MLA in Edmonton-South as part of a government that will focus on helping families through this cost-of-living crisis, creating good-paying jobs, and repairing our public healthcare system," Notley's statement said.

At an unrelated news conference Wednesday, Notley said she knew in September that Dang had tested the website, but not the lengths to which he had gone to expose its vulnerabilities.

At age 20, Dang was the youngest MLA ever elected to the Alberta legislature when voters chose him in 2015.

He said in his statement he will serve the rest of his term as an independent MLA. The next provincial general election date is set for May 29, 2023.

Community organizer Rhiannon Hoyle said earlier this month she will run for the NDP nomination in Edmonton-South.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Janet French

Provincial affairs reporter

Janet French covers the Alberta Legislature for CBC Edmonton. She previously spent 15 years working at newspapers, including the Edmonton Journal and Saskatoon StarPhoenix. You can reach her at janet.french@cbc.ca.

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