Report on true cost of gas plant cancellations to be done early fall

Observers predict Ontario auditor general’s tally will send the total higher than $585 million.

TORONTO — Ontario’s new auditor general says her office will finish a report on the true cost of cancelling the Oakville gas plant by early fall.

Bonnie Lysyk had her first day on the job Sept. 3 and says the hotly anticipated report –initially scheduled for release late last month – was one of several “special assignments” inherited from her predecessor Jim McCarter.

The opposition parties say the decision made under former premier Dalton McGuinty to scrap the Oakville energy project and another one in Mississauga cost at least $585 million and was done to save Liberal seats in the 2011 election.

The government has said scrapping the Oakville project cost about $40 million, but the Ontario Power Authority puts the figure at closer to $310 million.

Most observers predict the auditor’s final tally, which may arrive within weeks, will send the total bill soaring much higher.

The auditor’s report on the Mississauga gas plant concluded halting the project in mid construction cost $275 million, far above the $190 million that the Liberals had been claiming.

Lysyk said in a release this is an “especially exciting time” to become the province’s 13th auditor general, and that she’s looking forward to continuing the office’s close scrutiny of government spending on behalf of taxpayers.

Lysyk – picked for the job by an all-party committee – initially accepted the role in June, only to change her mind the following month to stay on as Saskatchewan’s provincial auditor, before changing it yet again to accept the Ontario post.

The legislature’s justice committee has been probing the cancellations of the two gas plants, and the government has also come under fire for delaying the release of documents and the deletion of internal emails related to the gas plants.

© 2013 The Canadian Press