It is a bit rich for former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty to play the outraged victim of partisan politics at committee hearings into his government’s decision to cancel two gas-fired power plants. “This is not a determined effort to pursue the truth. This committee is a partisan exercise,” Mr. McGuinty said on Tuesday. Coming from a politician who left the province with a bill for $585-million when he cancelled the power plants for partisan gain, his complaint is hollow.
It is widely accepted that Mr. McGuinty cancelled the plants in two Liberal ridings after he became worried his party would lose the ridings over local opposition to the projects. He has admitted he did not give much thought to the cost, and left that matter in the hands of others. His goal was partisan: retain the ridings in the 2011 general election. The broader interests of Ontarians were not the deciding factor.
Furthermore, it was his government’s failure to hand over to the legislature all the documents related to the cancellations that resulted in the government being found in contempt of Parliament last year – a finding that led to the hearings by the standing committee on justice policy. He is also under fire because, as premier, his office deleted e-mails pertaining to the cancellations, a violation of the provincial Archives and Record-Keeping Act.
In short, the actions of Mr. McGuinty related to the cancelled gas plants are worthy of investigation. He put himself in the hot seat. For him to say the opposition members of the committee are using the hearings to score political points is at once obvious and disingenuous. The standing committee on justice policy is a perfectly legitimate arena for calling Mr. McGuinty to account, and it is the opposition’s job to do so. It is also a fair and balanced arena: Four of the nine committee members, including the chair and vice-chair, are Liberals. Mr. McGuinty has ample support to counter the onslaught of questions directed at him by the opposition.
One last point: Had the Liberals retained their majority in 2011, they would have also retained their control of standing committees. Which means it would be very unlikely that the standing committee on justice policy would have called these hearings. If Mr. McGuinty finds himself unable to control his political destiny today, he has only himself to blame.