Premier Kathleen Wynne says the move to cancel planned gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga was a "political decision" and called for all documentation related to the plants, across all ministries, to be released.
Her comments come as a legislative committee begins hearings Thursday into a contempt motion against Ontario’s Liberal government over the release of documents on the cancelled gas plants.
Wynne says she wants the justice committee to have access to all emails, letters and correspondence on the cancelled energy projects from all ministries and across a broader range of dates than the opposition had requested.
"It was a political decision. We all said it was a political decision. We acknowledged that, and so any documentation that is relevant, we will make available," Wynne told reporters on Thursday."
The Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats have been waiting months to ask Liberals exactly who tried to block the release of the documents on the cancellation of the gas plants, which cost taxpayers at least $230 million.
The Liberals eventually released more than 56,000 pages of documents — including 600 last week — but twice had to admit they'd found more after insisting all had the data been released.
PC energy critic Vic Fedeli says he's convinced there are still more documents to come because so far there are none from the premier's office or the minister of energy.
He says Wynne's move is a clear admission there are more documents on the two cancelled plants, just as the opposition parties have maintained.
Fedeli says he's concerned Wynne is "trying to coverup the coverup of the coverup."
More documents may be released in 3 weeks
Wynne said Thursday she asked Liberal members of the justice committee to work with the opposition members and "request all gas plant material from every other ministry as well."
The motion requests that all documents will be provided within three weeks, she told reporters.
If the government is not able to meet that deadline, it will be required to immediately table a copy of any and all records collected. It will also be required to produce a full explanation of what steps will be taken to comply, and give an estimation of the additional time needed.
"Documents will continue to be brought forward in three weeks, and four weeks afterward. That process will not stop until we are assured that all relevant information has been received," Wynne said.
"I understand the political imperatives of the opposition parties when it comes to this matter. But it is in everyone's best interest that the issue is addressed and that we have a full understanding."
However, the premier re-asserted that both the PC and NDP parties supported the decision to cancel the gas plants.
"The construction of these gas plants was called off because they did not belong in these locations to begin with. That was something on which all parties agreed," Wynne said.
Wynne agrees to appear before committee
Wynne has agreed to appear before the Justice committee at some point, but says she's already made it clear she wasn't involved in the decisions to cancel the energy projects.
The original contempt motion, which led to some nasty debates last fall, died last October when Dalton McGuinty suddenly prorogued the legislature hours before committee hearings were to begin and announced his resignation as premier.
"This is the first opportunity that the committee is back now that we can bring our complaints forward, the absolute first opportunity to itemize why we know documents are missing," said Fedeli.
"The whole purpose of the Justice committee is to get to the bottom of who had their hands on the gas plant documents, who ordered documents to be redacted, how many more documents are still to come."
The New Democrats said the committee hearings would help get to the bottom of what they call the coverup of gas plant documents.
"We want to know not only exactly who it was that made these decisions, but who knew about those decisions and who was it that decided that the coverup needed to happen and the documents needed to be withheld," said NDP Leader Andrea Horwath.
"There was definitely government interference in that process, so we need to get to the bottom of that on behalf of the people of Ontario."
Wynne was also Liberal campaign co-chair when the party announced it was halting the Mississauga gas plant in mid-construction just two weeks before the Oct. 6 election, but said she was not in the room when the decision was made.
However, the new premier said she won't try to blame McGuinty for the gas plants when she does appear at the committee.
"I am not going to pretend that I was not part of the previous government. I was," Wynne told reporters. "In the spirit of openness I'm willing to have them ask whatever questions — I don't know what questions they will ask — but I'm willing to go and appear before the committee."
The Tories want another committee to determine the actual cost of cancelling the gas plants, while the NDP want a full public inquiry, with both opposition parties saying the Justice committee will examine only the release of the documents.