Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives will try to bring down the Liberal government before it tables a budget, citing the costly cancellation of gas plants, PC sources said Monday.
The move is designed to ramp up the pressure on the third party New Democrats to help the Tories trigger an election. The NDP has joined the PCs in attacking the Liberals over the gas plants, but have left the door open to backing Finance Minister Charles Sousa’s budget and allowing the government to survive.
New Democrats, however, said it is unlikely the motion will come to a vote and cast the move as a purely symbolic one. While the PCs can put the motion forward, it would take the government’s consent to ensure it gets voted on, said one NDP source.
A report from Ontario’s Auditor-General last week showed the cost of cancelling an unpopular power plant in Mississauga was $275-million – $85-million more than the Liberals had previously claimed. An upcoming audit on the cancellation of an even larger plant in Oakville could show that cancelling it cost more than the $40-million the government has claimed.
The expensive cancellations were largely seen as a political play to quiet local opposition to the plants and allow the Liberals to hang on to area seats in the 2011 election.
The Tories will move that the audit shows the government has not told the truth on power plants and should not be allowed to continue in power. The PCs will also frame the issue as a matter of fiscal responsibility, arguing that the government spent too much on cancelling the plants.
The exact timing of the want of confidence motion is unclear, but it will come before Mr. Sousa’s budget, which is expected next week.
The NDP has presented the Liberals with a list of five budget demands, including a cut to auto insurance premiums, welfare reform and shorter waiting lists for home care. The government has signalled that it will take action on all of these things, in one form or another, in a bid to win the NDP’s backing.
Last week, following the auditor’s report, NDP Leader Andrea Horwath accused the Liberals of lying to Ontarians about the power plants’ cost. But she took a measured approach on the budget, saying she would listen to Ontarians before deciding what to do.
NDP insiders say the party has made no decisions on the budget either way.
The PCs, meanwhile, have already indicated they will vote against the budget no matter what, accusing the Liberals of not doing enough to control spending.