Civil servant suspended for e-mail
April 04, 2007
Edition Name: Final
Page: A1 / Front
EDMONTON - A government employee who sent a derogatory e-mail to a pro-Canadian Wheat Board website has been suspended for two months without pay, a source familiar with the file said Tuesday.
The e-mail was sent last month from a government computer to Save My CWB, a website that advocates for the board and its monopoly on wheat and barley sales.
The message -- which was sent from a personal e-mail account -- calls supporters of the wheat board 'total communists' who should 'go back to school and get a job that pays.'
It later goes on to question, in bizarre terms, those communist inclinations.
"Like, do the mothers on your commune pass the newborns around in a circle so everyone breast feeds everyone's kid? Sooo creepy.'
Website technicians traced the message back to an Alberta Agriculture domain name.
Approached outside the legislature, Agriculture Minister George Groenveld refused comment on the issue. Premier Ed Stelmach also declined to talk about it, citing privacy concerns.
"All I can say is that the person has been dealt with," Stelmach said.
Liberal MLA Hugh MacDonald said the two-month penalty isn't tough enough.
"To me, it's still a firing offence," MacDonald said. "It was a poor reflection on the civil service, a poor reflection on the government and a poor reflection on the entire province.'
MacDonald said a strong message needs to be sent to government employees that such behaviour is unacceptable.
Dave Eggen, the NDP agriculture critic, said the penalty is sufficient. But he said the employee had reason to feel surprised by her bosses' reaction.
"This person was probably reflecting the attitude that existed in the agriculture department and in the Tory caucus for a long time,' Eggen said.
Ken Sigurdson, the Manitoba farmer who runs the Save My CWB website, agreed that the provincial government's 'irresponsible, reactionary view really makes this kind of stuff happen.'
The Alberta government has long opposed the Canadian Wheat Board's monopoly on wheat and barley sales in the West. They would prefer to give farmers a choice of how to market their grain.
Since 2003, the government has spent about $1.1 million on a 'Choice Matters' ad campaign, which advocates elimination of the board's monopoly.
The Canadian Wheat Board is under federal government control. The new Conservative government has promised to end its monopoly, but hasn't set a timeline for doing so.
Last month, about two-thirds of 29,000 farmers voted to end the board's monopoly on barley sales.