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A great betrayal demands a harsh sentence

February 2018

David Livingston betrayed the citizens of Ontario and deserves a harsh sentence.

The sentencing decision for David Livingston, the former Chief of Staff to former Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty, has been set for this coming April.  Livingston was convicted last month of attempted mischief to data and illegal use of a computer.  The charges against Livingston came about in the wake of the cancellation of the two natural gas hydro plants in Oakville and Mississauga prior to and during the 2011 election, and later the destruction of records related to the decision.

The Crown is seeking 6 months’ jail for Livingston.  The defence predictably is seeking a lesser sentence.

Although it’s difficult to pick a suitable jail sentence, I believe that a federal sentence (2 years or more) would be more suitable.  What Livingston did was a betrayal of the citizens of Ontario.  As a public servant, Livingston knew and willfully subverted a law that requires the retention of government documentation, both physical and electronic, even if it proves to be embarrassing to the current or former governments.

To me, it doesn’t matter that Livingston is a first-time offender and that dozens of supporters provided testimony praising his honesty and selfless dedication public and private organizations over the years.  At least in this case, Livingston was not “honest and selfless.”

I don’t care that for Livingston and his wife of 40 years, Anne Grittani, the conviction has “turned their lives upside down.”  Livingston did it to himself.

The presiding judge, Justice Timothy Lipson’s scathing judgment, took great issue with Livingston employing a “scorched earth” policy to destroy government records that he should have known he had an obligation to preserve.

I have no delusions that this is the first time official records have been destroyed and it certainly won’t be the last.  This type of behaviour has been rightfully denounced by the conviction, but a very harsh punishment must follow as a deterrent to anyone else who may try the same thing.  It’s a serious breach of the trust we empower upon our public servants.

It’s been widely noted that the only reason we even found out about the document destruction was due to the fact that the Liberals were reduced to a minority in the 2011 election  Since the opposition parties had a majority in legislative committee hearings looking into the cancelled gas plants that were able to secure documents that implicated Livingston and his deputy Laura Miller, who was acquitted in the same trial.

Growing up, I consumed a steady diet of British comedies.  I’m a great fan of that British wit and one of my favourites to this day is the show “Yes, Minister”, which later became “Yes, Prime Minister,” a show about a dim-witted, hapless British Cabinet Minister whose honest dedication to public service is constantly subverted by his Machiavellian Permanent Secretary Sir Humphrey Appleby.

Sir Humphrey uses a range of clever stratagems to defeat ministerial proposals while seeming to support them, like baffling his opponents with long-winded technical jargon and circumlocutions, strategically appointing allies to supposedly impartial boards, and setting up interdepartmental committees to smother his Minister’s proposals in red tape.

Although this show is satire, it’s scary to think that this is undoubtedly how things really work in government.

The documents that Livingston allowed to be destroyed are gone forever and we will never truly know what information was contained in them.  I’d be willing to grant Livingston a minimal sentence if he provided as detailed a reconstruction of the information as humanly possible, named those above him who knew and details of their involvement.  Maybe it’s true that the trail stopped with him, but I’d feel a bit more satisfied knowing he isn’t simply the “fall-guy”.

And the Ontario Liberal party should pay back every cent of the $1.1 billion they shoveled into the blast furnace.

Sources:  http://torontosun.com/news/provincial/ex-mcguinty-aide-livingston-faces-sentencing-over-deleted-gas-plant-emails, https://www.thestar.com/news/queenspark/2017/09/25/key-witness-at-gas-plants-case-not-impartial-defence-says.html

About the author

Bruce Forsyth

Bruce Forsyth served in the Royal Canadian Navy Reserve for 13 years (1987-2000). He served with units in Toronto, Hamilton & Windsor and worked or trained at CFB Esquimalt, CFB Halifax, CFB Petawawa, CFB Kingston, CFB Toronto, Camp Borden, The Burwash Training Area and LFCA Training Centre Meaford.

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