April 1, 2014 2:08 pm

Wynne distances herself from man facing allegations in gas plants scandal

WATCH:  Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne is struggling to hang onto power as questions are being raised about her role in the attempted Liberal cover-up of the cancellation of two gas plants. But as Mike Drolet reports, the last thing Ontario voters want is another election. 

TORONTO – Premier Kathleen Wynne distanced herself Tuesday from a tech expert who was allegedly given access to computers in the premier’s office when he was still employed by the government and the Liberal party.

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Police allege that Peter Faist, the boyfriend of a senior staffer to former premier Dalton McGuinty, had special access to 24 computers which would have allowed him to erase files.

The allegations are part of a police investigation into the deletion of documents related to the Liberals’ decisions to cancel two gas plants, which could cost as much as $1.1 billion.

Wynne said she didn’t know who Faist was until last Thursday when court documents were unsealed, revealing that McGuinty’s former chief of staff David Livingston was being investigated for breach of trust.

“As soon as we learned his name – because quite frankly, I had not learned of his existence until the last few days … his services were discontinued,” she said Tuesday morning while visiting a coffee roasting plant.

The Liberals have said that Faist, the boyfriend of deputy chief of staff Laura Miller, worked for both the governing party and the government caucus office.

Faist’s contract with the government ended when Wynne was sworn in as premier on Feb. 11, 2013, they said. She won the Liberal leadership on Jan. 26 and was premier-designate until she formally took over from McGuinty.

But Faist’s contract with the party didn’t end until last Sunday.

Police allege he accessed two computers on Feb. 6 and 7 that year, when he still had both contracts.

Faist’s IT company billed the Liberal caucus $159,727.28 between June 2010 and January 2013, and also billed the Liberal Party of Ontario about $60,000 for IT maintenance between March 2011 and last Sunday.

The opposition parties say they find it hard to believe that Wynne, as leader of the Liberal party, didn’t know about Faist or his contracts.

“It’s very difficult to trust the premier’s word on almost anything,” said Progressive Conservative energy critic Lisa MacLeod.

“This is a premier who likes to pretend she wasn’t premier for six weeks after assuming office. She’s also pretending now that she wasn’t the Liberal leader for the past year. He worked for her.”

Wynne insists that the allegations centre around Livingston – a man who never worked for her – who police believe obtained and provided Faist with special access to the computers.

She wouldn’t say if her staff, upon assuming office, specifically asked McGuinty’s departing employees whether they’d preserved important documents related to the gas plants.

“I came in and I was responsible as of Feb. 11 and we made it clear that all documentation, whether from the previous premier’s office or from my office that was asked for was going to be provided,” Wynne said.

“And everyone knew that that was our intention, that was our commitment and that’s what we followed through on.”

Wynne needs to come clean about whether Faist had security clearance to access the computers, said MacLeod.

Security clearance was required for anyone who wanted to access computers in the premier’s office, but police said they found no record that Faist had been cleared.

If Livingston had hired Faist, he was obligated to jump through several bureaucratic hoops, including a contract, security screening and processing the invoices, according to the court documents.

But the cabinet office and premier’s office had no information, records, contracts or invoices that Faist was hired through the premier’s office between October 2011 and August 2013, the documents say.

MacLeod said Faist will be asked to testify before the legislative committee looking into the cancellation of the gas plants. They are also considering recalling Miller, who is now executive director of the British Columbia Liberals.

© The Canadian Press, 2014

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