On the heels of the BC government’s triple-delete scandal, CKNW has learned the province’s finance minister doesn’t ‘do’ email.
In response to a freedom of information request, Mike DeJong’s staff says there’s no correspondence to share because the Minister “does not participate in email,” and that it’s his “longstanding practice,” to correspond only on paper.
I noticed when this news broke this morning a lot of people pounced saying “it’s the government trying to hide things from us” or “it’s dishonest” but a few supporters too.
Even on CKNW.com one listener wrote “This is purely a matter of choice or preference and not a deceptive practice like some media might infer.” And “Absolutely nothing wrong with not using email and I am a little envious, it is hard for most to grasp that he can function in the modern world without email.”
Hey I get it’s natural for us to think this is a way for politicians to hide something from taxpayers. But you need to take into account a few things.
De Jong has been in BC politics since 1994.
E-mail was still in its office infancy in 1994, so it was likely that most government business was done via paper. And he has.
As his office stated in their response stated “it’s de Jong’s “longstanding practice” to require correspondence on paper, rather than email.”
There is zero expectation for him to use e-mail, zero, no rules state he has to use e-mail for government business.
However there is an expectation that he keep all correspondence with his office and ministry.
We reached out to the media contact for Mike de Jong today, his name is Jamie Edwardson.
He told us that each cabinet minister has 4-6 staff helping them with day-to-day stuff.
- Two chiefs of staff
- One administrative coordinator
- One executive assistant
- One ministerial assistant
- One administrative assistant
Jamie says everything the Minister does is “rigorously documented” and he keeps a paper trail on every decision he makes. When making decisions, he uses binders full of information including documents, briefing notes, and a formal briefing process.
He would legally need to keep all of that, so how is that any different from e-mail?
With six staff e-mailing each other back and forth on a daily basis about Mike’s schedule and meetings and questions, it’s reasonable to expect there is also an e-mail trail of those discussions.
So why are some people gasping with disgust here?
He’s 52, he’s just like my dad and cell phones, he just chose not to use one.
Some people are admitted Luddites, Mike is likely one of them.
Jamie also confirmed to us that yes, Mike doesn’t currently have a smart phone, but for year he still had a flip phone.
Let me tell you, that speaks volumes as to the level of Luddite he is.
Some lawyers don’t use e-mail, they like stacks of paper to go through. I know some CEO’s that rarely use e-mail. They like things on paper.
I worked for one GM that kept both a paper trail and an electronic trail. Sure it’s a waste of paper. But people choose to work the way that they feel makes them more productive.
This doesn’t change anything, you can still FOI physical documents, and his office has very clearly stated to us that everything is “rigorously documented.”
If you don’t like the guy’s politics that’s one thing. But this is a personal choice, he feels more comfortable working with a literal paper trail.
One skeptical journalists at CKNW while over hearing me talk about how I would present this tonight said to me, “he’d know where all the bodies are buried.”
Well. Anyone can find out where the bodies are buried… you just need to know what you’re looking for when you file an FOI.
E-mail – a literal paper, paper trails have to be kept of both. And when the B.C. government has been caught not keeping trails the media has repeatedly called them out on it.
Be it the e-mail deletion scandal, or the health firings scandal, we’ll always find out. Then that becomes the opportunity to say where’s the trail on this?
This is not one of those times, if anything this is a snapshot of how one person chooses to work.