Edmonton-South MLA Thomas Dang (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Thomas Dang, MLA for Edmonton-South, has been cleared by police and will face no charges for testing and reporting security vulnerabilities in Alberta’s embarrassingly hackable COVID-19 vaccination records website.

NDP Caucus Chair Joe Ceci (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Mr. Dang, who has been sitting in the Alberta Legislature as an Independent MLA since late last year, said in a statement this afternoon that as a result of the decision by the RCMP and Crown Prosecutors to drop the criminal investigation and lay no charges in what was in effect a whistleblowing case he has sent a letter to NDP Caucus Chair Joe Ceci seeking to immediately rejoin the Official Opposition in the Legislature.

“There is a lot of work to do,” he said in a statement sent to media this afternoon. “I am looking forward to applying my full attention and focus to the priorities of the people of Edmonton South.”

Mr. Dang informed the NDP Caucus and immediately resigned in December 2021 when he became aware of the RCMP investigation after he had informed the provincial Health Department, confusingly known as Alberta Health, of the vulnerability in its vaccination records website. 

“In September a concern was raised with me as a Member of the Legislative Assembly about the security of the vaccination record system,” he said at the time. “I tested these concerns and found that a security flaw did exist.”

“I immediately notified Alberta Health with the relevant information so that the vulnerability could be corrected. It was resolved shortly thereafter.”

NDP Opposition Leader and former Alberta premier Rachel Notley (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

Well, he should have known: In Alberta, no good deed goes unpunished! 

RCMP raided Mr. Dang’s home when he was out of town on a daytime skiing excursion. Opposition Leader Rachel Notley called a news conference after she was informed of the investigation and asked Mr. Dang to resign from caucus. “Our caucus has a longstanding policy that members under active police investigation will not sit in the caucus, and Thomas understands this,” she said.

Mr. Dang said he still expects to face a fine for contravening Section 107(2) of the Health Information Act, which has not yet been set or issued. 

Under the circumstances, the well-publicized investigation into what appeared to be an honest if misguided attempt to inform Alberta Health of a real problem, seemed peculiar, to say the least.

Whatever the intention of the investigators was, the raid and its attendant publicity sends the message that it is unwise to report security breaches that might embarrass the government. 

Regardless of what happens next, Conservatives who encounter similar situations with constituents will doubtless follow the advice of their late leader Ralph Klein, Alberta’s premier, to, metaphorically speaking, “shoot, shovel and shut up.” 

Dang vowed in today’s statement to continue to advocate for changes to Alberta’s information security and cyber defence systems. 

“We’re extremely vulnerable and the government does not have proper systems in place to identify, report, and manage these threats,” he said. “I will continue to advance solutions as an MLA so that all our personal and private information is made safe from malicious online actors.”

Meanwhile, the RCMP fraud investigation into the 2017 “Kamikaze campaign” to bring down United Conservative Party leadership candidate Brian Jean and elect Jason Kenney as leader of the then-new party is said to be continuing. Mr. Jean is now once again a candidate to lead the UCP.

Mr. Dang, who was 20 when he was first elected to the Alberta Legislature in 2015, can be grateful he didn’t have to wait years for a decision to be made in this case. 

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7 Comments

  1. Watching the UCP braintrust foaming at the mouth over this Dang “affair” was entertaining for anyone with a modicum of technical knowledge who knew this was all a nothingburger.

    Good thing the Untied Conservative Party can depend on their supporters.

  2. Dang’s situation, what transpired, and its outcome highlights nicely Notley’s tendency to over-react, over-punish, but under-reconcile every time something difficult happens to a caucus member. I remember of that instance, not long after the NDP were elected to government, where Notley ordered a member be suspended from the caucus for one year because of a photographic work she participated in that might be deemed offensive. That and what I read was a tongue-in-cheek but maybe homophobic posting on social media. While political parties in general freak out when ever something out of turn if found on social media, the response rarely meets the gravity of the situation. Posting a snide remark that can be easily misinterpreted is a far cry from stuff that is meant to inflame. Notley didn’t seem to know the difference and, I suspect, she compromised a lot of trust in the caucus as a result.

    In any case, I anticipate that Dang may not seek reelection. Political nonsense like what he endured is enough to make anyone walk away from public office for good.

