TORONTO – Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne distanced herself Thursday from her predecessor Dalton McGuinty, following police allegations that his chief of staff may have committed breach of trust in the ongoing gas plants scandal.
Police allege in an unsealed search warrant that they believe that David Livingston gave an outside tech expert access to 24 computers in the premier’s office.
It’s alleged that Livingston sought permission to “wipe clean the hard drives” during the transition period between the McGuinty government and that of Wynne, who was elected Liberal leader Jan. 26, 2013.
The search warrant — which contains allegations not proven in court — was part of a provincial police probe of the unlawful deletion of government emails concerning two gas plants that were cancelled by the Liberals ahead of the 2011 election.
Wynne says that if the latest allegations are true, they 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 said.
“I want to be clear: this individual does not work in my office, nor in my government, nor has he ever worked in my government.”
Wynne would not take any questions after her brief statement.
The search warrant was obtained by the Ontario Provincial Police to seize hard drives from government computers at an unnamed data storage facility in Mississauga, Ont., in February.
The investigation was launched last June after the Progressive Conservatives complained that gas plant emails were intentionally deleted by McGuinty’s senior staff.
Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian found that top Liberals in McGuinty’s office broke the law when they deleted emails on the cancelled gas plants.
It’s clear that the Liberals don’t have the moral authority to govern, the Opposition Conservatives said Thursday.
“This is serious,” Tory Lisa MacLeod told Wynne in the legislature.
“Can you tell this assembly today without a question of doubt that you did not have any of your hard drives leaked or deleted?”
The latest allegations are a big blow to Wynne, who may be facing an election if her minority government can’t pass its spring budget.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she finds it “unbelievable” that Wynne didn’t know about what was going on in the premier’s office.
But she wouldn’t rule out propping up the Liberals by supporting their budget — as her party has done for the past two years — despite the new allegations.
The opposition parties said the emails were wiped out to cover up the true costs of killing the gas plants, which the auditor general has estimated are as high as $1.1 billion — far more than the $230 million the government claimed.
McGuinty has said that he never condoned or directed the deletion of emails or documents which should have been preserved under law.
It was the government’s initial refusal to release gas plant documents that led to a rare and often nasty contempt of parliament debate, which prompted McGuinty to prorogue the legislature in the fall of 2012 and resign as premier.
The Liberals eventually turned over hundreds of thousands of documents and emails related to the gas plants in several batches, insisting after each one that all the relevant correspondence had been released.