Clarification: The author has revised his post below. He has clarified his concerns with steps taken by senior officials in former Premier Dalton McGuinty’s office to persuade Ontario Legislature Speaker Dave Levac to change his mind in September 2012 over a possible breach of privilege by then Energy Minister Chris Bentley for refusing to release documents on the 2011 gas power plant closures.
“Tricky Dick” Nixon drew inspiration from his two shifty advisers, Ehrlichman and Haldeman, of Watergate fame. George Bush, the junior, clearly relied upon the advice of his own Svengali, the diabolical Dick Cheney.
It now appears that super straight Boy Scout “Premier Dad” Dalton McGuinty owes his political success to his very own dark prince of political disinformation, manipulation and skullduggery, the cunning and sly Don Guy.
In a recent hard-hitting column in the Globe and Mail, former senior Queen’s Park reporter, now Globe investigative journalist, Karen Howlett, analyzed the recent release of damaging emails among McGuinty advisers relating to the gas plant cancellations. And McGuinty’s controversial decision to shut down the Ontario legislature in a vain attempt to save his party from the then exploding scandal.
Howlett, in referring to these latest e-mails, perceptively concluded:
“Yet in many ways, the e-mails transcend a particular scandal. They provide a rare glimpse into the backrooms of power, where unelected political aides spin journalists, muzzle cabinet ministers and use feel-good announcements to deflect attention from a crisis.”
Before I critically comment on the Machiavellian machinations of Don Guy, a little context is in order.
Before the 2011 Ontario provincial election, fearing the loss of seats in Oakville, theMcGuinty government cancelled the proposed Oakville power plant. And on Sept 24, 2011, fearing the loss of seats in Mississauga, less than two weeks before election day, the Liberals announced the cancellation of the proposed Mississauga gas plant which was under construction at the time.
Publicly, the McGuinty government claimed that it was responding to negative reactions by voters who lived close to these two power plants. Months later, in testimony before a legislative hearing, former Premier McGuinty would claim that his government was cancelling these power plants for the kids, as these plants were located too close to schools and residences.
McGuinty disputed the allegation that these cancellations were for crass political gain or survival.
Now if you believe that load of malarkey, I have some very attractive, but environmentally-challenged land for sale, within a wedge shot of the Toronto waterfront.
The McGuinty political ploy worked and the Liberals retained five Liberal seats in the Mississauga/Oakville areas.
And the Liberals would have gotten away with this political hocus pocus, if they had retained majority status in the Ontario Legislature. Then they would have controlled the legislative committees, as they had done in their two previous terms.
Unfortunately, for the Liberals, but lucky for those who stand for truth, justice and the Canadian way, the Liberals were reduced to a minority government.
As a result, the opposition Tories and NDP had the power and legislative authority to look into the actual reasons for the suspicious cancelling of the two gas plants, and the hidden costs of cancelling and replacing these two gas plants.
For my many non-Ontario readers and American readers (all ten of you) this is when the fun really begins.
And this is when the notorious and follicly challenged Don Guy, Lex Luthor’s evil twin, applied all his dastardly political tricks to prevent and forestall the opposition Tories and NDP from exposing the truth of these plant cancellations.
For several months after the 2011 election, the McGuinty government was successful in stalling the investigation into the power plants by refusing to release documents to the Tory/NDP controlled provincial legislative committee authorized to look into this matter.
As a result of these stalling tactics and especially the non-co-operation of the then Energy Minister Chris Bentley, the Tories and NDP brought a motion of contempt against Liberal Bentley to Liberal MPP Speaker of the House Dave Levac.
Mr. Levac, the Speaker, acting in the capacity of an impartial judge, ruled last September, 2012, that there was evidence that Energy Minister Chris Bentley breached his privileges by refusing to release the gas-plant documents to a legislative committee four months earlier. The ruling left Mr. Bentley facing a rare contempt of Parliament censure.
According to recently disclosed e-mails between Don Guy and his deputies Laura Miller and Dave Gene, it appears that Don Guy had Miller send Dave Gene over to Speaker Levac to discuss the possibility of Levac changing his ruling.
