McGuinty's former staffers begin court fight in gas-plant case

The criminal case against the former chief of staff and deputy chief of staff to ex-Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty has been put over until Feb. 24, after a request by the defence team to have more time to review evidence.

David Livingston, Laura Miller charged with breach of trust, mischief for allegedly deleting key documents

David Livingston and Laura Miller, ex-top aides to former Ontario Liberal premier Dalton McGuinty, are set to appear in a Toronto court on Wednesday morning. (Handout/Queen's Park)

Two top political aides to Ontario's ex-premier Dalton McGuinty have been vowing to fight the criminal charges against them. That fight began officially today.

David Livingston was McGuinty's chief of staff and Laura Miller his deputy. They are charged with breach of trust and mischief for allegedly destroying government documents about the cancellation of two gas-fired power plants. 

The pair had their first court date on Wednesday. Neither was in the courtroom at Toronto's Old City Hall, but their lawyers were. The defence said the Crown has disclosed a lot of evidence and asked for more time to review it. 

"It is a large amount of disclosure," federal Crown prosecutor Richard Roy told reporters outside court. "There are a lot of documents that were provided and expert testimony that needs to be analysed and there's a lot of witness testimony." 

The provincial attorney-general asked the federal Public Prosecution Service of Canada to act as the Crown in this case "because there were high level people in the government that were being investigated," said Roy. 

"There's a reasonable prospect of conviction and it's in the public interest to prosecute the matter," said Roy. 

Fredrick Schumann (left) is defence lawyer for David Livingston, the former chief of staff to Dalton McGuinty. Annamaria Enenajor (centre) is a lawyer for Laura Miller, McGuinty's former deputy chief of staff. (Mike Crawley CBC)

"We're eager to move this forward," said Livingston's lawyer Fredrick Schumann. "Mr. Livingston and Ms. Miller have had this hanging over their heads now for two and a half years." 

Schumann told reporters outside the courthouse that Livingston is "looking forward" to confronting the allegations in court. 

"When he does so, we're confident that the evidence will show he did nothing wrong, he certainly didn't break the law," said Schumann. "He was open about everything he did in the premier's office he followed proper procedures and acted in accordance with what he believed were normal practices."

The Ontario Provincial Police charged Livingston and Miller in December. Each face charges of:

  • Breach of trust.
  • Mischief in relation to data.
  • Misuse of a computer system to commit the offence of mischief.

Police allege the pair ordered the deletion of thousands of government emails regarding the government's decisions to cancel the construction of two gas plants planned for Oakville and Mississauga in the lead-up to the 2011 provincial election. 

The cancellations will cost Ontario taxpayers and hydro ratepayers up to $1.1 billion, according to the auditor general. At the time, opposition parties called the decision to axe the gas plants "an expensive Liberal seat-saver campaign."

Police alleged in court documents that Livingston and Miller hired Miller's partner, Peter Faist — a computer expert under contract to the Ontario Liberal Party — who was given a special password by Livingston to wipe clean about 20 hard drives in the premier's office.

Both Miller, 36, of Vancouver, and Livingston, 63, of Toronto, maintained their innocence after the charges were laid. None of the allegations have been proven in court.

The construction of two gas-fired power plants, such as this one in Mississauga photographed in 2014, were cancelled before the 2011 provincial election. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Miller, who stepped down from her post as executive director of the B.C. Liberal Party, said in a statement in December that the charges have shaken her confidence in police.

"She has nothing to add to that statement at the moment," defence lawyer Annamaria Enenajor told reporters on Wednesday. 

Miller has also launched an online crowdfunding campaign to pay for her legal fees and so far has made more than $62,000 of her $100,000 goal. The Ontario Liberal Party said it has not paid any of her legal fees.

Premier Kathleen Wynne used the Liberal majority to shut down legislative committee hearings into the deleted documents last year before Miller and Faist could be called to face questions about the wiping of the hard drives in the premier's office.

The next court date in the case was set for Feb. 24. That's when lawyers will arrange to fix a date for a judicial pre-trial. , The Crown prosecutor said the preliminary inquiry in the case is expected to be "longer than usual" and the pre-trial will help ensure the case moves as efficiently as possible. 

With files from The Canadian Press