Premier Kathleen Wynne is following through with a threat to sue Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak for saying she “oversaw and possibly ordered the criminal destruction of documents.”
A notice of libel was sent to Hudak, his party and MPP Lisa MacLeod (Nepean-Carleton) Friday afternoon after their refusal to back down from the controversial comments about deleted emails in the $1.1-billion gas plants scandal as requested by the premier last Sunday, Wynne’s office said.
“Premier Wynne gave the opportunity for Mr. Hudak to pull back from his statements. Unfortunately, he did not,” Wynne spokeswoman Zita Astravas said Friday night.
Despite the notice of libel, the premier’s office was unable to disclose what damages are being sought, if any, in the legal action being quarterbacked by Mark Freiman — a former deputy attorney general — now with the law firm Lerners LLP.
Wynne was attending the Blue Jays home opener Friday night.
Hudak’s office had no comment but MacLeod, who was also critical of Wynne, tweeted, “Oh dear.”
Earlier this week, MacLeod said, “I won’t be muzzled, nor will my leader” in criticism over the bombshell revelation that Ontario Provincial Police are investigating former premier Dalton McGuinty’s deputy chief of staff, David Livingston, for breach of trust in the alleged wiping of computer hard drives to delete politically sensitive documents.
Livingston, through his lawyer, has denied any wrongdoing.
Police have not disclosed any evidence hard drives were wiped under Wynne’s premiership but are doing a forensic examination of computers seized from the premier’s office from the time of the McGuinty-Wynne transition.
Police have said Wynne herself is not a suspect.
At Tuesday’s Liberal caucus meeting, MPPs praised Wynne for standing her ground by initially threatening to sue Hudak, but some advised her not to pursue legal action further.
Meanwhile, MPPs will have to wait longer to question a computer expert with close Liberal ties about scrubbing hard drives in the premier’s office will have to wait.
Peter Faist, whom the OPP alleges wiped computers before and perhaps after Dalton McGuinty left office, has said no to an invitation to testify Thursday before a legislative committee probing deleted documents in the gas plants scandal.
“His lawyer has declined, citing a shortness of time,” New Democrat MPP Peter Tabuns said Friday, noting the lawyer, David Shiller, promised “a more substantive reply” next week.
Shiller has said his client did nothing wrong. The OPP allegations have not been proven in court and Faist is not the subject of the police probe.
New Democrats said they also want to call Faist’s girlfriend, Laura Miller, a former deputy chief of staff to McGuinty who is now executive director of the British Columbia Liberal Party. Faist moved to B.C. in the last week.
“We would expect that she had long discussions with her partner, Peter Faist, who is alleged to have carried out the wiping out of these discs,” Tabuns said.
The couple — along with political staffers and bureaucrats interviewed by the OPP — are among a number of witnesses opposition MPPs are seeking to call before the committee.
“There are a lot of pieces we want to start pulling together to see what this puzzle really comes out like,” MacLeod said earlier Friday.
Miller has not been officially contacted to appear but her lawyer, Brian Shiller, said in an email letter to the committee Friday that she is open to attending.
“Laura remains ready, willing and able to assist the committee in its important work, at a mutually convenient time, and in an atmosphere that respects her above-mentioned constitutional rights,” he wrote, referring to an email he sent to an OPP detective last November.
“My client was always willing to meet with you and provide a statement provided that it was agreed that nothing she says will be used against her in any proceeding. If that is agreeable, we can arrange a time to meet.”
Tabuns wrote a letter to B.C. Premier Christy Clark on Friday requesting Miller be given time off to testify, but insisted it was not a publicity stunt.
“We want to make sure there are no obstacles,” he said, rejecting in advance any proposals for testimony by video link from B.C., as a Clark staffer and former McGuinty aide Ben Chin once appeared.
“Having gone through that experience, and questioning people in person, it’s far more effective, far more connected, when a person is actually there in front of you.”
- With files from Jacques Gallant