Opposition Leader Tim Hudak says that a judicial inquiry is needed to force Ontario’s governing Liberals to answer outstanding questions about the gas-plant scandal, which he is pledging to arrange if he is elected premier in the next election.
The Liberals are on the defensive after Ontario’s auditor general reported yesterday that the long-term net cost of cancelling the Oakville and Mississauga gas plants could exceed $1 billion.
Hudak said that he believes there are still more answers to be provided about how the government came to cancel the gas plants.
"I want to see Kathleen Wynne and Dalton McGuinty on the stand before a judge who can compel the truth about what happened, who called the shots and what it cost taxpayers," he told reporters at Queen’s Park on Wednesday morning.
"And maybe it’s the threat of having to eat jail food, maybe it’s the threat of standing behind bars that’s actually going to compel the truth, but only a judge can get the true answers and make jail time the alternative to the Liberal coverup."
Elsewhere in the province, McGuinty spoke briefly with reporters in Elliot Lake, Ont., where he was testifying at the inquiry into the collapse of a local shopping mall that occurred last year.
The former premier said that he regretted the final price tag on the gas-plant cancellations, but said they shouldn’t have been approved in the first place.
“I regret the fact that it cost so much, I regret the fact that we didn’t act sooner, but it is right to relocate them,” McGuinty said, noting that the Liberals and the opposition parties were in agreement that the Oakville and Mississauga plants shouldn’t go forward.
The opposition parties say that the Liberals scrapped the gas plants in a bid to save a handful of Toronto-area seats held by party members.
Additionally, Hudak and the Progressive Conservatives are pushing for the New Democrats to support a non-confidence motion over the gas plants and the cost of their cancellation.
The New Democrats say the Tories’ push for such a motion is a stunt, as it is the Liberals who decide which motions and bills are voted upon.
"Mr. Hudak cannot force an election, I cannot force an election. Only Ms. Wynne can do that and if she decides to do that, then that’s her decision," NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said.
But Hudak told reporters that if the New Democrats back his call for such a motion, it will be "pretty hard" for the government not to call an election.
Nelson Wiseman, an associate professor in the University of Toronto’s Department of Political Science, wonders how long the public will want to hear about the gas plants and if the interest in the issue will have enough momentum to last until the next election.
“Look, it’s early October, how many people are still going to want to talk about this scandal next spring?” Wiseman told CBC News in an interview on Wednesday.
“The Conservatives will. The NDP is going to bring it up. But you know, a lot of people will have moved on and who knows what will happen between now and then?”
For now, the Liberals remain at the helm of a minority government that has lasted for two years.
The Liberals currently hold 49 of the 107 seats in the Ontario legislature, while the Progressive Conservatives hold 37 and the New Democrats 20.