The Progressive Conservatives will push forward on a motion to hold Ontario’s Liberal government in contempt of parliament over the expensive cancellation of two gas plants, just before Premier Kathleen Wynne’s first Speech from the Throne is delivered. The PCs plan to serve notice of motion Tuesday to have a committee determine whether the government was in contempt for allegedly withholding documents related to the plants.
The Liberals put the brakes on two plants, one in Mississauga and one in Oakville, at a cost of at least $230-million, in what was widely seen as a political move designed to save the party from losing seats in the last election. Last September, the government released 36,000 pages of documents on the plants. The following month, they released 20,000 more, saying the papers had been inadvertently missed in the original disclosure.
The opposition, however, said the omission of the second tranche was evidence of a cover-up and moved to have then-Energy Minister Chris Bentley, who has since retired, held in contempt. That process died when former Premier Dalton McGuinty abruptly resigned and prorogued the legislature.
If the new motion is passed, it will be up to a committee to investigate whether there was a cover-up and decide who, if anyone, to hold in contempt.
“This is more than a contempt motion against one individual. It’s about protecting taxpayers and holding an increasingly shady government to account,” said PC MPP Todd Smith Tuesday.
The motion could come up for debate as soon as Wednesday, delaying a vote on the Throne Speech. The Tories said they would try to move it through quickly.
Ms. Wynne has already agreed to co-operate with a committee investigating the gas plant cancellations themselves; the PC motion could entail the formation of a second committee purely to review the alleged cover-up.
NDP house leader Gilles Bisson, however, said he was optimistic the three parties could come to an arrangement to have both matters investigated simultaneously.
“You can deal with these issues, I think, in a way that brings it all together by having an all-party agreement on a process that works to get us to where we’ve got to go. I’m still hopeful that we can do that,” he said, adding that he has had “very good conversations” with his counterparts in the other two parties.