PLANT

Wynne to widen probe of cancelled gas plants

Ontario premier-designate asks auditor general to add Oakville plant to probe of Mississauga project.


TORONTO — Premier-designate Kathleen Wynne will be asking Ontario’s auditor general to broaden his examination of the decision to cancel a gas plant in Mississauga just days before the 2011 election.

The Canadian Press has learned Wynne will formally ask auditor general Jim McCarter to add the cancelled gas plant in Oakville to his current probe of the Mississauga project.

An opposition-dominated committee asked McCarter to investigate the Mississauga gas plant before Premier Dalton McGuinty prorogued the legislature in October, effectively killing hearings set to begin the next day.

Wynne’s office says she wants to keep her leadership campaign commitment to get all the facts out about the decision to kill the two energy projects, which cost taxpayers at least $230 million.

The Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats started demanding hearings into the Liberals’ decision to cancel the generating stations mere hours after Wynne won her party’s leadership Jan. 26.

The Tories had threatened to again raise the contempt of Parliament charge against Energy Minister Chris Bentley if there are no hearings when the legislature returns Feb. 19.

The rare contempt motion, which led to nasty, personal attacks during debates, all but tied up legislative business last fall, and was one of the reasons cited by McGuinty when he prorogued the legislature and announced his resignation.

Bentley has apparently told Wynne he doesn’t want to be in cabinet when her new executive council is sworn in next on Feb. 11, and it’s widely believed the contempt charge convinced him to stay out of the Liberal leadership contest.

It was triggered by the government’s initial reluctance to release all correspondence on the two projects, which it was eventually forced to do by a Speaker’s order, but even then it came in two huge chunks of data – one 36,000 document release and a second cache of 20,000 pages – weeks apart.

Both the Tories and New Democrats are convinced the government still has not released all of the documents, and last week uncovered an internal email showing staff at the Ontario Power Authority struggling with instructions to remove attachments to some relevant files and redact others.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath put a public inquiry into the cancelled gas plants at the top of her list of demands for the incoming premier in exchange for New Democrat support for the minority government.

Wynne rejected a public inquiry as too expensive, even though Horwath said it would take the issue out of the legislature and allow a third party to examine the controversy, but the premier-designate did not rule out a Tory demand for a resumption of legislative hearings into the issue.

“I really believe that all the information needs to be public,” she said last week.

“We need to do everything we can to make that information public.”

© 2013 The Canadian Press