Categorized | Canadian Politics

Gas plant emails show McGuinty government in damage-control mode

Posted on 25 October 2017 by admin

Dozens of premier’s office emails seized by OPP in search warrant released at trial of two key McGuinty aides.

A late-night email from then-premier Dalton McGuinty asking if the builder of a cancelled Mississauga power plant was a Liberal donor is one of dozens released at the criminal trial of his two top aides Thursday.

The emails, recovered by Ontario Provincial Police forensics investigators after hard drives were seized in a search warrant, show the McGuinty government in full damage-control mode in 2012 and 2013.

There are references to the wiping of hard drives as “Pete’s Project,” but none of the documents sheds new light on why McGuinty scrapped the Mississauga plant and another in Oakville before the 2011 election.

Many, if not most, of the emails in the 179-page package filed as a Crown exhibit with Justice Timothy Lipson were previously released to a legislative committee probing the cancellations.

The committee had issued a legal order demanding documents on the decisions, as opposition MPPs accused the government of covering up the real reasons when political staff said they had no such records.

The email from McGuinty’s party account to his deputy chief of staff Laura Miller and two other staffers on July 16, 2012, asks about Eastern Power, the spurned builder of the Mississagua plant near Sherway Gardens.

“Did that company contribute to the PCs as well as the OLP?” McGuinty queried, referring to the Ontario Liberal Party.

“Eastern Power contributed to OLP and PCPO,” Miller replied, using the acronym for the Progressive Conservative Party of Ontario.

Miller and former McGuinty chief of staff David Livingston are charged with breach of trust, mischief in relation to data and misuse of a computer system in the alleged wiping of hard drives in the premier’s office before Premier Kathleen Wynne took power in February 2013.

Both defendants have pleaded not guilty.

They face up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

McGuinty was not a subject of the investigation and has co-operated with police.

The Pete in “Pete’s Project” is a reference to Peter Faist, Miller’s life partner and a computer consultant who was paid $10,000 to clear hard drives in the McGuinty premier’s office.

Peter Wallace, the former head of Ontario’s civil service under McGuinty, testified this week that Livingston requested a special password to clear hard drives of personal information in the premier’s office.

Wallace warned Livingston about the need to retain official documents and told court that hiring an “outsider” for the job was a major departure from standard procedure of using government technicians.

Miller emailed Livingston at least twice in late January 2013 asking if he was making progress in getting the special password.

“Not yet,” he answered on January 30, noting “somebody from IT may stand and watch what we do to make sure nothing was done to contaminate files or programs outside those on the desktops being dealt with. I guess that’s the concern: the fact that having the code gets us access to systems other than our own.”

In another email, dated Aug. 9, 2012, Livingston tells Miller and other staff “I don’t have a strong desire to be email monitor for the Premier’s Office” and instructs them, among other things, that “double-deleted” emails cannot be retrieved.

He added, “nothing is more confidential than talking rather than writing!”

The email package includes several memos to premier’s staff asking if they have any documents to satisfy freedom-of-information requests.

Livingston responded “nothing here” on January 15, 2013, about four weeks before Wynne became premier, to one FOI request for any records from January to October 1 of the previous year on the construction, relocation or other arrangements for the two cancelled gas plants.

He also jokes about double-deletions in an exchange with Miller about a press release from New Democrat MPP Michael Mantha accusing the government of a slow reaction to a killer shopping mall collapse in Elliot Lake.

“Mantha is an absolute asshole,” Miller wrote.

“LOL. This one will never get the double delete,” Livingston replied.

The email package also reveals how Liberal political staff were prepared to manipulate the media after McGuinty, amid a political furore over the gas plants documents, announced his resignation in mid-October 2012.

The night of the announcement, in an apparent attempt to sidetrack reporters from the controversy, McGuinty said he might seek the federal Liberal leadership.

“I think we also leak tomorrow that the premier has been taking calls this weekend and is discussing the leadership with his family with an intention of making a decision early this week,” top advisor Don Guy wrote in an email to Miller and other staff several days late on October 20.

“We need a parallel news-controversy plan also for this week that is as salacious as the bullshit.”

McGuinty has said repeatedly the power plants were cancelled because they were too close to residential areas, while opposition parties insist the decision was to save Liberal seats in Oakville and Mississauga where many residents were opposed to them.

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