More than four years in the making and much anticipated by political foes of the Ontario Liberal government, the so-called “gas plant” trial got off to a creaky start Monday.
Two former senior aides to then-premier Dalton McGuinty, David Livingston and Laura Miller, are each pleading not guilty to breach of trust, mischief and unauthorized use of a computer, all in relation to the alleged destruction of documents central to the Liberals’ decision in 2011 to cancel two gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga.
As compared to another trial involving provincial Liberals that started last week, the Elections Act violations case in Sudbury, this one, as a criminal trial being heard at Old City Hall in Toronto, is the more serious.
The two gas plants were re-contracted and relocated at an estimated cost that could hit $1 billion. The decision wasn’t just enormously expensive, but also controversial, and though McGuinty and the Liberals were narrowly re-elected, the lasting political fallout and government stalling to produce documents saw two Conservative MPPs finally make a formal complaint to the OPP in 2013.
That in turn led to an investigation that lasted more than two years and resulted in Livingston, McGuinty’s former chief of staff, and Miller, his former deputy chief of staff, being charged in December 2015.
Ironically, the 20-month delay from charge to the start of trial comes despite the fact that the case was subject to case management, a process designed to ensure that matters move along at a reasonable clip.
Now, things have stalled yet again — the trial likely will begin next Monday, but could be delayed longer — as lawyers for Livingston and Miller have alleged inadequate, incomplete and late disclosure from Crown prosecutors.