Dalton McGuinty’s former chief of staff is accused of orchestrating a plan to purge government records after Ontario’s controversial cancellation of two gas-fired power plants, according to police documents.
The documents reveal how a costly political scandal that has cast a shadow over the former premier’s legacy became the subject of a criminal probe involving a member of Mr. McGuinty’s inner circle.
The high cost of scrapping the projects – the provincial auditor put the tab at $1.1-billion – is at the centre of opposition accusations that the government abandoned plans to build the plants in Oakville and Mississauga to save Liberal seats in the 2011 election.
According to an affidavit, police believe the former chief of staff, David Livingston, committed a criminal breach of trust by granting unauthorized access to potentially sensitive documents and giving a non-government official permission to “wipe clean” computer hard drives.
The documents, which have not been tested in court, were unsealed by an Ottawa judge on Thursday after The Globe and Mail and other media fought to have them made public. Mr. Livingston has not been charged.
The Ontario Provincial Police allege the breach of trust took place when Mr. Livingston allowed a non-government IT professional, Peter Faist, to gain “unrestricted” access to documents on 24 hard drives in the premier’s office. Mr. Faist is described in the document as the “life partner” of Mr. Livingston’s deputy, Laura Miller.
The documents allege the highly unusual move, done without subjecting Mr. Faist to a security screening, created controversy within the bureaucracy.
According to the documents, cabinet secretary Peter Wallace told the OPP he was not aware of Mr. Livingston’s actions, which did not follow government protocol.
“I don’t need to tell them that that’s right or wrong,” Mr. Wallace told police. “You know that is so clearly outside of normal business.”
Police do not say what documents were deleted or who gave the order to alter government records. But the allegations raise further questions about the government’s transparency over the power plants.
The OPP’s anti-rackets branch used a warrant to seize the hard drives of 24 computers as part of a probe into the alleged deletion of e-mail records in the premier’s office.
Mr. Livingston left the premier’s office on Feb. 11, 2013, the day Kathleen Wynne was sworn in as Mr. McGuinty’s successor. Mr. Livingston is now a senior adviser at law firm Borden Ladner Gervais.
Mr. Livingston did not return e-mail and telephone messages seeking comment. His lawyer, Brian Gover, called the allegations “baseless” and said Mr. Livingston did nothing wrong.
“He was consistently open about his actions in the Premier’s Office and he always believed that those actions were proper and in accordance with normal practices,” Mr. Gover said in an e-mail to The Globe and Mail.
The documents are alleged to have been deleted during the transition to Ms. Wynne’s leadership. Ms. Wynne has sought to distance herself from her predecessor.
“If true, these allegations are very disturbing,” she said on Thursday. “This is not the way a premier’s office should conduct itself.”
Opposition members tried to link Ms. Wynne to the allegations against Mr. Livingston, but the Premier said Mr. Faist had no access to government computers after she took office.
The government’s corporate chief information officer provided Mr. Livingston’s executive assistant with a so-called “special global administrative right,” allowing her to access all desktop computers in the premier’s office and delete any file “without leaving a footprint behind,” the document alleges.
Mr. Livingston’s assistant did not use the special access, the document alleges. The access was used by Mr. Faist, an information technology professional for various companies, according to his online profiles. Two former employees in the premier’s office told police their desktop computers no longer functioned after they witnessed Mr. Faist access their machines and delete their local profiles, the document alleges.
Mr. Faist did not respond to requests for comment.
Mr. Livingston initially asked Mr. Wallace about deleting records in the premier’s office in August, 2012, three months after a legislative committee called on the energy minister to produce all correspondence in connection with the cancelled projects.
With reports from Allie Coulman and Kathryn Blaze Carlson
Editor's note: An earlier version of this article said that Peter Faist was the “life partner” of Laura Wallace. In fact, her name is Laura Miller.