Staffer charged in gas scandal to direct Clark’s re-election bid
A former Ontario provincial staffer who’s facing criminal charges related to this province’s gas plants controversy has been tapped to run the B.C. Liberals’ re-election campaign.
Laura Miller, former deputy chief of staff to then-premier Dalton McGuinty, is set to go to trial in September 2017 for her alleged role, but first she’ll try to help B.C. premier Christy Clark win re-election in a vote expected in early May of next year. Miller identified herself as “2017 Campaign Director” in an eblast sent to B.C. Liberal supporters Tuesday.
David Livingston, McGuinty’s chief of staff at the time, is also set to go to trial alongside Miller for their alleged role in the deletion of emails related to the cancellation of two gas plants.
They each face one count of breach of trust, one of mischief in relation to data, and one count of misuse of a computer system to commit the offence of mischief. Both have declared their innocence and have said they will fight the charges in court.
The gas plants, in Mississauga and Oakville, were cancelled in the run-up to Ontario’s 2011 general election. As opposition parties dug into the issue, it’s alleged that Miller enlisted her partner, IT consultant Peter Faist, to help destroy records related to the decision-making process. The Liberal Party of Ontario is alleged to have paid him $10,000.
Breach of trust carries a maximum five-year jail sentence and each count of mischief a possible total of 10 years; however, legal experts caution that maximums are rarely handed down.
Miller went to B.C. after McGuinty resigned in October 2013, and she served as executive director of the B.C. Liberal party until Ontario Provincial Police pressed charges in December 2015. Four months later, after she “organized her defence,” the party reappointed her.
B.C. Deputy Premier Rich Coleman said at the time that despite the outstanding criminal allegations, the party wanted Miller in charge because “she is one of the best organizers in the country.”
He also said in March that the charges, which fall under the national Criminal Code, were not relevant because they involved incidents that allegedly occurred in another province.
Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne declined to comment Tuesday. She has previously said the case is before the courts and that process needs to play out.
In a statement in March, Clark said Miller’s appointment “respects our court process, including the fundamental principle that every person is innocent until proven otherwise.”
Miller has crowd-funded to support her defence and has hired Scott Hutchison — a partner with Henein Hutchison, the firm that successfully defended former CBC star Jian Ghomeshi against a charge of sexual assault — to represent her. Her lawyer could not immediately be reached for comment.