McGuinty admits missteps in gas plants

Premier Dalton McGuinty accuses Ontario's opposition parties of sidetracking the legislature by demanding a debate on contempt over the government's delay in releasing documents on two cancelled power plants.
Government house leader John Milloy denied the Liberals have held back information about two cancelled power plants in Oakville and Mississauga. (CBC)

Premier Dalton McGuinty accused Ontario's opposition parties of sidetracking the legislature Tuesday by demanding a debate on contempt over the government's delay in releasing documents on two cancelled power plants.

McGuinty says the Liberal government complied with a Speaker's ruling by releasing 36,000 pages of documents Monday on the generating stations the Liberals scrapped in Oakville and Mississauga.

He admits the Liberals made mistakes in trying to put the gas plants in those two communities in the first place, but says there's no reason to tie up the legislature with a contempt debate.

The premier says he hopes the opposition parties "have their fun, come to their senses" and realize it's time to move on.

However, the Progressive Conservatives and New Democrats are convinced the government did not release all the documents, and say the real cost of scrapping the two gas-fired plants will far exceed the $230 million the Liberals claim.

There is no time limit for the debate on the contempt motion, which brings all other legislative business to a halt, including the daily question periods.

'We provided all of the documentation,' McGuinty says

McGuinty visited Oakville Tuesday afternoon to meet with local residents who fought successfully to have the planned electrical generating station moved out of their neighbourhood, and said the contempt motion was a needless tactic by the Opposition.

"We provided all of the documentation in question and now the Opposition intend to ride off on this for some reason unbeknownst to me," he told reporters.

"I think they've sidetracked the legislature, and I think we have more pressing public business to do."

However, the Tories and NDP said they got many pages that were blank or had only a topic with everything else on the page whited-out.

"We have some serious questions about whether the government has in fact tabled all the documents," said Conservative Rob Leone as he moved a motion demanding the government release even more documents.

"We certainly want to pursue this investigation further because we believe a case for contempt is probably stronger today after those documents have been tabled than it was before we had those documents."

The New Democrats said they too felt the Liberals did not release all the documents that were originally requested by a legislative committee back in May.

"They don't think that they have any responsibility to provide documents that are requested by the members of this legislature, and I think that's the worst part of this entire story," NDP Leader Andrea Horwath told the legislature.

"It's not even the dollars, it's the lows that this government will sink to for its own political benefit."

Government house leader John Milloy reacted angrily to the accusations that the government did not release all the documents, saying members are supposed to be taken at their word.

"We have provided the documents and the minister has signed an attestation to that affect. There was absolutely nothing redacted," Milloy told reporters.

"They're turning it into a kangaroo court."

The Tories and NDP say the documents show cancelling the two power plants was part of an expensive and cynical Liberal seat-saver program.

"We're supposed to be addressing the problems, the needs, the concerns of the people of Ontario, not the political fortunes of the five or six (Liberal) MPPs that were able to get their seats saved by that massive investment of public dollars," said Horwath. "It's a shame."

The opposition parties complained there wasn't one document released that had been signed by Brad Duguid, who was energy minister when the Liberals decided to cancel the two energy projects.

The Tories say it could cost another $200 million to build new transmission lines needed in the Oakville and Mississauga areas because the power plants were cancelled, but the government says it's premature to talk about the need for new lines.

Leone's motion also calls on the government to reconstitute the Finance Committee so it can study all the documents on the gas plants and consider the matter of contempt against Energy Minister Chris Bentley.

There are no legislative committees for the fall session of the legislature because the three parties cannot agree on their make up and who should chair them.