Questions raised over Dunderdale's blackout emails

James McLeod
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Opposition politicians are raising questions about how the premier's office operates, in the wake of a report from The Telegram on former-premier Kathy Dunderdale's emails from early January.

The government's response shows that in early January, Dunderdale only received 46 emails relating to the ongoing blackouts and power disruptions, and she sent zero emails on the subject.

David Brazil

Liberal MHA Andrew Parsons said that's just difficult to swallow.

"Forty-six emails is what you might get in a morning," Parsons said.

He estimated that in a day, he probably gets between 50 and 100 emails.

"I'm an opposition MHA, and this is the premier - the premier's office. I find that very hard to believe," he said.

New Democrat Leader Lorraine Michael also said she was getting many, many more emails every day between Jan. 1-8.

And she said she sent more emails, too.

"I read more than 46 emails during that time, and I responded to Facebook messages and to emails," Michael said. "It's not acceptable. Even if she didn't sit down and answer herself, there should have been a reply from her office."

One possible explanation for the curiously low number of emails is that Dunderdale and the officials communicating with her just weren't using email - or at least, they weren't using their government email accounts.

Last spring, MHA David Brazil tabled a document in the House of Assembly that inadvertently revealed two government workers communicating using email addresses.

The email that Brazil tabled in the legislature was between Denise King, Dunderdale's director of policy, to Mary Anne Dillon, Brazil's constituency assistant. Despite the fact that both women had government email addresses, they were communicating using Hotmail accounts instead.

At the time, when Dunderdale was asked whether officials were using non-government email accounts to avoid access to information requests, she said, "It's too silly to talk about."

Steve Kent, minister responsible for access to information, said that he's not aware of government staffers using non-government accounts.

"I don't receive government-related correspondence at my personal addresses. I keep it all very separate," he said. "I would suspect that others do the same."

Kent also said he received way more than 46 emails during the blackout crisis.

"I use email on a daily basis - more than a daily basis - I use it on an hourly basis," he said. "In terms of the premier's e-mail use, you would need to direct those questions to the premier's office."

Since Dunderdale resigned in late January, Kent and interim-Premier Tom Marshall have signalled that the government will be doing a comprehensive, independent review of access to information

But Parsons said he's skeptical about that.

"I don't think there's been any meaningful change. It's a lot of the same people there," he said. "There may have been a realization, they're trying to change some of the messaging that's coming there, but I don't know if it's a lot of smoke and mirrors."


Geographic location: Brazil

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Recent comments

  • Pauline
    March 05, 2014 - 13:30

    People if we are thinking our government is ( Corrupt & Unethical ) so why don't we do something about it. Lets demand our government to lets this young man from corner brook, to run for the leader of the PC's party, His name is Clarence Cantwell. so let get on his side. Or are we all wind and blow.

  • Elizabeth Regular
    March 05, 2014 - 13:21

    I sent her an e-mail questioning why our power bills was so high, hoping she would look into it but I got no responds. It was a great disappointment.

  • Crazy
    March 05, 2014 - 10:10

    @ Don j, If what you are saying is true, people after retiring , should be hold accountable for their action, shouldn't that also apply to Mr William? after all the Muskrat Falls was his baby, Just asking.

    • Keanman
      March 05, 2014 - 11:42

      The difference is there is no evidence that Mr. Williams or his office bypassed access to information regulations. There is evidence connecting the premier's office, even if she did not play a direct role. If the ex-premier or current premier can give one valid reason for using 3rd party email for government business, I'd LOVE to hear it.

    • W McLean
      March 05, 2014 - 12:33

      Keanman, you obviously never filed an ATIP during the Danny Williams-Government years.

    • W McLean
      March 05, 2014 - 12:42

      Keanman, you obviously never filed an ATIP during the Danny Williams-Government years.

  • Edward
    March 05, 2014 - 09:30

    As always, I'm sure there's more to the story. The author has a propensity to post stories first and get all the facts and answers later. It's a shame.

  • Don II
    March 05, 2014 - 09:14

    A corrupt and unethical Government will always find criminally creative, unethical, slick or unlawful ways to circumvent the law and to circumvent the Freedom of Information laws to avoid public and media scrutiny. The Government and its cronies want to achieve their nefarious and unethical goals without any oversight or transparency! The laws of Newfoundland and Labrador are not applied to the Government, town councils and well connected cronies but are enforced to the letter of the law against honest, hard working ordinary citizens!

  • Virginia Waters
    March 05, 2014 - 08:56

    Of course politicians and staffers are using non-government emails and other untracked social media whenever they send out something they'd rather not be scooped up in an ATIPPA request. The last decade has seen an enormous amount of communication within government go underground. What it demonstrates - aside from the contempt that politicians have for the people who elect them - is that the freedom of information legislation is a joke as a mechanism for keeping governments honest. It also shows what a spineless wuss we have as an information commissioner.

  • Graham
    March 05, 2014 - 08:50

    Mr Kent how short is your memory? Do you conveniently forget when YOU and an associate of yours used social media to manipulate some polls conducted by local media by voting hundreds of times a day. When it comes to manipulation Minister Kent you are the master manipulator. Enjoy it because after the next election you and the rest of the washed up PC party will be gone.

  • Don J.
    March 05, 2014 - 07:53

    First I would like to say to Scott R and Crazy that what people have done in the past should not be hidden. Dunderdale was the Premier and is accountable for things she has done even though she is retired. If we do not hold people accountable after retirement then all people have to do is to commit a crime and then retire just to avoid being prosecuted. Kathy Dunderdale and this government have failed us and it goes much deeper than the emails. MHAs are using private e-mails all the time to do business to hide comments. For example they all use Facebook to get a message out and this prompt people to use Facebook as a way to communicate. I brought this up to Tracey Perry, MHA and she tells me that Facebook is not subject to the rules of Bill 29. I reminded her that internal emails on Facebook is government business and has to be released. She deleted the comments, removed me from her Facebook page and disallows me to see government business that she advertise on Facebook. I have had an issue with the Justice 'Department and have sent emails via Facebook to Darin King and each time asked him to ensure the emails go to the file for future release. He removed the comments and he removed me from his Facebook page. This government does alot of business on other emails, on their Deputy's hotmail, I have done it. Also they communicate messages to people verbally and then later spin what was said. Dunderdale and her government has to be held accountable for their actions and what members of her government and some of their deputies have done to us. Because she is now collecting a pension does not remove her from her responsibilities. The truth is that many of her cabinet and her MHAs have done a lot of business using Facebook and hotmail and were told not to discuss it. I can understand that some people do not think this is happening and I did not either until I had to deal with Darin King and a deputy. It is unbelievable what they will do to people of this province to cover up for each other.

  • Joe
    March 05, 2014 - 07:33

    Hey Steve is this what the new PC leader will be doing? Responding to stories in the Telegram.

  • Scott R
    March 05, 2014 - 06:57

    Mrs Dunderdale is retired.. True.. And this is the best the liberal can come up with, Mr Parsons ...Tell the people where do Dwight and the liberal stand on Muskrat Falls?

  • Crazy
    March 05, 2014 - 06:38

    Mr Parsons are you saying there was something dishonest about the amount of e-mail our premier receive? Concerning that time frame? If that the case we can also say it would able to Mr Ball how he was elects to be the new leader of the Liberal party. Thing about technology, One can use its to their own advance...Wouldn't you say?

  • Fred
    March 05, 2014 - 06:27

    I'd say that Andrew Parsons could swallow just about anything.