Ontario Liberals paid $10,000 to have gas plant data erased: OPP
Wiped data connected to cancellation of 2 gas power plants
IT consultant Peter Faist, who is the spouse of former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty's deputy chief of staff, was paid $10,000 by the Liberal caucus to wipe data off approximately 20 government computers, police claim.
The allegation, unproven in court, comes from an Ontario Provincial Police Information to Obtain document released by the Ontario Superior Court on Thursday. The document was used to get a search warrant, which was executed at a government office in late November.
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The data Faist is said to have deleted relates to the cancellation of two gas plants in the Toronto-area prior to an election campaign. Police suspect the data were internal email conversations regarding the cancellation of the gas plants.
David Livingston, McGuinty's chief of staff, is accused of ordering the deletion of the emails.
Police allege that Livingston, in emails, requested information on how to delete emails permanently and ultimately gave Faist access to the computers.
Faist told police he did not have a contract for the work.
His company, however, had been previously employed by the province, completing more than $50,000 worth of contract work, the documents reveal.
Faist is the spouse of Laura Miller, who was employed as McGuinty's deputy chief of staff and is currently executive director of the B.C. Liberal Party.
The ITO contained more than 72 pages of information on the alleged data deletion.
The cancellation of the two gas plants cost the province an estimated $1.1-billion, according to the province's auditor general. The controversial cancellations were announced in 2012 by the former McGuinty administration. McGuinty stepped down in early 2013.
"It really tells the tale of why the premier and the government was not in any way shape or form allow the truth to come out," said Progressive Conservative house leader Steve Clark.
"We're seeing what many of us feared was happening was that it was the Liberal party using taxpayers' dollars for their own politically-motivated decisions."
The New Democrats said the Liberals on the justice committee voted to shut down the public hearings because they knew more damaging testimony would come from Faist and Miller.
The Liberals issued a statement saying that Faist's services with the party were terminated last March, after Wynne became premier.
"The ITO released today clearly states that staff in Liberal Caucus Service Bureau were not aware of what specific work was done by Mr. Faist, beyond IT services," said the party statement.
The search warrants served last month sought the entire email boxes and backup tapes for Livingston and Miller from May 2012 until Feb. 11, 2013, the day Kathleen Wynne was sworn in as premier, replacing McGuinty.
Police allege in the court application that Livingston allowed a non-government employee, Faist, to use a special administrative password to install and use software to wipe data on 24 computer hard drives in the premier's office.
Court documents from an earlier search warrant served at another Ontario government office in Mississauga last February alleged that Livingston brought Faist in to erase files from computers despite concerns raised by the secretary of cabinet, Peter Wallace, the province's top civil servant.
"Mr. Wallace was concerned by this request (for an administrative password) since it could potentially be used to
destroy or alter data," wrote Det.-Const. Andre Duval, who wrote the application.
Ontario's privacy commissioner and the OPP both concluded that Livingston sought out advice from the government's chief information officer and others on how to permanently wipe data from computers.
"He learned that if emails are double deleted, they cannot be retrieved," wrote Duval. "He also learned that back-up tapes in the premier's office have never been used to satisfy a freedom of information request."
McGuinty, who was interviewed by police last April, said staff in his office kept few records.
"Mr. McGuinty took the opportunity during the interview to speak about the overwhelming verbal nature of communications inside his office," Duval wrote last spring.