Former Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty will testify Tuesday about his government’s controversial cancellation of gas-fired power plants in Mississauga and Oakville.
Mr. McGuinty will take his turn in the hot seat exactly one week after current Premier Kathleen Wynne testified before the legislative committee. The cancellation of the plants was widely viewed as a politically motivated decision to save the governing Liberals seats in the 2011 provincial election.
The controversy over the gas plants was the single biggest issue dogging Mr. McGuinty when he announced his retirement last October. The fallout has continued under his successor, Ms. Wynne.
And, if Ms. Wynne’s testimony was any indication, Mr. McGuinty will likely be pressed hard on when he knew the cost of cancelling the plants, and why he consistently said it would be less than it ultimately was.
Ms. Wynne testified the public did not get the “full story” on the cancellations, as the cost ballooned from $230-million to nearly $600-million, but she denied having any role in the decision, despite serving as a high-ranking cabinet minister. The legislative committee heard in March that Mr. McGuinty’s office meddled in negotiations to cancel the Oakville plant, complicating the already sensitive talks.
Later that month, the committee heard Mr. McGuinty ordered the cancellation of the Oakville plant and dispatched a top adviser to deal with the company slated to build it.
Jamison Steeve, a high-ranking official in Mr. McGuinty’s office, testified that he began discussions with TransCanada Corp., which was contracted to construct the Oakville plant, in June, 2010.
At the time, the project was under increasing pressure. Area residents were protesting and the town passed a bylaw to stop it from being built. For the plant to go forward, either the Ontario Municipal Board or the legislature would have had to overrule the local council.
In October of that year, the plant was killed and moved to Napanee. Asked who made the call, Mr. Steeve responded it was Mr. McGuinty and then-energy minister Brad Duguid.
Ms. Wynne maintained during her testimony last week that she did not know what the final cost for the cancellations would be. She defended the decision to cancel the plants given the local opposition, but “regretted” the situation because she said the government should never have allowed the plants to move forward in the first place.
With files from Adrian Morrow