Laura Miller was recruited by the B.C. Liberals to help salvage what looked like a hopeless election campaign early in 2013. After her critical work in that come-from-behind success, she was promoted to a key role in managing the party’s affairs.
Ms. Miller was forced to resign as the party’s executive director after learning Wednesday night that she faces criminal charges in connection with the Ontario gas-plant scandal.
The B.C. Liberal Party executive knew, when they interviewed Ms. Miller for the position of executive director 2 1/2 years ago, that she was embroiled in a political scandal over her previous work for the Ontario Liberals. She was grilled about her role in the Ontario gas-plant controversy, but satisfied the board that she had done no wrong.
Although she maintains that is the case, and vowed to vigorously defend herself, the charges mean Ms. Miller could become a political liability for the B.C. Liberals, who had for more than two years maintained she was above suspicion.
Ms. Miller is one of two former Ontario Liberal staffers charged in relation to allegations of wiping computer hard drives in the office of then-premier Dalton McGuinty.
Throughout that long-running scandal, B.C. Premier Christy Clark stood by Ms. Miller, calling her “a person of the utmost integrity.”
Ms. Miller’s work has been studiously low profile. She issues updates to the party membership by sending e-mails that are filled with sharp partisan shots at the opposition, upbeat government news and breezy references to her hair or her beloved Latin teacher. She is credited with rebuilding a grassroots volunteer base, but has consistently declined interview requests.
Her social-media profile gives little away: Active on Twitter, where she often sparred with critics of her B.C. Liberal Party, Ms. Miller’s eyes are hidden beneath a ball cap in her profile picture. For a description of herself, she posted this line: “Never too high. Never too low. Just relentless.”
On Thursday, the Premier said Ms. Miller has worked hard for the party and has stepped down “to focus on clearing her name.”
But the charges come just as Ms. Clark is trying to put her own government’s “triple-delete” e-mail controversy behind her.
On Wednesday, the Premier promised to embrace all the recommendations contained in a new report aimed at ensuring sensitive government records are not destroyed – something that had become common practice during Ms. Clark’s tenure.
John Horgan, Leader of the opposition New Democratic Party, said that while the allegations against Ms. Miller have not been tested in court, her work on behalf of the B.C. Liberals does not reflect well on Ms. Clark.
“The Premier made a choice to hire Laura Miller and continues to defend her,” he said in an interview. The B.C. Liberal government has been under fire throughout the year, he said, for deleting documents to avoid accountability for its actions, an echo of elements of the gas-plant scandal in Ontario. “You can’t put behind you a culture that says ‘we’ll do anything to win.’ It’ll come up again tomorrow. That’s the part that sticks to the Premier.”
Mike McDonald, then-chief of staff to Ms. Clark, recruited Ms. Miller to help him run the B.C. Liberal election campaign early in 2013. The Liberals won but Ms. Clark lost her seat, and Ms. Miller then became the lead organizer in the by-election campaign for Ms. Clark to secure a new seat in the legislature before Ms. Miller was hired to run the party in September of 2013.
Mr. McDonald said in a recent interview he recruited Ms. Miller because of her reputation as an effective political organizer that she earned during her long stint in the McGuinty government. “She played a critical role in the runup to the [B.C.] campaign; she was at the heart of the campaign,” he said. “The party feels much stronger today … Laura projects a high standard of professionalism.”
On Wednesday evening, Ms. Miller learned she has been charged along with David Livingston, another former Ontario Liberal staffer. Each face one count of breach of trust, one count of mischief in relation to data and one count of misuse of a computer system to commit mischief.
The pair were accused of bringing in Ms. Miller’s partner, IT technician Peter Faist, to wipe clean the hard drives of computers in Mr. McGuinty’s office shortly before he stepped down in 2013.
With a report from Ian Bailey in VancouverReport Typo/Error