Hudak calls for non-confidence vote over gas-plant scandal
Published Wednesday, October 9, 2013 8:44AM EDT
Last Updated Wednesday, October 9, 2013 4:37PM EDT
An Ontario auditor general's report which revealed that the true cost of cancelling two gas plants will cost up to $1.1 billion had the Progressive Conservatives calling for a snap election Wednesday.
Auditor general Bonnie Lysyk reported Tuesday that the cancellation of the planned Oakville gas plant will cost at least $675 million, and possibly as much as $810 million. The Liberals had previously said the cost of cancelling the plant would be $40 million.
A report released earlier this year found the cost of cancelling a Mississauga gas plant to be $275 million – $85 million more than the Liberals had suggested.
Both the opposition Progressive Conservatives and the NDP allege that cancelling the highly contested plants was a political decision to save Liberal seats in the 2011 election. The Liberals went on to win both ridings where the gas plants were going to be located.
At the legislature Wednesday, the Tories blasted Wynne for not taking tough take action over the billion-dollar spending debacle.
"You failed to make this announcement last night, maybe you will this morning: Who got fired? Who's being dumped from cabinet? Who's being held accountable for this incredible waste?" PC Leader Tim Hudak said.
PC Energy Critic Lisa MacLeod pointed out that U.S. President Barack Obama spent less money during his election campaign than the Liberals spent cancelling the gas plants. "It's absolutely shameful," she said.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said the government's actions resulted in a "great deal" for TCE and made it easier for the Liberals to hold onto power, but "they stuck it to the people of Ontario."
Hudak said the Liberal government should be defeated in a non-confidence motion.
"They have no moral authority to govern this province when they're willing to use whatever it takes, $1.1 billion, to save a handful of Liberal seats," he said.
But NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said it was “pretty clear” that there was nothing that can be done to force an election unless the Liberals call it themselves. Unless the Liberals declare any bill to be one of confidence, the next chance for opposition parties to vote on a confidence motion isn’t until next spring’s provincial budget.
“So Mr. Hudak can stand on his head and spit nickels, but it’s not going to create an election in Ontario,” Horwath said.
Hudak shot back, saying it would be hard for the Liberals to ignore the will of both opposition parties.
Wynne, who apologized for the staggering bill on Tuesday, reiterated her message that steps are being taken to prevent political interference in future business negotiations.
"We are correcting that problem, it should not have happened. I take responsibility for having been part of a government that made that mistake of not having taken the communities' concerns into account in the first place," she said.
She also said local municipalities would have more say in the planning process for new energy projects.
Speaking to reporters in Elliot Lake Wednesday, former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty reiterated his previous statements, including that blame must be shared among all parties for the last-minute cancellations.
“The important thing to keep in mind is this: all three parties agreed,” he said. “It was wrong to locate those plants in those communities, it was wrong to locate a gas plant the size of a hospital beside a hospital and a school and family homes.
McGuinty said he regretted that the cancellations were so costly.
“I regret that we hadn’t acted sooner as a government,” he said.
Auditor General Lysyk said Tuesday that "questionable decisions" made by the governing Liberals may have significantly added to the cost, when it intervened in the negotiations between developer TransCanada Energy and the Ontario Power Authority, and promised to fully compensate TCE.
She added the province might have paid much less or nothing at all, if the OPA had been allowed to wait and see if local opposition could have delayed the project by two years, giving it the opportunity to break the contract.
With files from CTV's Queen's Park Bureau Chief Paul Bliss and The Canadian Press