Ryerson’s Wendy Wai dragged into alleged power plant scandal

(JasonParis / Flickr)

(JasonParis / Flickr)

Ryerson’s operations coordinator is allegedly one of the figures at the centre of the Liberal power plant scandal where police are investigating the deletion of key government emails, according to a Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) report accessed by the Toronto Star.

When Wendy Wai worked for Dalton’s McGuinty’s chief of staff,  she was allegedly given unrestricted administrative access to computers in the premier’s office, the report said.

According to the Globe and Mail, the OPP document said that the level of access that David Livingston – her boss and the former chief of staff – granted Wai, could allow the deletion of files “without leaving a footprint behind.”

It was Wai’s high level access that was used to commit this breach. The government’s Cyber Security Branch logged the dates and times Wai’s password was used to access the system including times Wai was not present.

According to various reports, Peter Faist, a private IT worker and boyfriend of another government employee, was brought in and allowed  “unrestricted” access to two dozen employee computers  in the office for reasons that remain unclear. However, some of those computers contained material related to the cancelled power plants. Police acknowledge files were deleted from those computers but would not confirm what information those files contained.

“I believe that David Livingston committed the offence of breach of trust by allow a non-Ontario Public Service Employee, namely Mr. Peter Faist, to use the administrative right of his executive assistant Wendy Wai to access 24 desktop computers in the premier’s office between the 6th of February 2013 and the 20th of March 2013,” OPP Det.-Const. Andre Duval wrote in the document, as reported by the Star.

These allegations have not yet been proven in court, but if convicted Livingston could receive up to five years in prison, the Star reported.

Before the 2011 Ontario general election, the Liberal party cancelled the Mississauga gas-fired power plant. This came eight months after the party cancelled another power plant project in Oakville.

Recently, the Liberals have come under fire for cancelling the two plants to help win five seats in the Ontario legislature in the 2011 election. They have also been accused of playing down the costs, including allegations that the deletion of figures happened during the transition period from McGuinty to Kathleen Wynne.

The current premier is distancing herself from the claim and has called the scandal, “disturbing.”

“This is not the way a government should operate,” Wynne told reporters on Thursday. “This is not the way the premier’s office should conduct itself and it’s not the way my office operates.”

Wayne Petrozzi, Ryerson politics professor, said Wynne should be addressing the accountability of her current staff, some of whom also worked for McGuinty.

“It’s embarrassing and her unwillingness to take direct actions, to do something as simple as accept responsibility and impose accountability, it’s going to cost her in all likelihood.”

Petrozzi said this cost will be a loss in the next election. In response to the document’s revelations, Ontario Tories are calling for a spring election.

The news also brings attention to the roles of political staffers within the political system, Petrozzi said.

“They’re not public servants so they’re not held accountable on the same basis public servants would be. There’s no expectation of competence,” Petrozzi said. “Political staffers are simply a group of people who’ve all been willing to drink the Kool-Aid.”

The Ontario auditor general’s report released in October 2013 estimated the cost of the gas plant cancellations at $1.1 billion. The Liberals originally estimated $230 million.

With files from Alexa Huffman

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