The Progressive Conservatives will seek to call more than 100 witnesses before legislative committee hearings into the costly cancellation of two gas-fired electricity plants by Ontario’s Liberal government. A prospective witness list obtained by The Globe and Mail contains 104 names, ranging from top politicians to Liberal staffers to the businessman contracted to build one of the plants.
Premier Kathleen Wynne, who is fourth from the top of the Tory list, tried on Thursday to take control of the controversy by expanding the range of the committee’s investigation. She submitted a motion to have all government documents related to the plants – including ones from the Premier’s office – made public.
She acknowledged that the cancellations, which cost at least $230-million and were seen as a play to save Liberal seats in the 2011 election, were politically motivated.
“It was a political decision, we’ve all said that it was a political decision, we’ve acknowledged that. So any documentation that is relevant, we will make available,” Ms. Wynne said.
The government said the move was designed to shift the gas-plant scandal out of the legislature, where it has tied up much of the daily Question Period. The opposition has accused the government of trying to cover up the cancellations, and Ms. Wynne’s motion is an attempt to neutralize those attacks, insiders said.
The legislature will have to approve the Premier’s motion for the expanded investigation. The Tories protested it had been sprung on them too suddenly to make a decision, leading MPPs to trade barbs during a testy committee meeting. Energy critic Vic Fedeli said even without the motion, the committee could move forward.
“We don’t need this offer to continue, but we’re going to look at this offer and see what strings are attached,” he said.
NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said she was hopeful the new material would answer the party’s questions. “The information that is sitting, perhaps in the Premier’s office … would shed a heck of a lot of light on some of those issues,” she said.
The committee will next convene Tuesday. If all goes as planned, the first witnesses could testify the following Thursday, reads a memo attached to the Tory list.
Along with Ms. Wynne and her predecessor, Dalton McGuinty, the PCs will seek to call four former energy ministers: Brad Duguid, Chris Bentley, Laurel Broten and George Smitherman. Finance Minister Charles Sousa is on the list, as is former minister Greg Sorbara, the 2011 campaign co-chair.
The PCs also want to grill several of Mr. McGuinty’s advisors, communications and policy staff, his brother Brendan McGuinty, and three former chiefs of staff, Don Guy, Chris Morley and David Livingston.
Civil servants on the list include secretary of cabinet Peter Wallace, several deputy ministers, multiple people in the cabinet office and the heads of the Ontario Power Authority. The Tories also want to bring in Hubert Vogt from the company contracted to build the Mississauga plant, as well as three experts in parliamentary procedure, including former Commons Speaker Peter Milliken.