Under pressure from opposition parties, the Liberals have agreed to repay $11,000 billed to taxpayers for the alleged scrubbing of computer hard drives in the office of then premier Dalton McGuinty.
The payment was first revealed last week in an Ontario Provincial Police search warrant application as part of an investigation into deleted documents in the $1.1 billion gas plants scandal that has continued to dog Premier Kathleen Wynne.
Her office was keen to distance the current Liberal administration from McGuinty’s, which ended in February 2013.
The Liberal party’s executive council made the decision “to ensure no tax dollars are expended for work performed in the office of the former premier in relation to matters currently under investigation by Ontario Provincial Police,” Wynne’s office said in a statement.
With HST, the total will come to $11,017,50.
Police allege the money was paid to Peter Faist, a computer expert who is the spouse of former McGuinty deputy chief of staff Laura Miller, in an arrangement made through the taxpayer-funded Liberal Caucus Service Bureau.
“Although it would be inappropriate to prejudge the outcome of the ongoing investigation, in light of this new information the premier has concluded that tax dollars should not have been expended for the work performed,” the statement from Wynne’s office added.
Opposition parties were quick to pounce on the repayment, saying it links the Wynne’s administration to the “cover-up” of deleted gas plant documents.
“In no way, shape or form does this absolve them,” said Progressive Conservative MPP John Yakabuski, a member of the legislative committee probing the scandal over the plants in Mississauga and Oakville axed by McGuinty before the 2011 election.
“The fact they’re repaying this money from Liberal coffers proves this was a political action.”
New Democrats joined the Conservatives in saying this provides fresh ammunition to press Wynne to allow Faist and Miller to testify before the legislative committee, as they were slated to before the spring election campaign began.
“Kathleen Wynne is continuing the cover-up by protecting Peter Faist and Laura Miller,” NDP House Leader Gilles Bisson said in a statement.
“It was wrong to wipe computers no matter who paid the bill. The Liberals have never apologized for this continuing cover-up. And now they’re hoping nobody notices this when they release this the day before Christmas Eve.”
Neither Faist nor Miller are subjects of the OPP probe, which is centered on former McGuinty chief of staff David Livingston for breach of trust.
Police allege he obtained a special password that allowed Faist — a private contractor who had done work for the Liberal party and caucus — to wipe clean hard drives.
Livingston has not been charged, the allegations have not been proven in court and he has maintained he has done nothing wrong.
- This story is updated from an earlier version