Top News

Green motion for investigation into missing P.E.I. e-gaming documents passes

Opposition Leader Peter Bevan-Baker speaks before a vote on a motion creating a Special Committee to investigate government document retention practices. The motion was introduced after a Privacy Commissioner report found the government had breached the Archives and Records Act.
Opposition Leader Peter Bevan-Baker speaks before a vote on a motion creating a Special Committee to investigate government document retention practices. The motion was introduced after a Privacy Commissioner report found the government had breached the Archives and Records Act. - Stu Neatby

An opposition motion calling for the creation of a special committee to investigate the absence of internal government records related to the e-gaming saga narrowly passed on Tuesday night, after Liberal and Green MLAs outvoted the government bench.

The motion passed almost two weeks after the Province announced an independent investigator would be looking into the findings of a scathing report by the Information and Privacy Commissioner. The report found that years of archived e-mails, related to a government employee involved in the e-gaming file, could not be found, which amounted to a violation of the Archives and Records Act. The documents were the subject of a Freedom of Information (FOIPP) request.

Tuesday’s motion, introduced by Opposition Leader Peter Bevan-Baker, called for a Special Committee to investigate records retention in government, as well as the findings of the Information Privacy Commissioner.

While in opposition, the PCs had vocally pursued questions related to transparency related to the e-gaming records. But in a bizarre twist, the Opposition motion passed 14 to 12, with all members of both Liberals and Greens voting in favour and all Progressive Conservative MLAs voting against.

The failed e-gaming initiative was an attempt to establish P.E.I. as a regulatory hub for online gambling during the Liberal Robert Ghiz government. A lawsuit related to one of the contractors involved in the initiative has been twice dismissed in P.E.I. courts, although a decision on an appeal is pending.

Green Opposition leader Peter Bevan-Baker introduced the motion, arguing that a special standing committee would conduct the investigation in full public view.

“A special committee is, I would say, the only way to re-establish public trust in our records retention systems and to finally find out the answer to that now infamous question: Who deleted the emails?” Bevan-Baker said.

Several government MLAs argued that two existing Standing Committees – Public Accounts and Education and Economic Growth – already have the power to investigate the matter.

Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy Minister Steven Myers  has announced the reopening of a fund created to support individuals ineligible for other COVID-19 relief funds. The fund will be focused on assistance for intenational students and non-profits. - Stu Neatby
Transportation, Infrastructure and Energy Minister Steven Myers has announced the reopening of a fund created to support individuals ineligible for other COVID-19 relief funds. The fund will be focused on assistance for intenational students and non-profits. - Stu Neatby

 

Transportation Minister Steven Myers said he had asked between 800 and 1,000 questions about the e-gaming affair while in opposition. But he voted against the motion.

“I support the intent of what you’re doing, 100 per cent,” Myers told Bevan-Baker.

“The method, I don’t support. But I would gladly see it go to committee and get dealt with. I just think use the appropriate committee.”

The debate took a bitter tone as the minutia of parliamentary mechanisms became sticking points.

At one point, several Green MLAs, including Bevan-Baker, walked out of the Legislative Assembly as Myer was speaking, at length, about the motion.

Later, a Green amendment that would allow investigation to be conducted by any standing committee was defeated. Another vote on whether to conclude debate produced a tie, a first for the minority King government. Speaker Colin LaVie voted with government, opting to not stifle legislative debate.

On Tuesday, Premier King referred to the motion as an attempt to make “partisan political hay” and said he believed it set an inappropriate mandate for a Standing Committee.

“It’s not that I don’t support the intent, I do wholeheartedly,” King said of the motion.

“I want this Legislative Assembly, Mr. Speaker, to get out of the business of instructing Standing Committees.”

The motion will go before the legislative Committee on Committees to determine the course forward for this special committee.

In an interview, Bevan-Baker said he was motivated to introduce the motion more by transparency concerns about the FOIPP process and public document retention than by the specifics of what may be uncovered related to the e-gaming initiative.

"It was to create an accountability framework that is going to be in place for all future governments," Bevan-Baker said.

RELATED:

Did this story inform or enhance your perspective on this subject?
1 being least likely, and 10 being most likely

Recent Stories