Yukon Party accuses Liberals of interfering with access to information requests

Yukon's opposition party says the premier's top political staff interfered in responses to access to information requests directed to the Executive Council Office.

Opposition says internal emails show Executive Council Office staffers discussing ATIPP Act requests

Yukon Party MLA Brad Cathers said documents showed the premier's two most senior staff were 'proposing paths forward such as denying the release of information.' (Claudiane Samson/Radio-Canada)

Yukon's opposition party is accusing the premier's top political staff of interfering in responses to access to information requests directed to the Executive Council Office.

But Premier Sandy Silver says the official opposition is misrepresenting the facts.

The opposition Yukon Party tabled an email in the Legislative Assembly on Tuesday they say show the premier's staffers being provided briefings on open requests to the Access to Information and Protection of Privacy (ATIPP) Act.

The Yukon Party later provided additional emails to the media.

The Yukon Party says the emails show staff providing direction and approval on how to fulfil the requests.

The staffers include chief of staff David Morrison and principal secretary Janet Moodie, along with the deputy minister, some assistant deputy ministers and advisors and directors both inside and outside the Executive Council Office. 

"I know from my time as a minister that when it came to anything to do with ATIPPs, it was a definite no-fly zone. We were to avoid it at all costs," said Stacey Hassard, Yukon Party leader, speaking to reporters later. 

Brad Cathers, Yukon Party MLA for Lake Laberge, told the Legislature the tabled document showed the premier's two most senior staff were being briefed on how ATIPP requests were being processed. He said they were "proposing paths forward such as denying the release of information, and scheduling face-to-face meetings with senior officials to discuss the information contained in these documents."

One of the emails provided to the media, sent from the ATIPP coordinator in February 2017 to seven high-level staffers, including Morrison and Moodie, says 10 new ATIPP requests were received. It says they are compiled into an attachment for their review. 

Another email, from acting director of finance Jessica Schultz in March 2017, provides a "status update" to each of the 10 ATIPP requests in an attachment. It says they will be reviewed at a morning meeting.

One of the emails provided to media. (Yukon Party)

Other emails discuss who is responsible for what, where certain requests should go, and possible powers for public bodies to disregard ATIPP requests.

The Yukon Party's press secretary says the documents were obtained by filing their own an ATIPP request to the Executive Council Office. The party says the request was prompted by references the premier made to knowing that certain ATIPP requests were from the opposition.

The Yukon Party spent much of Question Period on Tuesday grilling Silver on alleged political interference.

Hassard asked Silver if he directed political staff to "interfere," and if he would permit his staff to give direction on how to interpret or process ATIPP requests.

Cathers demanded to know who in the Liberal cabinet knew about the alleged interference, and what other purpose there could have been for senior staff tracking the requests. He also asked the premier to confirm whether political staff ever directed the ATIPP coordinator to withhold or delay the release of information, or sought the identity of a requester.

Silver refused to comment on emails he said he hadn't seen, telling the Legislature his two senior staff have "a legacy of above-the-board behaviour."

Premier Sandy Silver says the official opposition is misrepresenting the facts. (CBC)

"I'm not going to take the Yukon Party on their interpretation of an email until I actually see that email."

In a written statement to CBC later on Tuesday, Silver said the email tabled in the Legislature contained nothing inappropriate and didn't breach the Act.

Corrections

  • A previous version of this story said the Yukon Party tabled emails and documents in the Legislature related to the ATIPP Act. In fact, the Yukon Party tabled one email, and later provided additional documents to the media .
    Nov 08, 2018 5:47 PM CT