04/03/2014 09:29 EDT | Updated 06/03/2014 05:59 EDT

Experts can't determine when hard drives in premier's office were accessed

TORONTO - Computer experts cannot determine when 20 of 24 computer hard drives in the Ontario premier's office were accessed with a special password which could have allowed files to be erased, an OPP detective told a legislative committee Thursday.

Police seized 24 hard drives removed from the premier's office as part of their investigation into the destruction of documents related to the Liberal government's cancellation of two gas plants at a cost of up to $1.1 billion. But asked when they were accessed, Det. Const. Andre Duval of the OPP's anti-rackets branch said they have not been able to determine that information for 20 of them.

"They were able to determine for four work station hard drives the dates and times, so four out of the 24," Duval told the justice committee Thursday.

The dates are key to a Progressive Conservative accusation that Premier Kathleen Wynne could have overseen the destruction of gas plant documents, an accusation she denies.

The OPP request for a search warrant said the password, allegedly provided to an outside tech expert by former premier Dalton McGuinty's chief of staff, was active from Feb. 6 to March 20, 2013, and Wynne was officially sworn-in as premier Feb 11.

The Conservatives said Wynne cannot claim computer tampering was all done on McGuinty's watch when investigators still can't determine when 20 of the hard drives were accessed.

"We did learn today that it is possible that those computers were accessed up until March 20, six weeks into her mandate," said PC energy critic Lisa MacLeod.

The New Democrats wondered how Wynne could claim to have no knowledge of computer tampering in the premier's office when police were interviewing Liberals and when the government's cyber security unit was conducting an investigation.

"If she was that open and transparent why didn't she ever talk about the cyber security group that was doing an internal investigation? Why didn't she ever disclose the fact that the OPP was in the halls talking to her staff and Liberal operatives?" asked NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.

"Those are the things the premier needs to answer to."

Wynne wasn't in question period Thursday to face questions about Duval's testimony, but later told reporters the detective testified that the investigation is focused only on McGuinty's former chief of staff, David Livingston.

"I know the detective who was there made it clear that my office is not under investigation, that the investigation centred on the former premier's office, and I really believe we need to let that investigation unfold," said Wynne.

Duval testified that Livingston, McGuinty's former deputy chief of staff Laura Miller, her boyfriend _ outside tech expert Peter Faist _ and former Liberal staffer Wendy Wai have all refused to co-operate with the police investigation.

Miller's lawyer has issued a statement saying she is willing to co-operate with police but Duval testified that as of Thursday, she had not been interviewed.

Faist, meantime, has agreed to testify before the legislative committee next Thursday.

It was Livingston who arranged to have a special all-access password for Faist, Duval said. There were seven people in the premier's office with administrator's passwords, but they were not the all-access pass that Faist was given, and that was not made clear to Cabinet Secretary Peter Wallace, Ontario's top civil servant, added Duval.

"So (Wallace) was under the impression it was the same type of administrative rights," he said. "So he was not, I would say, advised properly, informed properly."

Faist had a contract with the Liberal Party until last Sunday, after word of his alleged role in the scandal was revealed in police documents filed with the court to obtain a search warrant. The opposition parties say Wynne is Liberal Leader, and as such that means Faist worked for her right up until last weekend.

Asked directly if the police had any evidence that Faist returned to the premier's office after Feb. 7 or accessed the computers in any way, Duval said: "Not as of today, no. We're hoping that the forensic examination will reveal that information."

While Livingston is the main focus of the police probe for alleged breach of trust, others could also come under investigation, added Duval.

"The investigators will follow the evidence," he said. "In the event that more criminal offences are revealed, then we will investigate those matters to the fullest."

It was the deletion of emails on the cancelled gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga that prompted McGuinty's resignation in October 2012, when he also prorogued the legislature just hours before the committee hearings into the issue were to begin.

The hearings resumed with a broader mandate after Wynne took over from McGuinty 14 months ago, but the allegations about the wiping of hard drives in the premier's office during the transition period only came out in recent weeks.