Gas plant scandal: Kathleen Wynne waits for 'judge' Horwath to pull the plug

An OPP detective has turned down some of the gas plant heat on Kathleen Wynne's Liberal government. But this is an issue that is a long way from being resolved. And ultimately, the judge will be NDP leader Andrea Horwath and the jury — Ontario voters.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has distanced herself from her predecessor, former premier Dalton McGuinty, following police allegations one of his staffers may have committed breach of trust. (Frank Gunn/Canadian Press)

“This is as much Kathleen Wynne’s scandal as it is Dalton McGuinty’s.”

These are the 12 words of Ontario’s Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak in response to allegations (not yet proven in court) that a Queen’s Park ‘outsider’ — an IT expert by profession with ‘inside’ connections — was given a password to access computers in the premier’s office and wiped them clean.

Of what, exactly, must still be determined, though the guessing is e-mails connected to the decision to cancel and re-locate two gas plants leading up and during the 2011 provincial election campaign.

But was it Dalton McGuinty’s office or, Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne’s as suggested by Hudak? Or, was it a combination of the two? 

The answer to the PC leader’s 12-word statement — that prompted a threat of legal action by Wynne  was just a one word reply from a very creditable source: OPP Det. Const. Andre Duval.

"There are allegations of serious criminal activity in the current premier’s office … including that the OPP and the anti-rackets squad are investigating premier Wynne,” stated Liberal backbencher Steven Del Duca — a member of the all-party legislative committee investigating the gas plant scandal.

“Are these conclusions … in any way, shape or, form reached in the … (OPP search warrant)? Duval’s answer was a clear “No.”

That two-letter word has Wynne, her Liberal caucus and party breathing a little easier, in the midst of the ongoing gas plant scandal coming as it does from the ‘political’ back burner to the front burner at Queen’s Park in advance of a widely expected spring general election, if the government’s budget is defeated.

But in the meantime, there is the fact that the ‘secret’ password to those 24 computers was still active until March 20th of last year — weeks after Wynne replaced McGuinty as premier.

So, while Duval has turned down some of the gas plant ‘heat’ and raised serious questions about Hudak’s conclusions about Wynne, this is an issue that is a long way from being resolved. 

Ultimately, the ‘judge’ will be NDP leader Andrea Horwath and the ‘jury’ — Ontario voters.

As demonstrated by the early ‘leak’ of the Liberal 2014 budget communications plan by the Conservatives, when the budget is tabled, there will be much on its pages for Horwath to digest even though Wynne signalled weeks ago that the “let’s make a deal” pre-budget negotiations with the NDP were over.

So, the clock is ticking on what will be Horwath’s biggest decision or, biggest gamble as NDP leader: Pull the plug on the minority government and get blamed for forcing an election the polls say most Ontarians do not want. Or, support the budget of a government mired in scandal and face a Tory message to voters that she backs what Tim Hudak calls: “Ontario’s corrupt government.”

Either way, Horwath over the next few weeks is going to earn every penny of her salary as leader. But if she's wrong, some of her caucus may well be sending out their CVs looking for work.


Robert Fisher

Provincial Affairs Specialist

A commentator with decades of experience covering Queen's Park, Robert Fisher writes about politics for CBC.ca. He is an award-winning broadcast journalist with more than 30 years of experience in public and private radio and television.