  3. From what I can gather, Mr. Dang should perhaps have tried to follow proper channels… which, doubtless, did not exist at the time, so he is basically being punished for behaving morally* which is more common than you’d think. I thought the UCP acting all butthurt about it was BS theatre in real time and doubly so today, luckily for them their voters seem not to care about facts or reality. Funny thing is that the RCMP appears to have prioritized this investigation over the one into whether Kenney cheated to be elected leader of the UCP, which is… curious, to put it nicely. I thought the RCMP raid on buddy’s home was idiotic and hamfisted and smacked of political interference besides, but I guess they had to be seen to be doing something, or maybe the UCP wanted to be able to read media reports about a police raid? Personally I think that is likely. I wish the RCMP could be seen doing anything at all about the integrity of the UCPs leadership campaigns, but given the UCP is composed of conservatives who are overwhelmingly white, it is perhaps naive to expect a Canadian Police officer of any stripe to take allegations against them seriously.

    I respected Dr. Dang’s actions, and those of Notley and the NDP, at the time; immediately blowing the whistle on himself and accepting the consequences without melting down like a snowflake or sobbing about how unfairly persecuted they were. A lot of us could learn a thing or two.

    *Neat theory I came across, I forget where – the cost of moral behaviour is affected by supply. The fewer people behaving in a particular moral fashion, the greater the cost one can expect to pay for displaying that particular moral behaviour. The more people who are behaving in that particular moral fashion, the greater the cost they can expect to pay for *not* displaying that form of morality. As an example, politeness. If you go to New York city and be polite to everyone, you are going to get a very different reaction than if you are polite to everyone in Canada, and vice versa for rudeness.

  4. When the NDP do it, it’s “honest if misguided”, but of course, the UCP doesn’t get such a pass. Like the pass you should be giving Kenney for breaking the rules to save you from JEAN. Imagine the tone of these articles if Jean were to have run Berta during covid. Vaccines would have been against the law for anyone under 60. So, on behalf of you all, thank you Jason Kenney!

    1. Reading your comment, it seems you believe that Jason Kenney cheated to win the leadership, and that’s okay because otherwise things would have gone worse. Please correct me if I’m misinterpreting you.

      That ethic reduces politics from “reasonable adults who want a lot of the same things but have good faith disagreements about how to get them” to “an endless war of all against all.” What’s to stop everyone who disagrees with you from getting into the election rigging game, or, when push comes to shove, the “creating tyrants” game? The more people start playing those games, the more incentive their opponents have to do the same thing but to a greater extreme.

      The power to do the things you like is also the power to do the things you don’t like. You cannot create the precedent that power can be sized undemocraticlly without creating a future where someday someone you don’t like seizes power undemocratically.

  5. Of course there are long standing flaws in how confidential information is being processed and stored, in Alberta, and the UCP are oblivious to that fact. How Thomas Dang dealt with that, may have not been the best route, but it proved a valid point, nonetheless. We then have the head honcho of the UCP, still under investigation by the R.C.M.P for the way he ascended to the role of premier. What’s taking the R.C.M.P so long, to finish this investigation? The head honcho of the UCP wants the R.C.M.P replaced with a provincial police force, because he doesn’t want anyone challenging the UCP. Sounds like a dictatorship to me. Germany had that type of government in the 1930s. No one dared to question them, because if they did, severe punishment was a certainty. Also, a provincial police force can’t investigate the head honcho of the UCP. This is very pathetic.

  6. I suppose Mr. Dang has finally been vindicated. I always thought the response to what happened was a huge over reaction by AHS and the government. It seemed clear to me he was just trying to demonstrate the flaws and weaknesses of the system.

    Of course that was quite embarrassing to AHS and the government, hence the punitive, angry response and the distraction of an investigation against Mr. Dang. The response here is consistent with how whistle blowers often get punished, not thanked and the problems they bring up are minimized or dismissed.

    At least this investigation is now over, unlike the lengthy ongoing one into Kenney’s 2017 leadership race irregularities. I have to wonder why that is so drawn out and what the outcome will be. Of course, with Kenney on the way out the fear of retribution may have diminished somewhat now, however I suspect whoever takes over will probably be happy to try sweep it under the carpet, unless they are Brian Jean.

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