Ontario Liberals on Trial

Former Ontario Liberal staff members have been on trial twice in the last month on allegations of bribery and allegations of deliberately destroying emails related to the gas plant scandal.

The bribery allegations were related to the by-election of Liberal MPP and Minister, Glenn Thibeault, in Sudbury. It was alleged that Premier Kathleen Wynne’s former Chief of Staff, Patricia Sorbara, and Liberal organizer, Gerry Lougheed, had bribed Andrew Olivier, a prospective candidate, with a position to convince him not to run for the Liberal nomination in the 2015 by-election. It was also alleged that positions were offered to Thibeault’s staff to convince him to run in the by-election. The trial led to Kathleen Wynne appearing in court as a witness where she discussed delegating broad tasks related to the Sudbury by-election to Sorbara and Lougheed, and tried to convince the court, as well as the province, that she did nothing wrong.

The decision was eventually made to dismiss the charges, leading Ontario NDP MPP Gilles Bisson to say that the Liberals “got off on a technicality.” Sorbara said that they were grateful, and Lougheed said that the decision was a great relief.

The other trial is related to the 2010 and 2011 Liberal decisions to cancel the gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga, which according to the Auditor General of Ontario cost at least 950 million dollars to close down, significantly more than what the Liberals originally promised.

The trial is for David Livingston, former Premier Dalton McGuinty’s Chief of Staff and Laura Miller, McGuinty’s former Deputy Chief of Staff. The allegation is that Peter Faist, Miller’s common-law spouse, was hired by the two Liberal staff members to destroy documents related to the cancellation of the two gas plants – in particular, to wipe hard drives that were in McGuinty’s office during the transition period to Premier Kathleen Wynne. According to Faist, around 20 government hard drives were cleaned.

The trial for Livingston and Miller is ongoing and both have pleaded not guilty to breach of trust, mischief in relation to data and misuse of a computer system.

These two trials have caused many people to call into question the credibility of the Liberal government. The NDP has said that the Liberals have lost in the court of public opinion and the Progressive Conservatives have said that this is a scandal-ridden government.

Hospital bed shortage continues to be major concern

The Ontario Government is considering reopening the Finch site of the Humber River Hospital to try to address the large shortage of beds, overcrowding, and hallway medicine in the area and in the province.  The Finch site would be used to hold 150 seniors waiting for long-term care. Two years ago, the Wynne Liberals closed the Hospital which has contributed to the severe shortage.

Over the last few years, community members have pushed to create expansions to the Finch site of the Humber River Hospital; efforts have included getting thousands of signatures for petitions which have been presented at Queen’s Park. The location was promised to be kept open for ambulatory care, but instead became an acute care facility and was subsequently closed. Now the Wynne Liberals are scrambling to solve the problem that they have created and ignored for many years.

Tom Rakocevic, Ontario NDP Candidate for Humber River-Black Creek said: “Our community played a big role in the creation of the Humber River Hospital on Finch, and we were disappointed to see it closed despite assurances of the contrary.  The government talk on the potential re-opening of this site in some form highlights the government’s mistake to close it down in the first place.  Our community deserves answers on the future of this important hospital site.”

Throughout Ontario, there have been thousands of cuts and layoffs to hospitals while we have been facing a shortage of beds. There is a 30,000 person wait-list for seniors’ care, and hospitals all over the province are at over 100 per cent capacity. This disconnection has reduced the quality of the health system in Ontario and has put the lives of many people in jeopardy.