Police allege McGuinty's chief of staff helped delete gas plant info
Ontario Provincial Police allege that former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty’s chief of staff hired a staffer’s boyfriend to wipe out government hard drives that contained information about the $1.1 billion gas plant scandal.
According to an OPP search warrant released Thursday, police are investigating David Livingston, McGuinty’s last chief of staff, on an allegation of breach of trust. The document alleges that Livingston gave the staffer’s boyfriend unrestricted access to 24 hard drives from the premier’s office to wipe them clean.
Police say in the document that they believe that an analysis of those hard drives will “afford evidence” of breach of trust.
The allegations have not been tested or proven in court.
Premier Kathleen Wynne said that “if true, these allegations are very disturbing.
“This is not the way a government should operate, this is not the way a premier’s office should conduct itself and it is not the way my office operates,” she told reporters in a brief statement Thursday afternoon. She did not take questions.
Wynne noted that Livingston never worked for her or her government, and said she has answered any questions about the gas plant scandal truthfully.
She also said that “my office and my government will continue to co-operate fully and to provide all information required” as the police investigation goes on.
The search warrant alleges that Livingston gave Peter Faist, identified as partner to McGuinty’s former deputy chief of staff Laura Miller, access to the drives. Police allege Faist was able to access the hard drives because Livingston gave him “the special global administrative right assigned to his executive assistant Wendy Wai.”
The search warrant asks for permission for investigators to retrieve the hard drives from a storage facility in Mississauga, Ont. Police obtained the hard drives earlier this year.
Police are looking for data including “communications in relation to the user account of Wendy Wai, ‘waiwe,’” device and software configuration settings, and passwords, encryption keys and access codes.
Investigators are also looking for “a timeline of activity in relation to pre-offence, offence and post offence usage of the device.”
In an email to CTV News, Livingston’s lawyer said his client “did nothing wrong and certainly did not break the law as alleged.
“He was consistently open about his actions in the Premier’s Office and he always believed that those actions were proper and in accordance with normal practices,” Brian Gover wrote.
“We are confident that a full review will show that the allegations are baseless.”
Political rivals speak out
The allegations have surfaced just before an anticipated spring budget that is expected to trigger another election.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, who has propped up the minority Liberal government by supporting its last two budgets, said she finds it “unbelievable” that Premier Kathleen Wynne was unaware of what was happening in her office.
She would not say, however, whether she will bring the government down over the latest allegations.
Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak urged Horwath to make what he called “the right decision.”
Horwath “can continue to stand and prop up a corrupt government and allow the province to be taken further and further down the wrong path,” Hudak told reporters Thursday afternoon. “Or she can stand with hard-working Ontarians that are tired of this corruption and say we need a change in our province.”
The Liberals cancelled and moved the gas plants planned for Oakville and Mississauga prior to the 2011 to save those two seats. The strategy worked.
However, police launched a criminal investigation last June after the PCs complained about missing emails and other documents pertaining to the plants.
McGuinty prorogued the legislature and resigned in the fall of 2012 as a contempt of parliament debate raged over the scandal. Wynne won the Liberals’ top job at a convention in January 2013 and was sworn in as premier on Feb. 11 of that year.
McGuinty has maintained that he never ordered the deletion of emails or documents, which Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian said by law should have been retained.
Wynne told reporters Thursday that her government has turned over more than 326,000 documents and emails related to the gas plant scandal, including 30,000 directly from her office, to the legislature’s justice committee.
Hudak said the new allegations raise questions about Wynne’s role in the scandal.
“Taxpayers deserve two very clear answers: number one, how much is this going to cost people for cancelling the gas plants, and number two, who ordered the cover-up and the criminal destruction of emails and documents related to the gas plant scandal?”
Speaking to reporters later Thursday, Wynne called Hudak's accusations "irresponsible" and "disgraceful." She said she did not order anyone to destroy information, and that the ex-staffer in question has never been a member of her government.
With files from The Canadian Press and CTV Toronto’s Paul Bliss