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This article was published 12/5/2017 (1013 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
NDP justice critic Andrew Swan demanded Friday that Premier Brian Pallister use only government email and phones to communicate on business from his vacation home in Costa Rica.
It would be a reasonable use of public money to ensure the security of any government business the premier conducts while out of the country, Swan said.
"That would be common sense that you would use government email for government business," he said.
Swan wants Pallister to follow Saskatchewan Premier Brad Wall’s example and agree to stop using his private email for government-related communications. Earlier this week, the Saskatchewan NDP obtained documents showing Wall used private email to correspond on government matters.
Wall initially defended the practice, arguing that the private accounts were secure and that he would continue to use them. But within hours, a spokeswoman from Wall’s office issued a statement that said the Saskatchewan premier would use government email going forward.
"Premier Wall recognized that he was wrong and Premier Pallister should do the same," Swan said. "I’m calling on Premier Pallister to do the same thing."
Pallister wouldn’t directly respond to Swan Friday, but his office said the premier is looking into ways to make his communications more secure.
"As has already been stated, measures are in place to ensure regular communication between the premier and senior staff at all times, including necessary briefings on urgent or emergent topics," said Olivia Billson, Pallister’s press secretary.
"Those arrangements are, by necessity, not divulged in detail to ensure proper security and confidentiality of information and persons, which is our primary concern.
"We have also asked the clerk of executive council to assess what additional measures can be put in place to protect and enhance the security of government communications and information across government.
"We will work with experts, and look at best practices in other jurisdictions, to ensure that the Government of Manitoba has in place effective methods and protocols for ensuring secure communications and protecting confidential government information while ensuring ongoing high standards of transparency and accountability," Billson continued.
"We also look forward to hearing the advice and recommendations from Manitoba’s Ombudsman on this matter."
Not only is it common sense, Swan said, but, "It’s subject to the laws of Manitoba, including FIPPA."
The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act provides access to government records.
Pallister and Swan have, in recent days, clashed regularly in question period, the premier’s estimates hearings and in contentious scrums over how and with whom Pallister communicates while in Costa Rica.
Swan has even cast doubt if Pallister works while on vacation, accusing him of being "unplugged."
Pallister has steadfastly refused to discuss his communications, insisting the security of information is paramount to him. The premier has said he uses a variety of methods and has multiple email accounts.
"He becomes incredibly defensive," Swan said.
The New Democrat MLA said it would be reasonable for taxpayers to cover Pallister’s government communication costs while on vacation. When he was justice minister and went to New Mexico for an international meeting of provincial and state officials, Swan said, he bought a phone plan to cover his costs.
Corporate communications officers with Bell MTS would not say Friday how much costs might be for a plan linking the premier’s office and Costa Rican vacation home, but pointed to the company’s website to describe a variety of bundles.
The Bell MTS website lists plans for residential landlines that would provide calling to a landline in Costa Rica from anywhere from five cents to 88 cents a minute, and calls to a cellphone in Costa Rica from 49 to 88 cents a minute.
Updated on Friday, May 12, 2017 at 12:09 PM CDT: New tile photo added.
4:13 PM: Writethrough
May 13, 2017 at 7:42 AM: Edited