Search warrant raises new gas plant questions in Liberal scandal: Opposition
Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty. (QMI Agency files)
Opposition parties at Queen’s Park say an OPP search warrant targeting a data storage facility used by the Ontario government raises new “troubling” questions about the gas plants scandal.
NDP House Leader Gilles Bisson — a member of Queen’s Park committee which is investigating the Liberal government’s decision to cancel two gas plants at a loss of up to $1.1 billion — said a news report that OPP officers had obtained a search warrant suggests investigators are still in hot pursuit of supposedly deleted staff e-mails.
“It’s going to be interesting to see what comes out of this data centre. We may end up very well having to talk to a few people over again because they swore as witnesses at this committee that in fact none of this information existed,” Bisson said. “As soon as I saw that appear... it was like ooooh, they found something. That’s kind of what it told me.”
Vic Fedeli, one of two PC MPPs who asked the OPP to investigate destroyed government records, said this development appears to be a significant “breakthrough” in the investigation.
“The fact that the OPP were able to compel a judge to indeed issue a search warrant tells us this is very serious,” Fedeli said.
Ann Cavoukian, Ontario’s information and privacy commissioner, concluded that senior staff in former premier Dalton McGuinty’s office broke the government’s own record-keeping law by deleting e-mails and electronic records connected to the decision to cancel unpopular gas plants planned for Mississauga and Oakville.
The missing records came to light after the committee ordered the government to produce all gas plant-related documents.
Cavoukian dismissed claims that staff members were simply trying to keep a tidy inbox.
The Ontario Auditor General’s office confirmed that the cost of cancelling the plants were far in excess of the $230 million first stated by the McGuinty government.
McGuinty has testified that his government relocated the plants after it became clear they were inappropriately sited in a populated area.
Opposition MPPs say the Liberals’ motives were political, and they dubbed it a “seat saver” program.
Bisson said the missing e-mails left a gap in the committee’s understanding of who made the costly decisions and why.
Premier Kathleen Wynne’s office issued a statement Wednesday — in response to questions about the search warrant — that she has sought to be “open and transparent” about the gas plant relocations.
“We promised to open up the government completely, and we have done so to an unprecedented degree. We will continue to cooperate fully in any effort to gather information,” the statement said. “The premier ordered the full disclosure of documents, wrote to the Auditor General, and re-struck the committee examining the issue. The committee has heard from 77 witnesses, during more than 117 hours of testimony and has been provided with more than 311,000 documents and e-mails related to the gas plants, including 30,000 directly from the premier’s office.”
OPP investigators on this case had previously visited the pPremier’s office.
The Ottawa Citizen reported that the search warrant was executed at a Mississauga data storage company.