Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives will step up the pressure on the minority Liberals to allow a confidence vote over costly gas-plant cancellations, party sources say. The Tories plan to launch a petition and use “parliamentary tricks” to ensure the motion is debated.
The want of confidence motion, to be tabled Monday and obtained by The Globe and Mail, cites the hefty price tag for the plants as a reason the government should be brought down and fresh elections held.
“The Auditor General confirmed on April 15th, 2013 that the true cost of cancelling the Mississauga Gas Plant was $275-million … or 45 per cent higher than what the Liberal Government had repeatedly told the people of Ontario,” it reads in part.
Unlike many Westminster-style parliaments, which allow the opposition some leeway to move non-confidence motions at will, Ontario’s legislature would require government consent for the vote. The Liberals have indicated they will not grant it.
But the Tories hope pressure, through both the petition and inside the House, will make Premier Kathleen Wynne change her mind.
“In our parliamentary system, there is an expectation that a non-confidence motion would be debated and voted on. Our rules in Ontario are a little different, but in most other parliament that have the same system, want of confidence motions are debated and voted on. They don’t just sit on the order paper,” a senior Tory source said. “But we’re going to need to put public pressure on the Liberals.”
Last fall, the opposition parties made the Liberals’ lives miserable by raising the controversy in the legislature at every opportunity. And the Tories are angling to do it again until the confidence motion is allowed to come up for a vote.
Although the government must agree to a vote, the opposition does not require its permission to debate the motion in the legislature. The Tories could, for instance, use debates on other bills to instead discuss the confidence move.
“There are ways to debate this, not necessarily to come to a vote, but there are some other parliamentary tricks that when you’re debating other bills, because this is a non-confidence motion, you can talk about it extensively in the House,” the source said. “They may get tired of us talking about it.”
The government will face a confidence vote over its budget, to be tabled Thursday. But the Tories believe they have a better chance of persuading the New Democrats to vote with them to topple the government over a gas-plant-specific motion rather than the budget. The Liberals are expected to put numerous NDP-friendly policies in the budget to make it hard for the third party to vote against it.
So far, the NDP have been reluctant to team up with the PCs, dismissing the confidence motion as nothing more than a publicity stunt.
“This is an attempt on the part of the Tories to … find some weird way of trying to get a headline that doesn’t get you anything in the end,” NDP House Leader Gilles Bisson said.
Ms. Wynne, meanwhile, has insisted that the opposition will get just one chance to topple her government and trigger an election.
“There is no one in this House that’s looking forward more to the expression of confidence in the government on the budget than I am,” she said in question period last week. “We share that anticipation, and I look forward to it.”
The government cancelled two gas-fired power plants, in Oakville and Mississauga, in what was widely seen as a political move to win area ridings in the 2011 election.