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Monday, March 31, 2014

Hudak is sticking to his guns but is mud sticking to Wynne?

Tim Hudak is sticking to his charge that Ontario’s Premier Kathleen Wynne was running the show at Queen’s Park during the period when Dalton McGuinty’s then chief of staff, David Livingston, had 24 computer hard drives in the premier’s office wiped clean.

According to media reports, a search warrant request—which came from the OPP investigating deleted e-mails related to the $1.1-billion scandal over power plants cancelled during the last general election—specifies that David Livingston arranged for the boyfriend of a deputy chief of staff to have access to computers in the premier’s office.

Although the incident reportedly occurred during the transition to Wynne’s government and before she was sworn in as premier, Wynne had already become leader of the Liberal party. And, according to media reports, Tim Hudak claims the search warrant request shows the boyfriend of the senior staffer had administrator access to the hard drives after Wynne become Ontario premier-designate.

Moreover, Hudak says Wynne was acting like she was premier, holding meetings and directing government officials, during that period. And he says he is “absolutely not” retracting his accusations in the face of the premier’s open letter in which she calls his allegations “false, misleading and defamatory.”

I find it curious that Kathleen Wynne gets away with so little criticism from Liberal sources for not being in the know about what went on in the premier’s office while she was their party’s leader, when they expected PM Stephen Harper to know every last detail of what went on in his PMO during the Michael Wright-Mike Duffy affair.

In the Westminster parliamentary system of government, we have a convention known as “Individual ministerial responsibility” whereby cabinet ministers bear ultimate personal responsibility for actions of their ministry. Nowadays, though, this convention is observed only in the most egregious cases. Most of the time, a minister just takes responsibility, sometimes apologizes, promises to take steps to ensure it’ll never happen again and then carries on as if the incident had never occurred, i.e., no resignation.

On the one hand, I do not believe that government ministers should be expected to resign because a staffer or public servant has acted badly or has been shown to be grossly incompetent—it doesn’t happen in business or other institutions, or at least it seldom does.

On the other hand, ministers should not be allowed to avoid any responsibility by simply claiming they didn’t know what was going on. This is especially so when staffers’ behaviour rises to the level of criminal activity. Someone has to accept responsibility. And in this case it’s either Dalton McGuinty or Kathleen Wynne.

According to a report in the Toronto Star, “The [search] warrant says police believe information on the drives will yield evidence Livingston committed breach of trust in obtaining the access.” The breach of trust allegation is supported by this excerpt from the same article: “Ontario Information and Privacy Commissioner Ann Cavoukian undertook her own probe and wrote a scathing report on ‘routine deletion of emails’ contrary to the Archives and Recordkeeping Act.”

This is serious business, though, none of the allegations have been proven in a court of law. So surely the public is owed something more than the premier’s claim that she was not “personally” aware or involved in the alleged actions. After all, for her to be responsible, she had only to have been the leader—and if not her, then Dalton McGuinty.

Instead of threatening the opposition with lawsuits, why isn’t she calling out her predecessor? As I said earlier, someone has to be held accountable for what the Information and Privacy Commissioner has said was a contravention of the Archives and Recordkeeping Act. Or, is the Act in question of little or no consequence, to be ignored without fear of penalty or other negative consequence?

Moreover, if the act in question is of little or no consequence, then it is incumbent on (in a moral sense, at least) the premier to tell us so. Now, I realize Premier Wynne is the darling of the Toronto elites and intelligentsia, but surely not even she should be allowed to duck accountability for wrongdoing in the premier’s office without naming explicitly who she believes is accountable. If not her, who?

2 comments — This is a moderated blog and comments will appear when approved. Please don’t resubmit if your comment doesn’t appear immediately, and please do not post material that is obscene, harassing, defamatory, or otherwise objectionable.

  1. I don't see an either/or here. I would suggest, rather, that both McG and Wynne (and very likely quite a few others) bear responsibility, both morally and legally, for what has transpired in this debacle, and tho I very much doubt he has the backbone for it, I hope Hudak keeps her feet to the fire on this issue.

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  2. We have included your post in our 'Around the Blogs' section at Looniepolitics.com.

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