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Ontario Liberals say late release of gas-plant documents was honest mistake

Ontario Energy Minister Chris Bentley on Nov. 28, 2011.

Canadian Press

Senior Liberal cabinet ministers say they never intended to mislead the legislature by claiming all documents on cancelled power stations in Oakville and Mississauga had been released last month.

Energy Minister Chris Bentley and Government House Leader John Milloy both rose before Question Period to correct the legislative record, after they insisted for weeks that all gas plant documents were released Sept. 24.

As the opposition parties jeered, Mr. Bentley insisted there was no deliberate attempt to provide incorrect information to the legislature.

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Another 20,000 pages on the cancelled energy projects were released Friday, prompting Progressive Conservative Leader Tim Hudak to say Premier Dalton McGuinty "lied" to the legislature.

Both the Conservative and NDP house leaders then asked why Mr. McGuinty wasn't making a statement to correct his own record in the legislature.

Mr. Hudak told a news conference that Mr. McGuinty "lied" to cover up the true cost of cancelling the power plants, which the government says is $230-million but the opposition parties put at a minimum of $650-million.

Mr. Bentley's claim that he honestly thought all documents had been released "doesn't pass the sniff test," said Mr. Hudak, who accused the Liberals of an orchestrated cover up.

Mr. McGuinty was not immediately available for comment.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath says it's clear "the government was not being honest" when it claimed to have released all the gas plant documents in September.

Mr. Hudak complained in a letter Sunday that the second batch of documents "is virtually missing any correspondence or briefing materials at the political level," the same complaint the opposition parties made about the first 36,000.

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"We have no reason to believe that this latest package of documents is complete," wrote Mr. Hudak.

Friday's package is "almost devoid of emails, correspondence or briefing documents between the offices of the energy minister, premier or cabinet office," added the Opposition leader.

The fight by the Tories and NDP to get the documents from the Liberals triggered a contempt motion against Mr. Bentley that derailed all other legislative business for a week.

Despite an impassioned, last-minute plea from Mr. McGuinty the opposition parties out-voted the minority government to send the contempt motion, and the issue of the gas plant documents, to the Finance Committee, which is to begin hearings this week.

Mr. McGuinty "needs to take responsibility" for the scandal, and can start by agreeing to testify before the committee "to explain his role in this mess," said Ms. Horwath.

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