E-mail fuss dogs Alta. premier hopeful

Tory leadership contender Ted Morton. (AL CHAREST/QMI AGENCY)

Tory leadership contender Ted Morton. (AL CHAREST/QMI AGENCY)

TANARA McLEAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:19 PM ET

EDMONTON - Leaked government documents allege that premier hopeful Ted Morton used an incognito e-mail address to avoid public scrutiny.

The office of the privacy commissioner has stated that a full investigation will be launched to determine whether Morton did anything wrong.

The allegations were made public Thursday, after the documents, leaked to the CBC, were published.

The first shows an e-mail from Morton's admitted alias, Frederick Lee, while he was Sustainable Resource and Development (SRD) minister between 2006 and 2008, detailing changes he wanted made to the now contentious land-use framework legislation.

The alias, Morton's given first and middle names, was used to communicate with SRD ministry staff. Morton said that practice of using a separate "internal" e-mail address is widely used amongst government officials.

"It's common practice, certainly at the federal level for ministers and MPs, to have a public e-mail where everybody who wants to communicate can reach you and then one or more internal e-mails for communications with staff," he told QMI Agency, adding that he believes taxpayers would rather have ministers working rather than checking "400-500 e-mails a day."

"They have staff to do that."

Premier Ed Stelmach also admits to having a separate e-mail account. He said the account adheres to the Freedom of Information Protection Act, and he would hope Morton's did as well.

"I would hope that whatever e-mails that have been transmitted fall within the same category and if it's not, the next premier can ask the (privacy) commissioner to review the policy and make sure that all e-mails are fully transparent to the Alberta public," Stelmach said.

The leaked documents also allege public government documents were destroyed after Morton left the ministry - all e-mail records deleted and paper records shredded.

Morton insists any information deleted was not public but "transitory" files, and the files were left for staff to take care of.

"I had no knowledge of any of that record keeping, I left it to the staff," Morton said. "The documents that were transitory were destroyed, and documents that were non-transitory were sent to the archives."

Fellow PC leadership contender Doug Horner said it is common practice to destroy transitory files, which are mostly personal notes.

"Transitory files are files that are not including discussions around policy. Things like you're supposed to meet your wife for lunch and that kind of thing," Horner said.

Morton's colleagues say they would like to believe he hasn't done anything wrong, but time and the investigation will tell.

"I would hate for this to taint the good reputation of a solid Albertan," Horner said.

"Let's give Ted the ability and the opportunity to respond to the allegations and I think if there has been a violation, and the commissioner wants to peruse an investigation, I hope he has some reason for (it)."

Liberal Leader David Swann said he will reserve his judgment until after the investigation, but the allegations worry him.

"I'm troubled buy the idea that we have eliminated records that would give information about his time in his ministerial duties," Swann said.

Although voting to replace Stelmach starts next week, Morton doesn't believe the allegations will hurt his chances.

"No, I think it's (allegations) really not much of a story," he said.

A first ballot vote to elect a new premier is slated for Sept 17.


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