Tech expert allegedly linked to deleted emails had contract with Liberals
Published Monday, March 31, 2014 11:17AM EDT Last Updated Monday, March 31, 2014 4:43PM EDT
TORONTO -- Ontario's Liberals have confirmed that an outside tech expert police allege was given access to 24 computers in the premier's office last year had a contract with the governing party that was cancelled just two days ago.
Government house leader John Milloy says computer expert Peter Faist was also under contract to the Liberal caucus office at Queen's Park, but that contract ended when former premier Dalton McGuinty left office.
Ontario Provincial Police, who are investigating the deletion of government emails related to the cancellation of two gas plants, alleged in court documents that the computer access was given by David Livingston, McGuinty's former chief of staff.
The court documents, released last Thursday, also allege that Livingston sought access to the government computers to "wipe clean" the hard drives.
Progressive Conservative critic Lisa MacLeod says Faist was "under the employment of Kathleen Wynne" until two days after the OPP allegations were made public last week.
MacLeod calls word of Faist's contract with the Liberals a "bombshell" that she says "looks very damning" for the governing party.
She says it raises more questions about Wynne's role in the attempted coverup of the Liberals' decisions to cancel gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga prior to the 2011 election at a cost to taxpayers of up to $1.1 billion.
The Liberals accused the Conservatives of playing "dirty politics" by trying to link Wynne to the apparent tampering of the computers in the premier's office.
Milloy said he didn't know how much Faist was paid by the Liberals and didn't say what the terms of the contract were.
"He was doing some routine work for the Liberal caucus bureau -- the office that supports Liberal members -- and also had a contract with the Ontario Liberal party which, as I say, has been terminated," Milloy told reporters.
The opposition parties were fuming when Wynne didn't show up for question period Monday in the wake of the allegations, which prompted the New Democrats to walk out in protest.
Wynne sent an open letter Sunday demanding that Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak withdraw allegations that she "possibly ordered the destruction of documents" related to the cancellation of the gas plants.
The Tories said they won't back down, and accused Wynne -- who was in Sault Ste. Marie, Ont. Monday -- of hiding in "a witness protection program" instead of showing up for question period.
Wynne's staff said Monday that she had nothing to do with the elimination of any documents related to the gas plants, and insisted her trip to Sault Ste. Marie had been planned "for quite some time."
Hudak said information from the court documents shows Faist -- who was the boyfriend of a deputy chief of staff to McGuinty -- was given a special administrator's access to the computer hard drives after Wynne had become premier-designate in late January 2013.
"Just like Dalton McGuinty, Kathleen Wynne has sought to prevent the facts about the gas plants scandal from coming to light," he said.
"There are serious allegations of criminal activity in the premier's office from the OPP anti-rackets squad and that premier was Kathleen Wynne, not Dalton McGuinty."
Police say the administrator's access was valid from Feb. 4 to March 20 last year -- a timeline the Tories say underpins their claims.
Wynne was acting as if she were premier in January 2013, holding meetings and directing government officials, even though she wasn't officially sworn in until Feb. 11, added Hudak.
"Either she was directly involved or she was extraordinarily incompetent to see these things happen right under her nose," he said.
Hudak rejected Wynne's claims that she didn't know what was going on in the premier's office until after she officially took over as premier from McGuinty.
"Kathleen Wynne wants to say she knew nothing that happened before Feb. 11, and that's just not the case," he said.
Wynne's open letter called Hudak's allegations "false, misleading and defamatory" and demanded he retract and remove them from the PC party website.
It was up to Milloy to defend Wynne during question period against what he called "baseless allegations" from Hudak that he said were not supported by information in the OPP document filed with the court to obtain a search warrant.
"These are allegations which pertain to the period in which Premier McGuinty was premier and to his former chief of staff," said Milloy. "They make no reference to an involvement by the current premier."
The Progressive Conservatives had asked the OPP to investigate after the government repeatedly insisted all documents on the gas plants had been turned over to a legislative committee, only to find thousands more documents on several occasions.