TORONTO — A former Ontario premier’s senior aide – who is facing criminal charges laid in connection with the destruction of government documents – is using a crowdsourcing website to try to raise $100,000 for her legal defence.
Laura Miller, who had been Dalton McGuinty’s deputy chief of staff, was charged last month with breach of trust and mischief over the deletion of emails relating to the Liberals’ decision to cancel two gas-fired electrical generating stations prior to the 2011 election.
McGuinty’s former chief of staff, David Livingston, was charged with the same offences.
Police alleged in court documents that Livingston and Miller hired Miller’s partner, Peter Faist – a computer expert under contract to the Ontario Liberal Party – who was given a special password by Livingston to wipe clean about 20 hard drives in the premier’s office.
Both Miller and Livingston have denied the charges, and Miller has hired high-profile Toronto lawyer Clayton Ruby to defend her.
Former deputy Ontario premier Dwight Duncan is among those who contributed to Miller’s defence fund on fundrazr.com, which was launched just before Christmas.
“Please accept this contribution to your legal defence as reaffirmation of my view that you have been wrongly accused,” Duncan posted along with his $500 donation.
“I have always known you to be a person of great integrity who has committed her life to public service.”
Veteran Liberal strategist Warren Kinsella donated $200 to Miller’s fundrazr campaign.
“You will prevail,” he posted to Miller.
Miller said the once-private fundraising effort was created after friends and family offered to contribute to her legal defence, and had raised over $30,000 from 40 donors by midday Tuesday, including one anonymous contribution of $10,000. The donations doubled Tuesday from the $15,000 donated in the first 11 days of Miller’s campaign.
“It was never intended to be a public campaign,” Miller said in an email to The Canadian Press. “I am deeply grateful for the kind notes of encouragement, the generous contributions in support, and everything in-between.”
Not all the donors were Miller supporters. One man anonymously donated just $1 so he could post a comment critical of the waste of taxpayers money on the gas plants scandal and attacking Miller for using a crowdsourcing site to raise money for her defence.
Miller went to work for the British Columbia Liberals after McGuinty left office in February 2013, helping the party win the 2013 provincial election, but she quit her job as executive director of the B.C. party in December when the charges were laid.
Several British Columbia Liberals have also contributed to Miller’s defence fund, including provincial party president Sharon White, who donated $2,500.
“I can confirm that any contributions made to the private fundraising effort on Fundrazr are personal in nature, such as the contribution made by party president Sharon White,” B.C. Liberal party spokeswoman Jillian Stead said in an email.
Both Livingston and Miller are scheduled to make their first court appearances in Toronto on Jan. 27.
It was the Liberal government’s initial refusal to hand over gas plant documents to the Ontario legislature’s justice committee that sparked a contempt debate that eventually forced McGuinty to resign under a cloud of scandal. But police said the former premier was never the target of their investigation into the deleted gas plant emails.
Ontario’s auditor general determined that cancelling the gas plants in Mississauga and Oakville and building them elsewhere will cost ratepayers up to $1.1 billion, prompting the opposition parties to call the decision “an expensive Liberal seat-saver campaign.”
Premier Kathleen Wynne used the Liberal majority to shut down legislative committee hearings into the deleted documents last year before Miller and Faist could be called to face questions about the wiping of the hard drives in the premier’s office.
© 2016 The Canadian Press