Hudak denies PC rift over green plan
Tim Hudak insists there's no rift in the Progressive Conservative ranks over an election promise to gut the Liberals' green energy plans, even though one of his caucus colleagues may benefit from a program the Opposition leader wants to kill.
Veteran Tory Frank Klees is a director of a company that's seeking a contract under Ontario's feed-in tariff program, which pays producers lucrative rates for their green energy.
Klees could benefit financially from any future deal, as he also holds stock options in Tribute Resources, which applied for a contract for the 240-megawatt Mar Wind Project on the Bruce Peninsula.
Wind power producers receive 13.5 cents per kilowatt hour under the FIT program, compared to the retail price of five to 10 cents that consumers end up paying.
The problem is, Hudak pledged to end the program if the Conservatives form the next government after the Oct. 6 election.
The Liberals circulated the information Friday, claiming Hudak doesn't have the full support of his own party.
Even Premier Dalton McGuinty couldn't resist taking a swipe at his rival.
"I gotta tell you -- I'm with Frank Klees on this one," he said while visiting a massive hydroelectric project in Niagara Falls.
"And I'm with the half-dozen Conservative party members who have attended announcements in their ridings, when we said that we're going to be investing in clean energy projects and creating new jobs in their ridings."
"So I think that Mr. Hudak may want to take a close look at just how much support he has within his own ranks when it comes to this issue."
Hudak denied there were any divisions and said he isn't troubled that someone in his caucus stands to cash in on the program he wants to kill.
"We just cannot afford to continue to pay these massive subsidies that are on the backs of seniors and average families, and I don't care who's in the lineup," Hudak said.
"If the Liberals keep going down this path, if they keep handing out these sweetheart deals, bills are going to go through the roof."
Klees said he firmly supports his party's promise to scrap the FIT program along with the $7-billion deal with Samsung to manufacture components for green energy projects.
"I'm a strong advocate of cancelling that FIT program," Klees said in an interview from Hamilton.
"I believe that it's unsustainable, notwithstanding whether I'm a director of the Tribute board. My position has been — both as a board member and as an MPP — that that program should be cancelled, and given the opportunity to form a government, we will do exactly that."
With a provincial election only five months away, the war of words between the two parties is rapidly heating up.
The news release about Klees arrived just minutes before Hudak announced his party was fanning out across the province Friday to warn voters that the Liberals will hike taxes if they're handed a third term.
His news conference, meant to show off Tory candidates in the Toronto area, was soon derailed by questions about Klees and his energy policy plans.
Hudak gamely tried to hammer home his message that, unlike the Liberals, the Tories have no plans to increase taxes.
The Conservatives say the government even left the door open when it voted against a Tory motion that calls on the Liberals to stop raising taxes.
The Liberals are expected to fight back next week with their own motion ruling out any tax hikes.