I definitely agree with NDP House Leader Gilles Bisson, when he referred to the actions of Guy, Miller and Gene. He stated:
“They were trying to obstruct the parliamentary process and bully the Speaker to change his ruling,” Mr. Bisson said. “That’s pretty serious stuff, and akin to somebody going to a judge and trying to influence a judge on a decision.”
It appears that Guy, Miller and Gene may have crossed the line here. These are not political tricks or technical breaches of obscure parliamentary procedures. This action appears to be an attempt to influence an impartial judicial/administrative officer of the Parliament. An independent body should be called in to investigate this action.
Though Speaker Levac held his ground and ruled against Bentley and ordered the release of all the relevant documents relating to the subject gas plants, this ruling did not deter Don Guy and his merry band.
According to the released emails, Don Guy’s next devious ploy was to manipulate the press by having the McGuinty government announce feel-good policies, in order to divert attention from the September 24, 2012 deadline for release of the gas plant documents established by Speaker Levac.
As reported in the Globe and Mail, around this time, the McGuinty government announced the banning of the use of tanning beds by people under the age of 18. Which according to one of McGuinty’s political operatives, in an e-mail would “make a fabulous headline in Saturday papers.”
The strategy worked. Most major newspapers, including The Globe and Mail, carried the story. But tanning beds turned out to be a fleeting distraction.
With the September 24 deadline for release of documents looming, Don Guy then had Miller try to strong arm the Liberals’ own House Leader John Milloy, to delay the September 24 release on the basis of a different interpretation of the Speaker’s ruling and contrary to Milloy’s own interpretation of the Speaker’s ruling.
Noting that Milloy failed to follow Guy’s wishes, Miller wrote in an email, that in future the House Leader will not speak for the party. In effect, she and Guy were trying to muzzle the public pronouncements of their own House Leader.
Could you imagine any one of Prime Minister Harper’s advisers trying to muzzle the feisty and outspoken Peter van Loan, Federal Conservative House Leader? Not likely.
Recall, once some of the power plant documents were released, the public reaction was so negative, that Premier McGuinty took the unusual step of proroguing the Parliament, that is, shutting down the Parliament and all the business of government including the work of the legislative committee investigating the power plant cancellations. And announcing his resignation as Premier and leader of the Liberals.
To further divert public attention from the growing gas plant scandal and the shutting down of the legislature to prevent further investigations, McGuinty, Don Guy and his people then launched into a massive public relations scam.
They intended to mislead the public into believing that McGuinty was resigning as provincial leader to run for leader of the Federal Liberals against Justin Trudeau.
As reported by Howlett of the Globe and Mail:
“Minutes after Mr. McGuinty made his surprise announcement that he was proroguing the legislature and stepping down after nine years in office, The Canadian Press’s Ottawa bureau broke the story that he was planning a jump to federal politics. In the immediate aftermath, the leak helped divert attention from the controversial shutdown of the legislature, including committee hearings.
Five days later, Mr. McGuinty’s advisers hatched plans on how to handle his resignation. Mr. Guy talked about keeping the federal leadership story alive for a bit longer.
“I think we also leak tomorrow that the Premier has been taking calls this weekend and is discussing the leadership with his family with an intention of making a decision early this week,” he says in an e-mail on Oct. 20.
At the same time, however, Mr. Morley was discussing plans for killing the story. Shortly before Mr. McGuinty is interviewed by television host Steve Paikin next Tuesday, he says, they should give the story to CP reporter Joan Bryden — who got the initial leak — that the premier has decided against running federally.
“She’s been promised the story either way the decision goes, so he can’t blurt it out in a scrum,” he says.
CP reported last Oct. 23 that Mr. McGuinty wouldn’t be challenging Justin Trudeau after all.”
So for a whole week, McGuinty, Don Guy and all of McGuinty’s and Don Guy’s people intentionally, misled and misinformed the Ontario people and the Ontario press.
Actually, I am glad that Don Guy, the master of press manipulation, misinformation to the public, muzzling elected officials and, above all, trying to influence an impartial administrative/judicial official, has finally come out of the shadows.
For over ten years, this “win at all costs”, “this end justifies the means” Don Guy was Dalton McGuinty’s guy. And the crafty master strategist behind the Ontario Liberals.
So what does that really say about Dalton McGuinty, the Ontario Liberals and Ontario Liberal Premier Wynne?