POLITICS

Ontario Gas Plants Report Is Liberal 'Whitewash': Opposition

02/17/2015 03:50 EST | Updated 04/19/2015 05:59 EDT
TORONTO - A legislative committee report into the deletion of government emails on two cancelled gas plants is nothing but a Liberal "whitewash," Ontario's opposition parties charged Tuesday.

"This was a cover up of a cover up," said New Democrat Jagmeet Singh. "The deletion of emails was covering up the truth, and now the report that's been tabled further covers up that truth."

The committee began hearings into the destruction of gas plant documents in February 2013 when the Progressive Conservatives and NDP controlled the agenda because the Liberals were in a minority government.

But the Liberals won a majority last June, and Premier Kathleen Wynne shut down the hearings in December, even though the opposition wanted to call two more witnesses: senior Dalton McGuinty aide Laura Miller and her computer tech boyfriend, Peter Faist.

"How do you consider a report to be complete when the person who was paid $10,000 to wipe computers clean is not even part of the government's report," asked PC energy critic John Yakabuski.

Liberal committee chair Bob Delaney said there were more than 90 witnesses called over 18 months of hearings, which he noted lasted longer than the Warren commission probe of JFK's assassination.

"This is the closure of a process that the government committed would be done in an open and transparent fashion," said Delaney. "We're just delighted now to have it over."

The opposition parties issued dissenting opinions because they weren't allowed to call Faist and Miller, McGuinty's former deputy chief of staff.

"The government purposely kept from the committee the two key witnesses who could have uncovered what actually happened," said Singh.

The OPP alleged in a court document that Faist was given a special password by McGuinty's former chief of staff, David Livingston, to wipe clean dozens of computer hard drives in the premier's office.

Ontario's auditor general estimated the Liberals' moves to cancel the planned gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga prior to the 2011 election and build them elsewhere could cost taxpayers over $1.1 billion. Construction on the Mississauga plant was well underway when the Liberals cancelled it in the middle of the 2011 election campaign.

The OPP served search warrants at provincial government offices in Toronto, seeking the electronic mailbox and its backup tapes for Miller and Livingston, between May 1, 2012 and Feb. 11, 2013 — the day Wynne was officially sworn in as premier.

Police said Livingston was under investigation for breach of trust, but he has not been charged, and through his lawyer has denied breaking any laws. Lawyers for Miller and Faist said their clients are not the focus of the OPP investigation.

It was the Liberal's initial refusal to hand over gas plant documents to the justice committee that forced McGuinty to resign as premier under a cloud of scandal in October 2012.

Wynne apologized repeatedly for the gas plants scandal, which the opposition had called "an expensive Liberal seat saver campaign.''

The committee's report made 16 recommendations including strengthened rules on document retention and more community involvement in the siting of large-scale energy projects.

Follow @CPnewsboy on Twitter

ALSO ON HUFFPOST:

Dalton McGuinty Scandals