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Photos of shredded documents in Legislature Building prompt fears of PC document destruction spree

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Jill Clayton

If serious document destruction has actually been taking place in Alberta, chances are good it happened well before Albertans marked their ballots, let alone before their votes were counted.

For one thing, if the outgoing Progressive Conservative government led by Jim Prentice had access to quality public opinion polling -- as it most certainly did -- it would have been pretty obvious to it a few days before May 5 what was going to transpire on that day, and that the likely beneficiary would be Rachel Notley's New Democratic Party.

For another, nowadays documents are not destroyed with paper shredders as effectively as with their digital equivalents -- giant horseshoe magnets or something.

Just the same, it was the sight of bags of shredded documents in the hallways of the Legislature Building that seems to have set off a flurry of activity yesterday, with Alberta's Freedom of Information Commissioner Jill Clayton and Public Interest Commissioner Peter Hourihan holding a joint news conference in the morning to say they'd be investigating complaints that records were being improperly destroyed at Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development.

For her part, Premier Designate Notley asked the province’s top civil servant to order a halt to all document destruction forthwith.

The facts the photos were circulating on social media and the public is in a cynical and distrustful mood about the outgoing PCs spurred everyone to respond to the reports with a certain amount of gravitas.

Seriously, though, with the PCs securely in power for close to half a century, you can count on it that some of the most outrageous deals were done with a nudge, a wink and no written records whatsoever -- over gins and tonics in the clubhouses of pricey Rocky Mountain golf resorts and the like.

So it was a bit unrealistic for incoming Wildrose Opposition Leader Brian Jean to bleat that Notley didn’t act quickly enough when the official final vote counts won't even be completed and announced until tomorrow.

Then again, you can hardly blame the Wildrosers for trying to establish the narrative that they're on the ball, looking out for Alberta taxpayers, while getting us to forget that their caucus has about the same proportion of inexperienced MLAs as that of the new government.

Alberta Party Leader Greg Clark, that party's only MLA, joined in too, having already told the media he'd be submitting numerous Freedom of Information and Privacy information requests in hopes of stopping the shredding, not that it's clear how that would stop a determined document destroyer.

Voters can take comfort from the fact everyone -- except perhaps the small Legislative cadre of PC survivors -- is anxious to uncover as much Tory dirt as possible from the past 44 years, and moreover that there’s too much stuff that happened over a span of time that long for all records to have been destroyed in a few days.

If the Notley Government wants advice on where to start looking, it could always call the CBC's estimable investigative journalist Charles Rusnell, who has made a career of uncovering records the former government would have been just as happy to leave undisturbed.

This post also appears on David Climenhaga's blog, AlbertaPolitics.ca.

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