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Liberals give Tories back some of 
their documents

[PoliticsWatch updated 5:30 p.m. March 26, 2007]

The Liberals returned 10 boxes of documents Monday that the Conservatives left in the opposition leader's office after moving to the PMO last year.

OTTAWA  — The Liberals returned 10 boxes of what they say are "confidential" Conservative party records to the Prime Minister's Office on Monday. 
 
The 10 boxes are about half of what the Tories left behind when they abandoned the opposition leader's office after last year's federal election. 

The Liberals say they will continue to examine the contents of the remaining boxes of documents. 
 
A large throng of reporters and camera crews attended the Liberal press conference in the foyer of the opposition leader's office on Monday in anticipation of the Liberals announcing they had discovered scandalous material in the small mountain of documents the Liberals recently revealed they have had for months. 

With a budget released last week and the possibility of a federal election campaign this spring, reporters were expecting earth-shattering news. 

Instead, Liberal MPs Mark Holland and Marlene Jennings showed up along with a dolly loaded with 10 boxes of documents. The Liberals say the boxes contained 174 "confidential" performance evaluations of over 39 party staffers dating back more than 13 years to the Conservative Party's Reform Party days. 

This included evaluations of Tory MP Scott Reid and Carolyn Stewart-Olsen, who is now Prime Minister Stephen Harper's press secretary, that contains "very personal information," according to the Liberals.

"In our estimation, this represents gross negligence," said Holland. "It raises deep concerns about how this government deals with information."

After the press conference both Holland and Jennings brought reporters along as they walked two blocks in the rain pulling the dolly to the Prime Minister's Office to return the documents.  

A PMO official took the boxes, but the PMO now says the documents aren't theirs.

"The material doesn't belong to the prime minister," Sandra Buckler, the PM's director of communications, told PoliticsWatch. "The material predates his arrival as opposition leader. We will return the files to rightful owners.
The Liberals should do the same."

The Liberals discovered the documents in the research bureau that the Tories vacated "three months" after the election, according to Holland.

Holland said the Liberals didn't get around to sifting through the boxes of abandoned documents until recently because it was not a "priority" at the time.  

The Liberals incorrectly assumed the boxes contained nothing but garbage. 

"We would not in our wildest imaginings have believed they would have left information that was this personal in nature," Holland said. 

"It's amazing that the government could be so irresponsible with people's personal information," said Jennings. 

When contacted by PoliticsWatch.com, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada could not say whether the Conservatives may have breached any privacy laws for the handling of personal information. 

According to the Privacy Commissioner's Office, the commissioner oversees compliance with two federal privacy laws. The Privacy Act, which covers the personal information handling practices of federal departments and agencies, and the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), which covers the collection, use and disclosure of personal information in the course of commercial activities. 

"On the surface it's difficult to see, without knowing more about this particular set of circumstances, how either one of the two laws would apply," Anne-Marie Hayden, director of communications for the Privacy Commissioner. 

However, Hayden said individuals affected could contact the Privacy Commissioner's office for advice.

Meanwhile, Holland said the Liberals are keeping approximately 10 other boxes of documents the Tories left behind and only returned the personnel records. 
 
As for the remaining 10 boxes, Holland said the Liberals would continue to examine the contents to ascertain whether or not there's anything in them in the "public interest."

Last week, the Liberals first revealed the existence of the boxes of documents when they released what they say are "new" documents from 2000 that appear to discuss a financial compensation package for a Canadian Alliance MP who vacated his seat to allow then party leader Stockwell Day to run in a byelection. 

After showing the documents to their lawyers, the Liberals sent the documents to the RCMP. 

Holland said the Liberals are still finding information among the documents related to that particular controversy. 

: Related Links

> Day riding documents found in treasure Tories left in Opposition leader's office

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