Ontario’s Liberal government promised Friday to release all documents related to two cancelled power plants in Oakville and Mississauga, after its last attempt for a six-week delay was rejected by the Opposition.
“We have no choice but to comply with the order and we will find a way to bring those documents out,” government house leader John Milloy said in an interview.
“We’re going to have to figure out the mechanics of making them public, the where and when and all that, but as you know from the (Speakers’) ruling, we have until the end of the day Monday.”
Speaker Dave Levac ruled Sept. 13 that Energy Minister Chris Bentley violated a member’s privilege by refusing to release all documents on the energy projects the Liberals cancelled, but gave the three parties until Monday to resolve the dispute.
The Liberals proposed a six-week extension Friday so the government could finish negotiations with TransCanada Pipeline, developer of the cancelled Oakville power plant, but the Tories and NDP wouldn’t agree, said Mr. Milloy.
“The Opposition have made it clear that they don’t care about the fact that taxpayers’ dollars could be put in jeopardy,” Mr. Milloy said in an interview.
“We will have complied 100 per cent with the Speakers’ ruling by Monday at 6.”
Mr. Milloy said the Liberals would give all the documents, up to 100,000 pages, to the clerk of the Estimates’ Committee.
But the Tories pointed out there are no legislative committees because the parties can’t agree on who should sit on them, and fear there may not be a public release of the data after all.
“The government is standing in the way of parliamentarians being able to review the documents, to call witnesses at the committee level,” complained Progressive Conservative House Leader Jim Wilson.
Mr. Milloy said the Liberals were not trying a tactic to prevent the documents’ release.
“We will provide the committee with all the documents, the mechanics of it we will work out, but there are no games here,” he said.
NDP House Leader Gilles Bisson said he couldn’t trust the Liberals not to ask for another extension after six weeks, and rejected the claim that early disclosure would hurt taxpayers in negotiations with the developers of the cancelled project.
“All (TransCanada Pipelines) has to do is wait six weeks and the government would end up releasing the documents anyway,” Mr. Bisson said, “so to us it didn’t make any sense financially.”
The Liberals have admitted it will cost taxpayers $190-million for a decision by their re-election campaign team to halt construction on the Mississauga power station just days before voting day Oct. 6, 2011.
But they say releasing documents on the cancelled power plant in nearby Oakville prematurely could compromise the government’s negotiating position and end up costing taxpayers even more money.
The Opposition called the decisions to scrap the power plants a cynical Liberal seat-saver program, and pointed out several government members in the suburban area west of Toronto were successfully re-elected.
“No government in the future should ever be allowed to buy an election campaign as the Liberals did in 2011 in Oakville and Mississauga,” said Mr. Wilson.
“Those seats were crucial to them forming the government.”
The Tories will attempt to bring all business at the legislature to a halt next week with a motion declaring Mr. Bentley in contempt, even if the Liberals release all the documents, added Mr. Wilson.
“No future parliament should ever have to go through this again in terms of trying to hold a government accountable,” he said about the fight to get documents released.
The Tories were merciless in their attacks on Mr. Bentley during question period last week, calling the Energy Minister a “fall guy” who had been “hung out to dry” by Premier Dalton McGuinty and “abandoned” by the Liberal caucus, and warning that the contempt debate would derail his campaign to replace Mr. McGuinty as Liberal leader.
“Come Tuesday, you’ll officially become the victim of the Liberal team’s seat-saver decision to cancel the Oakville and the Mississauga gas plants,” said Kitchener-Conestoga Tory Michael Harris.
“Without even thinking twice, the Premier threw you under the bus in an effort to buy an election that cost Ontarians hundreds of millions of dollars.”