McGuinty aide charged in Ontario gas plant scandal back at post with B.C. Liberal Party
Despite pending charges, former aide has support of leadership, including Premier Christy Clark, who said "every person is innocent unless proven otherwise"
VICTORIA—British Columbia’s Liberal Party is bringing back its executive director even as she faces criminal charges connected to a long-running document deletion scandal in former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty’s office.
The B.C. party said Thursday in a statement that its executive board had unanimously decided to reappoint Laura Miller, who stepped aside from her duties last December to organize her defence against the three-year-old charges.
“Our party has undertaken a thorough process on this matter,” said a statement by party president Sharon White. “After careful consideration and discussion, the party’s executive board has asked Laura to return as executive director. That decision was made unanimously, reflecting the full confidence we have in her.”
The party statement also includes comments from Premier Christy Clark.
“I support the decision reached by Sharon and the executive,” said Clark’s statement. “It’s the fair and right approach, one that respects our court process, including the fundamental principle that every person is innocent unless proven otherwise.”
The premier’s statement said Miller is known for her work ethic and integrity and she welcomed her return.
B.C. Opposition New Democrat Leader John Horgan acknowledged the charges against Miller have not been proven in court, but he suggested the court of public opinion will not be kind to the Liberals.
“The B.C. Liberal Party is OK with having at the top of their organization someone being charged with breach of trust and mischief in another jurisdiction,” he said. “Clark believes it’s OK to have the most senior official in that organization under a cloud, facing criminal charges.”
Natural Gas Development Minister Rich Coleman, who is the B.C. Liberal Party’s election-readiness co-ordinator, said if the party brass supports Miller, he is behind the move.
He described Miller as a top-notch political organizer who runs excellent election campaigns.
“Frankly, from my experience, I’d say she’s one of the best in the country,” said Coleman.
He said Miller has the right to continue her employment even though she faces criminal charges.
The B.C. Liberals are seeking their fifth consecutive mandate in May 2017.
Coleman said the party will “cross that bridge” if and when Miller’s court schedule conflicts with the election campaign. He said he has not even thought about the prospect of Miller being convicted.
Coleman said he and the party considered the likelihood that Miller’s return would be the subject of NDP attacks, but decided she had the right to return to her post, and everybody wanted her back.
“The NDP has already said it was going to attack Laura Miller whether she was back with us or not,” he said. “They’ve already said publicly, even in the last couple of weeks, it’s going to be a very negative campaign. We expect all of these slings and arrows to come, but I’m not worried.”
Miller was charged alongside another aide to former premier McGuinty in connection with the deletion of government documents related to two cancelled gas plants.
Miller and David Livingston, who were deputy and chief of staff respectively, face charges of breach of trust and mischief. Their case is now working its way through the courts.
Both have denied the charges.