NDP willing to seek warrant to get Peter Faist to testify
The New Democrats said Tuesday that they are willing to use a warrant to compel a tech expert to testify before a legislative committee, while Premier Kathleen Wynne publicly distanced herself from the same individual.
Police have alleged that Peter Faist, a computer expert, was given access to 24 computers in the premier’s office last year, when Dalton McGuinty was still serving as premier.
Faist is the partner of Laura Miller, a one-time senior staffer for the former premier.
The allegations are part of an Ontario Provincial Police investigation into the deletion of documents that relate to the governing Liberals' controversial and costly moves to scrap a pair of gas plants in Mississauga, Ont., and Oakville, Ont.
In court documents, police have alleged that McGuinty's former chief of staff, David Livingston, gave Faist access to the computers.
In those same documents, police allege that Livingston sought to "wipe clean" the hard drives on those machines.
None of the allegations have been proven in court.
Faist's services recently 'discontinued'
Wynne has said that she did not know who Faist was until his name was mentioned in court documents that were unsealed last week.
"As soon as we learned his name — because quite frankly, I had not learned of his existence until the last few days … his services were discontinued," she said Tuesday.
The Liberals have said that Faist worked for the government caucus office and for the party.
They have said that his government contract ended when Wynne took office on Feb. 11, 2013, though his contact with the party ended only last Sunday.
Police have alleged that Faist accessed the computers on Feb. 6 and Feb. 7 of 2013, when he still had both contracts.
Opposition members said Tuesday that they find it hard to believe that Wynne was unaware of Faist or his contracts.
"It's very difficult to trust the premier's word on almost anything," said Progressive Conservative energy critic Lisa MacLeod.
"This is a premier who likes to pretend she wasn't premier for six weeks after assuming office. She's also pretending now that she wasn't the Liberal leader for the past year. He worked for her."
On Tuesday, the New Democrats issued a news release calling on Faist to voluntarily testify before the standing committee on justice.
If he does not, the party says it would use a speaker’s warrant to bring him before the committee.
The NDP news release noted that a speaker’s warrant was used to get former Ornge executive Chris Mazza to testify in front of a legislative committee in 2012.
NDP 'quite concerned'
As a minority government, the Liberals must work with one of the opposition parties in order to pass their annual budget — a process that will unfold over the next few weeks.
Should the government be able to pass their budget, they will be looking to the New Democrats to make that happen.
On Tuesday, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath told reporters that her party is "quite concerned about the events of last week and now this week," and the New Democrats will be considering those matters.
When asked a follow-up question as to whether Horwath regretted not pulling the trigger on an election previously, the NDP leader said she believed that the last couple of weeks had produced important revelations in the legislature.
"I think it’s pretty clear that the work that we’ve been doing is important," she said. "It’s pretty clear that nobody would have known about Mr. Faist and his participation had we not gone through the last week or so."
Horwath said that because a public inquiry is not taking place, the legislature is instead seeing information "come out in dribs and drabs."
Nonetheless, she said that MPPs are using that information to search for answers in the gas-plant scandal.
"The people of this province need to know why the government felt it was OK to take $1.1 billion and move two gas plants for the purposes of saving a couple [of] political seats," Horwath said.
With files from The Canadian Press