McGuinty rejects claim that cancelled gas plants cost $1.3B
Premier Dalton McGuinty flatly rejected a published report Thursday claiming the Liberal government's decisions to scrap two gas-fired generating stations will cost Ontario taxpayers at least $1.3 billion.
Energy industry watchdog Tom Adams told the National Post he pored through thousands of documents on the gas plants in Oakville and Mississauga and determined the total cost of cancelling the two projects was at least $1 billion higher than the $230 million the government claims.
Speaking in Peterborough, McGuinty said he "knows Tom Adams" but dismissed the energy consultant's calculations out of hand.
"Of course I fully reject that calculation," McGuinty told reporters.
"We're very confident that the costs are in total $230 million. We've released all of the documentation."
Adams points to a series of exchanges showing TransCanada Energy — developer of the Oakville project asked for more than $900 million — but he cannot find the final settlement number in the 56,000 documents the Liberals were forced to release on the gas plants under a Speaker's order.
Energy Minister Chris Bentley has said the Liberal government's decision to move the planned gas-fired generating station in Oakville to the Napanee area will cost taxpayers $40 million.
The Liberals' initial reluctance to release the documents led to a rare contempt of Parliament motion that many blame for McGuinty's decision to prorogue the legislature for at least four months when he announced his resignation last month.
The Progressive Conservatives say Adams' figures are even higher than they have been able to determine from going through the documents, and demanded McGuinty recall the legislature so members can investigate the real cost of the scandal.
"Today we learn that the tab for the Liberal seat saver programs in Oakville and Mississauga could be as high as $1.3 billion, and is actually likely more," said PC energy critic Vic Fedeli.
"Before proroguing, the premier said in the House that very same day he was happy to refer this matter to committee. So I say to him, let's get back to work and have the committee."
The New Democrats also urged McGuinty to recall the legislature now, and not leave it up to the new Liberal leader, who will be selected Jan. 25, to determine when to start a new session.
"If the premier thinks (Adams') numbers are wrong, then he should call back the house, let the committee work and prove it," said NDP energy critic Peter Tabuns.
"He doesn't have enough credibility to power a light bulb."
McGuinty also said he hasn't seen anything in all the documents on the gas plants to back up Adams' suggestion that the premier's office made promises to the developer of the Oakville project that hurt the Ontario Power Authority's negotiating position on behalf of taxpayers.
"You might ask yourself — we've had 56,000 pages of documents available for a month now — what has come of this," McGuinty challenged reporters.
"Remember all the uproar about the documents?"
The Tories and NDP are convinced the Liberals still have not released all the paperwork on the two cancelled energy projects, and say the government undermined its own case by releasing 36,000 documents in September — and insisting for weeks that was all of them — and then releasing another 20,000 documents late on a Friday, before McGuinty prorogued the following Monday.