TORONTO – Ontario Provincial Police laid criminal charges Thursday against two aides to former premier Dalton McGuinty in connection with the deletion of government documents related to two cancelled gas plants.
David Livingston, McGuinty’s former chief of staff, and Laura Miller, the deputy chief who went on to work in the office of British Columbia Premier Christy Clark, are each charged with breach of trust, mischief in relation to data and misuse of a computer system to commit the offence of mischief.
The charges stem from the destruction of thousands of government emails about the Liberals’ decision to cancel two gas plants prior to the 2011 election, which the auditor general found will cost ratepayers up to $1.1 billion.
Miller said in a statement Thursday that she had stepped down from her role with the British Columbia Liberal Party.
She also accused the OPP of having a bias against her because of a complaint she filed with the Ontario Independent Police Review Director.
The OIPRD ordered the OPP Commissioner to hold a police misconduct hearing for Det. Constable Andre Duval, but the Commissioner “resisted” this finding by appealing it to the Superior Court of Justice of Ontario, said Miller.
“Officers involved in a substantiated complaint should not have been allowed to continue investigating,” she said in her statement as she vowed to vigorously defend herself against the charges in court.
“Every Canadian expects and deserves impartiality and fairness in police charging decisions. I do not believe that to be the case here.”
Both Livingston and Miller are scheduled to make their first court appearances in Toronto on Jan. 27, 2016. Like Miller, Livingston’s lawyer has also denied he did anything wrong. None of the charges against either has been proven in court.
Documents released during the investigation showed Livingston and Miller compiled a list of senior Liberal staffers in the then-premier’s office whose computers would be purged. The OPP alleged in court documents that the two spent $10,000 to hire Miller’s partner, Peter Faist, a computer expert who was given a special password by Livingston to wipe clean at least 20 hard drives in the premier’s office.
The OPP served search warrants at provincial government offices in Toronto during the investigation, seeking the electronic mailbox and its backup tapes for Miller and Livingston, between May 1, 2012 and Feb. 11, 2013 — the day Kathleen Wynne was officially sworn in as premier.
Police said then that Livingston was under investigation for breach of trust, but lawyers for Miller and Faist had said their clients were not the focus of the OPP investigation, so the charges against Miller came as a surprise to many.
It was the Liberals’ initial refusal to hand over gas plant documents to the legislature’s justice committee that sparked a contempt debate that eventually forced McGuinty to resign as premier under a cloud of scandal in October 2012.
Wynne has apologized repeatedly for the gas plants scandal, which the opposition parties called “an expensive Liberal seat-saver campaign.”
Premier Wynne said Thursday that all of the events happened before she came to power, and the OPP made the decision to lay charges independently.
“This is not a matter on which my office would be consulted or advised in advance of that decision,” Wynne said in a statement. “As I have stated before, the government co-operated fully with this investigation and will continue to do so.”
Last year, Wynne’s Liberals used their majority to shut down legislative committee hearings before Miller and Faist could be called to face questions about the wiping of the hard drives.
The OPP said the force will not comment further on the evidence “in order to protect the integrity of the investigation and the ensuing court process.”