Staffer charged in gas scan­dal to di­rect Clark’s re-elec­tion bid

Ottawa Citizen - - CITY - ASH­LEY CSANADY

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.

Laura Miller

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