Skip to main content
The Globe and Mail
Support Quality Journalism.
The Globe and Mail
First Access to Latest
Investment News
Collection of curated
e-books and guides
Inform your decisions via
Globe Investor Tools
per week
for first 24 weeks

Enjoy unlimited digital access
Enjoy Unlimited Digital Access
Get full access to
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
Just $1.99per week for the first 24weeks
var select={root:".js-sub-pencil",control:".js-sub-pencil-control",open:"o-sub-pencil--open",closed:"o-sub-pencil--closed"},dom={},allowExpand=!0;function pencilInit(o){var e=arguments.length>1&&void 0!==arguments[1]&&arguments[1];select.root=o,dom.root=document.querySelector(select.root),dom.root&&(dom.control=document.querySelector(select.control),dom.control.addEventListener("click",onToggleClicked),setPanelState(e),window.addEventListener("scroll",onWindowScroll),dom.root.removeAttribute("hidden"))}function isPanelOpen(){return dom.root.classList.contains(}function setPanelState(o){dom.root.classList[o?"add":"remove"](,dom.root.classList[o?"remove":"add"](select.closed),dom.control.setAttribute("aria-expanded",o)}function onToggleClicked(){var l=!isPanelOpen();setPanelState(l)}function onWindowScroll(){window.requestAnimationFrame(function() {var l=isPanelOpen(),n=0===(document.body.scrollTop||document.documentElement.scrollTop);n||l||!allowExpand?n&&l&&(allowExpand=!0,setPanelState(!1)):(allowExpand=!1,setPanelState(!0))});}pencilInit(".js-sub-pencil",!1); // via darwin-bg var slideIndex = 0; carousel(); function carousel() { var i; var x = document.getElementsByClassName("subs_valueprop"); for (i = 0; i < x.length; i++) { x[i].style.display = "none"; } slideIndex++; if (slideIndex> x.length) { slideIndex = 1; } x[slideIndex - 1].style.display = "block"; setTimeout(carousel, 2500); } //

David Livingston, chief of staff to former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty, arrives at court in Toronto on Sept. 22, 2017

Colin N. Perkel/The Canadian Press

Former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty's chief of staff has been found guilty of destroying government records and of using deception to obtain special access to computer hard drives in the premier's office.

David Livingston, the chief of staff, "indiscriminately" wiped clean hard drives in the premier's office to ensure that no records existed in connection with the cancellation of two gas-fired power plants, said Justice Timothy Lipson of the Ontario Court of Justice in finding the 65-year-old former banker guilty of unauthorized use of a computer and attempted mischief.

The judgment released on Friday said Mr. Livingston deceived Peter Wallace, secretary of cabinet at the time, into granting him special access to the hard drives and misled him about the true purpose of the request.

Story continues below advertisement

The wiping of the computer hard drives was not a "careful" and "selective" process, Justice Lipson said in his 108-page ruling, which took him three hours to read out loud in a courtroom in Toronto's Old City Hall.

"Mr. Livingston's plan to eliminate sensitive and confidential work-related data, in my view, amounted to a 'scorched earth' strategy, where information that could be potentially useful to adversaries, both within and outside of the Liberal Party, would be destroyed," the ruling said.

However, Justice Lipson dismissed the charges against Mr. Livingston's co-accused, deputy chief of staff Laura Miller, saying there is no evidence that she was involved in any conversations with Mr. Wallace regarding the request for special access to the computer hard drives or that she "schemed" with her boss on what information to omit from the request.

While dismissing the charges against Ms. Miller, 39, the ruling said there is evidence that she was a party to the offences. Ms. Miller was deeply involved in crafting communications strategies to address the fallout over the government's controversial decision to cancel the power plant projects, and she helped Mr. Livingston select the employees whose hard drives would be wiped, the ruling said. Along with Mr. Livingston, the ruling added, she had reason to prevent potentially sensitive and at times embarrassing e-mails from becoming public at a legislative committee probing the cancelled projects or through a freedom-of-information request. But in the end, Justice Lipson said, "I am left in reasonable doubt as to her guilt."

Friday's ruling capped nearly four weeks of testimony from 11 witnesses for the Crown.

Mr. Livingston and Ms. Miller were initially accused of destroying e-mails and other government records related to the cancellation of the power plants. But prosecution lawyer Tom Lemon asked the judge in November to drop breach-of-trust charges against the two, saying the Crown could not prove that specific e-mails were deleted.

At the same time, lawyers for Mr. Livingston and Ms. Miller sought a directed-verdict of acquittal on two remaining charges: mischief and unauthorized use of a computer in connection with the wiping of 20 hard drives in the premier's office. They each pleaded not guilty and Justice Lipson reduced the mischief charges against the two to attempted mischief.

Story continues below advertisement

The trial centred on the hiring of Peter Faist, a non-government IT expert and the spouse of Ms. Miller, to "wipe clean" the computer hard drives just days before Mr. McGuinty resigned in February, 2013.

Mr. Faist testified that he wiped the hard drives before the transition from the McGuinty government to Premier Kathleen Wynne.

In what became known as "Pete's Project," Mr. Faist logged on to the computers using a password assigned to Mr. Livingston's assistant, who had been given special access to the machines known as administrative rights.

Justice Lipson said in his ruling there is compelling circumstantial evidence that the two accused were aware there were government records on the hard drives and that they wanted to eliminate those records.

He accepted the Crown's assertion that their actions must be viewed in the context of the controversy over the government's failure to produce records related to the power plants.

"This was the grim political backdrop that existed when Mr. Livingston sought access to the computers," Justice Lipson says.

Story continues below advertisement

Defence lawyers argued during their closing arguments that Mr. Faist was hired to remove personal items from the hard drives. He was paid $11,000. But Justice Lipson says in his ruling that explanation is not plausible. What does make sense, he says, is paying someone to wipe records regarding a controversial matter plaguing the government.

In his ruling, Justice Lipson quoted from the testimony of Mr. Wallace, whom he described as "an entirely credible witness." Mr. Wallace, who is now city manager of Toronto, testified that he never would have approved the special access for Mr. Livingston had he known how it would be used.

Mr. Livingston did not inform Mr. Wallace that he intended to use the access to wipe the computer hard drives or that he was hiring a non-government person to do the job, the ruling says. Had Mr. Livingston told Mr. Wallace the truth, the ruling says, that access never would have been granted.

Mr. Livingston will appear in court on Feb. 26 for sentencing submissions.

Brian Gover, a lawyer for Mr. Livingston, told reporters outside the court that he plans to lead "compelling character evidence" at the sentencing. "Of course, we're dealing with someone of prior unblemished character with an outstanding career in the business community," he said.

Jennifer Beaudry, a spokeswoman for Premier Wynne, said the matter involved former staff to the former premier. "We've been clear from the start that this is not how anyone in government should operate, and it is not how a Premier's Office should operate," she said in a statement.

Your Globe

Build your personal news feed

  1. Follow topics and authors relevant to your reading interests.
  2. Check your Following feed daily, and never miss an article. Access your Following feed from your account menu at the top right corner of every page.

Follow the author of this article:

View more suggestions in Following Read more about following topics and authors
Report an error Editorial code of conduct
Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to
Comments are closed

We have closed comments on this story for legal reasons or for abuse. For more information on our commenting policies and how our community-based moderation works, please read our Community Guidelines and our Terms and Conditions.

To view this site properly, enable cookies in your browser. Read our privacy policy to learn more.
How to enable cookies