The top aide to former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty says he did not save any documents related to the costly cancellations of two gas-fired power plants and that, under some circumstances, it was perfectly fine to delete them.
Two weeks ago, the province’s information and privacy commissioner slammed the Liberals for erasing emails and electronic records that might have shed light on the $585-million cancellations.
But, testifying before a legislative committee probing the matter, Chris Morley said there were “99 reasons” to purge emails. For instance, he pointed to rules that allow for emails to be deleted if they are duplicates or of a “transitory nature,” meaning that they did not contain any substantial information.
“I didn’t keep everything, because the rules told me not to,” said Mr. Morley, Mr. McGuinty’s former chief of staff.
Progressive Conservative Energy Critic Vic Fedeli, however, did not buy it. He argued that it was inconceivable every one of Mr. Morley’s emails on the subject was either a copy or of so little importance it did not need to be saved.
“He’s claiming that every email that he ever had with respect to the gas plant was either of a personal nature or a duplication. That’s absolutely not credible whatsoever,” Mr. Fedeli said.
Mr. Morley testified that he met with TransCanada Energy, the firm contracted to build one of the plants, on three different occasions, but said he did not have a single paper record of those meetings.
And, despite saving 300 pages worth of documents related to his two years as Mr. McGuinty’s chief of staff – including notes on budget negotiations, talks with teachers’ unions and a major green energy deal with Samsung – he had nothing related to the cancellations, he said.
NDP House Leader Gilles Bisson was incredulous.
“You had notes for teachers, you had notes for other things, but not on the gas plants?” he asked. “How is anybody listening to this testimony going to believe that you took notes on everything but the gas plants? Doesn’t that leave a huge hole you can drive a Mack truck through?”
Mr. Morley reiterated that it was perfectly all right to delete some documents.
The Liberals pulled the plug on the plants, in the Toronto suburbs of Oakville and Mississauga, in what was widely seen as a political play to win area ridings in the 2011 election.