'I mistyped': Saskatoon MLA Eric Olauson regrets ordering background check on constituent

Saskatoon University MLA Eric Olauson has been dropped from the Meewasin Valley Authority board and ordered to apologize to a constituent after an email revealed he planned to do a background check before replying to her correspondence.

Premier's office calls email an 'error in judgment'

Saskatoon University MLA Eric Olauson said he "made a very bad mistake" when he ordered a background check on constituent Heather Landine, who was accidentally looped in on the email directive. (CBC News)

Saskatoon University MLA Eric Olauson has apologized to a constituent after an email revealed he planned to do a background check before replying to her correspondence.

Olauson has also been dropped from the Meewasin Valley Authority board.

"I apologized to her unreservedly and um, and yeah, I made a mistake," Olauson told reporters at the legislature on Tuesday afternoon.

Olauson promised 'epic' response 

On March 28, Olauson's office replied to an email from Saskatoon woman Heather Landine, who had written to the MLA to raise concerns about cuts to libraries and grants-in-lieu in the provincial budget. 

"Research her in compass," said the email, which was signed "E."

"Don't reply to her about that protest. I will once I know more about her.  And it will be epic."

Compass is a Saskatchewan Party database used to maintain its lists of supporters.

A subsequent email to the constituent, signed by Olauson, says "I obviously sent this to the wrong person." It encourages the constituent to give him a call about the budget.

Landine says background check was 'abuse of power'

Landine said she was shocked by the tone of the email. 
Heather Landine used Facebook to share her experience writing to Saskatoon University MLA Eric Olauson about cuts to libraries and grants in lieu of property taxes. (Facebook)

"It was such a flippant statement that it really did take a couple of read-throughs to properly assess what I had read," said Landine. 

"I had a hard time believing that my MLA was going to be so condescending to me over legitimate questions."

Landine called Olauson's directive to research her "an abuse of power". Instead of following Olauson's suggestion to call him, she said she forwarded the email to the Saskatchewan Party chief of staff and to the NDP.  She also wrote about what happened on social media. 

'I mistyped'

Olauson denied he ordered the background check to find out if Landine was a Saskatchewan Party supporter. 

He said he "mistyped" when he wrote the word "compass", saying he meant to ask his office to check if he had any previous correspondence with Landine. 

Olauson said he regretted writing that his response to Landine would be "epic," saying it was "obviously not a good word to use."

"What I meant by epic, it was a flippant word, a flippant way to phrase things and the tone was wrong. What I meant was it was going to be a very long email."

He said his office didn't usually do background checks before replying to emails from constituents.

Government orders apology

A statement from the provincial government said the Saskatchewan Party MLA's email was "clearly an error in judgment" and that it was not the practice of MLAs to do background checks before replying to constituents.

"It was inappropriate of Mr. Olauson to do so," said the government in an emailed statement.

"This situation has been discussed with Mr. Olauson and [he] has been instructed to phone the individual and apologize."

A snapshot of Eric Olauson's Facebook page taken in 2013, when he was a Saskatoon City Councillor. (Facebook image submitted by NDP)

Email follows social media gaffe

The March 28 email is not the first time Olauson has landed in hot water over a digital gaffe. 

In August 2016, the Sask. Party told him to stay off social media after "liking" a controversial social media post.

The post, overlaid on an image of Dos Equis' spokesperson the Most Interesting Man in the World, reads "I don't always slap the shit out of Justin Trudeau supporters … but when I do, I blame climate change."   

A Sask. Party spokesperson confirmed at the time that Olauson had been asked to stop making social media posts, and had also been removed from an internal committee position after concerns were raised.

Olauson also drew criticism for a screengrab of his Facebook page from 2013. It showed that he "liked" pages called Boobszone and Cold Dead Hands, an American page devoted to gun rights. 

With files from CBC's Stefani Langenegger and Josh Lynn