Mississauga Mayor Hazel McCallion took all three parties to the woodshed Thursday over the cancellation a gas plant in her city, slamming the Liberals for permitting the project in the first place and the opposition parties for playing “political games.”
Few escaped the wrath of the fiery, 91-year-old mayor, who didn’t mince words while testifying before a legislative committee looking into the cancellation of gas plants in Mississauga and Oakville.
Rather than bickering over emails and pointing the finger at each other, the Liberals, Conservatives and New Democrats should get back to work, McCallion said.
“I don’t know why you’re wasting a lot of time at Queen’s Park on something that, in my opinion, is deadwood, and get on with looking after the affairs of the province,” she said.
There’s no question that cancelling the Mississauga plant in the dying days of the 2011 election campaign was done for political reasons and wasted taxpayer dollars, McCallion said.
“The people of Mississauga are fed up of hearing all this controversy at Queen’s Park over something that they wanted cancelled,” she said.
“The government agreed to cancel it and you folks are making a big fuss about it. C’mon. Let’s get on with the business of the province, folks.”
The outspoken mayor had little patience for partisan questions and grandstanding from the committee members, often cutting off the speaker in mid-sentence.
Asked by a Liberal whether Mississauga residents were happy that the plant was cancelled, “Hurricane Hazel” put him in his place.
“The citizens were happy with the cancellation of the plant, but I can assure you, they would have much preferred that it was cancelled before the permit was issued,” she shot back.
“My citizens aren’t interested in wasting taxpayers’ money.”
The Progressive Conservatives didn’t fare any better. McCallion had harsh words for the Tories’ energy privatization schemes when they were in power.
“In my opinion, it is not working,” she said. “In fact, it’s costing an increase in the cost of hydro, the privatization.”
When Tory Vic Fedeli defended his party’s demands for all the documents related to the cancellation, McCallion asked who would read all of them.
“I can tell you I’ve read many of the 56,000 myself,” said the former mayor of North Bay.
“You mustn’t have much to do, then,” she said as laughter erupted in the room. “Come up to Mississauga and we’ll put you to work.”
The point is the Ontario Power Authority made a bad decision to locate the plant in Mississauga, when there was no need for the extra power, McCallion insisted. She said she tried to tell them that it was a bad idea, but they wouldn’t listen.
A request for a full environmental assessment was also turned down by the environment minister, she said.
“I’ve told the premier from Day 1, the OPA will take you down the drain because of their bad decisions, not doing their homework and making recommendations,” she said.
The government should take a second look at the OPA, as well as other provincial bodies like Ornge and eHealth that have caused embarrassment “second to none,” she said.
Fedeli insisted that the committee’s work isn’t a waste of time because it’s the only way to get to the bottom of the true cost of cancelling the plants, as well as the government’s “cover up” of documents.
“We look at it as a very important task that we’re doing for the people of Ontario,” he said.
New Democrat Peter Tabuns said they have to keep pressing for answers.
“It took demands from a committee, debate and a order from the house to actually get information,” he said.
“I think it makes sense for the people of Ontario to actually know what happened when $800-million or more is wasted in their name.”
The Liberals say the cost of cancelling the Mississauga plant in the dying days of the 2011 election campaign was $190-million.
They also claimed the cost of cancelling the Oakville plant in 2010 would be $40-million. However, Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli acknowledged earlier this week that it could be higher.
An energy expert that testified before the committee pegged the cost of cancelling the Oakville plant at $638-million, bringing the total to $828-million for both plants.