Ontario Tories want police to probe Liberal gas plant email deletion

The Ontario Provincial Police may be asked to investigate why senior Liberal staff members deleted emails regarding the controversial cancellation of two gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga — a move the opposition considers an act of theft.
Nipissing MPP Victor Fedeli, the PC Energy Critic, is seen speaking to the media about the controversial cancellation of two Ontario gas plants. On Thursday, Fedeli said the Liberals should be investigated for theft following revelations that senior staff deleted emails about the gas plants as recently as January. (Michelle Siu/The Canadian Press)

The Ontario Provincial Police may be asked to investigate why senior Liberal staff members deleted emails regarding the controversial cancellation of two gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga — a move the opposition considers an act of theft.

Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives argue that removing the emails from government databases and storing them on USB keys should be investigated as a crime.

Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli said Thursday that the data should be considered stolen property, and stood up at Queen's Park Thursday to urge "a formal police investigation into this crime."

The call to involve the OPP follows revelations that senior staff members working for former Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty and former energy minister Chris Bentley purposefully deleted emails about the cancellation of gas plants.

The erasure came to light in a report published Wednesday by the province's privacy commissioner, Ann Cavoukian.

There are no penalties for violating Ontario's Archives and Recordkeeping Act, but Cavoukian's findings could help the opposition parties find the Liberals guilty of a rare contempt of parliament motion, which can carry legal sanctions.

The opposition parties allege that the McGuinty-led Liberal government deleted the emails in an attempt to cover up the cost of scrapping the gas plants — an estimated $585 million. The government originally claimed the cancellation cost $230 million.

Wynne agrees with report's conclusions

The Tories urged the New Democrats to vote against next week’s budget and defeat Kathleen Wynne’s minority Liberals, positing that a change in government is needed to get at the truth, but the NDP counter that such a move would disrupt ongoing committee hearings into the matter.

For her part, Wynne agreed that the allegations are serious and has ordered her staff to keep all government correspondence. She rejects the opposition's charge that she's trying to shrug off the issue.

"It is a big deal, Mr. Speaker. It's a very serious deal," Wynne said at Queen's Park on Thursday. "And that is why we've taken action. I agree with the conclusions of the privacy commissioner."

Of the potential police probe, Wynne said: "The OPP are independent and they will do what they deem best."

"I would absolutely comply with anything that I was asked to do by police," she added in response to an opposition MPP's suggestion she would be uncooperative.

The NDP took Wynne to task, arguing that the sitting premier must have known more about the issue she inherited.

"I believe that the premier has known about this all along," said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath. "I don't believe for a minute that she took the reins of power of this party without knowing all along what had been done in terms of the coverup."

In February, Wynne said her predecessor's cancellation of the plants was a "political decision" and called for the release of all documentation related to the issue.

With files from The Canadian Press