Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley promoted former NDP MLA Thomas Dang to the party’s Democracy and Ethics critic role, even while the Official Opposition was aware he hacked the provincial Covid-19 vaccine records one month earlier, True North has learned.

Dang was charged in June under the province’s Health Information Act for illegally attempting to access private information contained in the Alberta Health vaccine portal in September 2021. He faces a fine of $200,000 if convicted.

Dang has said he accessed the site to test vulnerabilities on the newly launched Alberta Health vaccine portal, and upon finding one — and uncovering a woman’s healthcare number in the process — he informed NDP chief of staff Jeremy Nolais and NDP director of communications Benjamin Alldritt, court documents show. 

He was promoted to the critic portfolio one month later, in October, until he left the party to sit as an Independent MLA once the RCMP began investigating his actions in December.

“The fact Rachel Notley promoted Thomas Dang to be her democracy and ethics critic just one month after her office knew about his nefarious and illegal hacking tells you everything about how brazenly unethical the NDP has become under her watch,” United Conservative Party chief government whip Brad Rutherford said in a statement to True North. 

“We’ve seen it for years now – the Notley NDP will say and do anything for a vote, while holding themselves to no standards whatsoever.”

In September, a constituent contacted Dang with concerns about potential vulnerabilities on the vaccine portal. Dang used Premier Jason Kenney’s birth date and vaccination dates, which are publicly available, to crack the site’s privacy safeguards.

Between Sept. 19 and 23, Dang’s computer program made 1.78 million queries using Kenney’s personal information. Dang admitted to RCMP the queries were randomly generated guesses aimed at revealing the premier’s health care number.

Court documents first unsealed by the CBC refer to Dang’s attempts as a “brute force attack.”

On Sept. 23, Dang successfully uncovered a women’s health-care number using Kenney’s birthdate. The information belonged to a woman sharing the premier’s date of birth and vaccine month.

Dang ran two subsequent manual tests to verify. Court documents say he then notified Nolais and Alldritt, who sent an email to Alberta Health communications director Steve Buick.

Alldritt didn’t say Dang was the informant, but referred to the MLA as a “party.”

“It’s possible that this is a prank, but their tone seems genuinely concerned. Hopefully the dept can look into this ASAP,” he said in an email, according to the CBC.

One month later, Dang was given a critic title.

Alldritt declined to comment when contacted by True North on Wednesday, other than to say, “Unfortunately we don’t have dealings with True North.”

The RCMP was initially pursuing criminal charges against Dang, but those have been dropped. Dang has said he wants to return to the NDP caucus.

Dang did not immediately respond for comment from True North on Thursday.

Author

  • Rachel Emmanuel

    Rachel is a seasoned political reporter who’s covered government institutions from a variety of levels. A Carleton University journalism graduate, she was a multimedia reporter for three local Niagara newspapers. Her work has been published in the Toronto Star. Rachel was the inaugural recipient of the Political Matters internship, placing her at The Globe and Mail’s parliamentary bureau. She spent three years covering the federal government for iPolitics. Rachel is the Alberta correspondent for True North based in Edmonton.

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