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.