Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne served Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak with a notice of libel on Friday after he refused to withdraw what she called “false” and “defamatory” assertions that she oversaw the destruction of government documents.
The libel notice, the first step in a potential lawsuit, came six days after Ms. Wynne demanded in an open letter to Mr. Hudak that he stop directly implicating her in the wiping of computer hard drives.
“Premier Wynne gave Mr. Hudak the opportunity to pull back from his unfounded statements,” Ms. Wynne’s spokeswoman, Zita Astravas, said on Friday evening. “Unfortunately, he did not.”
Ms. Wynne’s potential case against Mr. Hudak was bolstered on Thursday by testimony at a legislative committee hearing into the controversial cancellation of two gas-fired plants. Ontario Provincial Police Detective Constable André Duval said nothing in police documents released last week indicates any records were destroyed after Ms. Wynne was sworn in as Premier on Feb. 11, 2013.
The Tories have seized on information in the police documents describing Ms. Wynne’s predecessor’s final days in office. The documents, which have not been tested in court, accuse Dalton McGuinty’s former chief of staff, David Livingston, of orchestrating the deletion of records from 24 hard drives in the premier’s office.
Immediately after the release of the documents, Mr. Hudak issued a statement, prominently displayed on his party’s website, linking Ms. Wynne to the alleged deletion of records.
“She oversaw and possibly ordered the destruction of documents during the cover-up,” the statement alleges. “This is now clearly more Kathleen Wynne’s scandal than Dalton McGuinty’s.”
Mr. Hudak has not retracted those comments.
The Tories are basing their allegations against Ms. Wynne on the fact that Mr. Livingston had obtained extraordinary access to computers in the premier’s office for a six-week period that extended into Ms. Wynne’s time in office. The special access was in effect from Feb. 4 to March 20, 2013. According to the police documents, files were removed on four computers in the premier’s office on Feb. 6 and Feb. 7. The documents allege that files were also deleted on 20 other computers, but police do not know when that happened.
The libel notice also names Progressive Conservative energy critic Lisa MacLeod, who has accused Ms. Wynne of attempting to muzzle the opposition in order to avoid accountability over the controversial cancellation of two gas-fired power plants.
The Tories were not immediately available for comment. But Ms. MacLeod tweeted “Oh dear” on Friday evening when news of the libel notice broke.