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The Globe and Mail

Liberals quash bid to launch probe of Niagara Parks Commission

Oak Hall, the headquarters of the Niagara Parks Commission.

Peter Power/The Globe and Mail/The Globe and Mail

The Ontario government has rebuffed a request for the Auditor-General to investigate alleged improprieties at the Niagara Parks Commission.

Using their majority on the public accounts committee Wednesday, the Liberals voted down a motion from the New Democrats, who have been pressing the Liberals for an independent probe of the agency for the past week.

All five Liberal MPPs voted against the motion put forth by NDP MPP France Gélinas, calling for a special audit to get to the bottom of the allegations.

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Tourism Minister Michael Chan has ordered two internal government audits of executive expenses and procurements, but the NDP insists more distance is required of any probe that hopes to clear the air of scandal around Canada's top tourist attraction.

"I'm astounded. The McGuinty government has voted to cover up the NPC scandal," Ms. Gélinas said in a prepared statement, citing "very troubling allegations" around spending, contracting and lax financial controls.

The Liberal MPPs who voted against the motion are: Wayne Arthurs (Pickering-Scarborough), Aileen Carroll (Barrie), David Ramsay (Timiskaming-Cochrane), Liz Sandals (Guelph) and David Zimmer (Willowdale).

Ms. Gélinas and two Conservative MPPs, Ted Arnott and Peter Shurman, voted for the special audit.

A second motion, asking Mr. Chan to table the government's internal audits and an investigation report from a 2008 complaint to the Integrity Commissioner, was defeated with an identical vote.

The parks commission has faced increasing scrutiny since it voted to award an untendered 25-year lease to the Maid of the Mist tour boat operation in 2008. An ongoing Globe and Mail investigation has since raised further questions about contracting, expenses and cronyism at the agency.

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