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Cost of cancelled Mississauga power plant may exceed $180-million, opposition parties warn

Ontario Minister of Energy Chris Bentley visits the ongoing construction of the Niagara Tunnel Project, scheduled to be completed in 2013, at Niagara Falls on Jan. 18, 2001

Fernando Morales/The Globe and Mail

Ontario's auditor general should be called in to determine the actual cost of the Liberal government's decision to cancel gas power plants in Mississauga and Oakville, the opposition parties said Monday.

Energy Minister Chris Bentley admitted last week it would cost $180-million in penalties for the Liberals' move to cancel the Mississauga plant just days before last fall's election.

NDP energy critic Peter Tabuns wrote an open letter to auditor general Jim McCarter Monday saying "there is much uncertainty about the full cost" of scrapping the plant, which was well into its construction phase when the Liberal campaign cancelled the project.

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"Government documents and recent reports indicate that the cost may be significantly higher" (than $180-million), wrote Mr. Tabuns.

"Ontarians deserve to know the full cost of the government's last-minute decision to cancel and relocate the Mississauga plant, and whether or not the government exercised due diligence in minimizing the costs of the contract change."

The Progressive Conservatives said they were "very concerned the $180-million is just the tip of the iceberg" when it comes to the costs of cancelling the Mississauga gas plant and another in neighbouring Oakville.

"What I worry about is that we've only seen the beginning of these costs," said Opposition Leader Tim Hudak.

"And secondly, we need answers on Oakville," he said. "Oakville was a larger plant (and) the cost there is going to be much higher."

The government is still negotiating with the developer of the gas-fired generating station in Oakville that the Liberals cancelled after local residents brought in high-profile activist Erin Brockovich to speak against it.

The Ontario Power Authority said Monday it did not offer any extra fees like the $10-million adder given to Greenfield South Power to halt construction in Mississauga because construction never actually started on the Oakville power plant.

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Construction on the Mississauga plant continued for weeks after the Oct. 6 election, but the decision to cancel it helped save five Liberal seats in the area.

The opposition parties called the decision to cancel the plant and relocate it several hundred kilometres away in the Sarnia area "a Liberal seat-saver program."

Mr. Hudak said the political decisions by the Liberals to cancel planned electrical generating stations that they originally said were needed to meet demand will turn off potential investors at a time when Ontario is overhauling and modernizing it's power system.

The Liberals' generous subsidies for wind and solar power in addition to their political interference in building new gas-fired plants are hurting Ontario, he added.

"The problem here is that we have turned energy from a major strength for attracting jobs to our province into a major detriment," said Mr. Hudak.

"And stories like this are going to undermine the confidence of investors in our province."

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The Liberal government plans to turn off the last of Ontario's coal-fired electrical generating stations by 2014, seven years later than originally promised.

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